Last day in Russia

I’m now back from my first visit to Russia, which was a great experience and will be written up in full, in my usual anorak-like fashion.

The last morning was spent at Abrau Durso, a sparkling wine specialist. It’s a house with some history, spanning back to 1870. Current production levels are a surprising 18 million bottles annually, up from just 8 million a few years ago.

The cellars are incredible, with a remarkable 1950s contraption (pictured above) running through them that allows the bottles to be moved rapidly and easily. It runs through miles of cellar space.

Above you can see the riddling process in action: the yeast from the secondary ferment, which provides the bubbles, is encouraged to find its way to the neck of the bottle. This is then frozen, the closure removed, and the plug ejected.

One of my favourite wines in the range is the sparkling Cabernet Sauvignon, pictured above. Berryish, bright and with some sweetness, it’s really well judged.

This is the concert podium in front of the winery, with guests able to look out across the lake.

This is me in front of the Lenin statue at the Myskhako winery, in Novorossiysk, which we visited yesterday afternoon. It’s a big winery making mainly premium quality wines. Dating back to the Soviet era, there’s even a room commemorating a visit by Breznev in 1974, which was actually constructed around a large table (the table was too big to bring in any other way), and it has remained the same way since the visit by the premier.

We saw some Pinot Noir being harvested. The top wines are really good, but as with many wineries, there is some variability here: much of this comes down to the vineyards.

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