How to replace wines from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the USA in Russia?.. Let's figure out what the world wine market offers and whether there is an alternative to France, Italy, Spain and the list goes on.
Since almost all wine-producing countries in the Old World are located in Europe, and are considered producers of the best wines in the world, there is a feeling of siege. Is it possible to find a replacement for the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Tuscany and Piedmont, German Rieslings, French champagne and Italian prosecco?.. Is there something equally worthy in the world?
We must start with the fact that it seems that the trend began to change quite a long time ago, and now we just have to fix the change in wine fashion. It's an old story: for example, European and especially French wines from the most expensive and at the same time old wine regions are between a not very interesting offer in the lower supermarket segment and super-expensive wines that are actually ... not drunk. They are bought like oil, acquiring futures on primeurs (en primeur), i.e. at the stage of wine in a barrel, which will be ready in a year or two. At the same time, after bottling and final aging, the wine itself does not go to the owner at all, but is stored in a special place, where it awaits further resale after a price increase, which, in turn, is a consequence of the system of biased ratings that work in favor of further speculation. So the bottles of expensive Bordeaux, like those of its rivals from other regions, have long turned into a collectible, investment, or even into a kind of oil (which no one drinks either and for the time being, does not even move from its place), ceasing to be real consumer goods. All this happened under the influence and with the direct participation of the British - the financial masters of the old economy, who at one time turned their harbor in France into the wine and financial center of the world.
What is between these two extremes: what is drinkable, but not worth it, and what is worth, but you can't do that, has been experiencing a crisis of finding a new self for some time now. Yes, for the most part they are good and even excellent wines, but they do not always keep pace with the change of priorities of new generations, and this is very necessary, because there is a lot of wine produced and you need to somehow compete. Hence this constant race for trends from the American continent: either for the assessments of Rorbert Parker, who suddenly fell in love with fruit bombs and retanned dense wines, or from New York bars, where there was suddenly a fashion for natural wine with defects in the style of distant ancestors. Separately, it is worth mentioning wines from laboratories - literally: those in which they design the desired taste based on focus groups and create cadavers that are passed off as wine. Directed yeast, acidification, chaptalization and so on are used. The result is an absolutely uninteresting product, which formally is still wine, but in fact - fast food. This is especially accepted in the USA, Australia and New Zealand, although it also captures Europe. Look, for example, for Yellow Tale, or the sensational Nineteen Crimes, or think about New Zealand sauvignon blancs, oversaturated with aromas of exotic fruits due to directed yeast and acidified due to permitted additives ascorbic acid. We even have a term for such wines: made is an antonym for terroir.
However, there are eternal values, and the wine world is no exception. This is quality, elegance and originality. Moreover, originality is the main trump card.
That is why old Europe is in crisis: it is so hard to allow yourself to remain original when you have been a legislator for so many years, you have more and more imitators, competitors are on their heels, wine has turned into “oil”, quality becomes a victim of rising costs, and economic problems lead to non-competitiveness. Overheated by her own importance, she is afraid of losing ground and increasingly becomes a victim of her own fears. So the new fashion is in favor of new players who have become or are just becoming new blood and win this pursuit.
So all the same: where do we sail?
Just in the nearby we have the oldest wine-growing region, which has exploded in recent years, technologically re-equipped according to the latest requirements and, at the same time, relying on autochthons, that is, it is completely in line with world wine trends. This is Armenia. The birthplace of fine, elegant, modern and at the same time original terroir wines. An excellent balance of these qualities is the main achievement of Armenian winemakers. However, there are two factors that limit the availability of Armenian wines to Russian consumers:
1) Pretty biting prices. In any case, for the “every day” category, Armenia does not offer a sufficient choice of non-expensive wines. But for selected cases, the cost of a bottle of Armenian wine will fully correspond to the level of its contents.
2) A rather limited supply. It is unlikely that Armenia will be able to seize the market and oust this or that wine power from the shelves, taking advantage of the opportunity, as Italy once moved Georgia for a long time, if not forever: even when the ban for the import of Georgian wines to Russia was withdrawn, the public had already tasted Italian and did not switch back. Armenia simply does not have the required number of vineyards for this - after all, it is a small mountainous country.
It would be great if there was a larger turnover and prices, respectively, lower. But without the help of a bulk wine or other methods, it is unlikely that it will be possible to radically increase production in excess of the vineyards available in the country, and in this way - thanks, but it’s better not to; especially since this place is already taken. It is better to wait for the development of new areas, the discovery of new terroirs and the emergence of new producers and styles of Armenian wines.
Russian wines have been on the offensive for several years, receiving investments both from big ones, such as large bankers and officials, and from small investors. Wines in Russia are made in the Krasnodar Territory - in the Kuban, on the Black Sea coast, as well as in the Crimea, on the Don, on the Lower Volga, in Dagestan. Among them there are absolutely wonderful phenomena, of which we would especially like to highlight Burnier wines. But there are also many frankly boring, commercial wines that are trying to solve the problem of return on investment, and often very large ones. It seems to be ruining some projects. There are also not very high-quality wines, alas: those in which money won the mind. But the Russians do not give up, and rightly so: the quantity still sometimes turns into quality. Especially since there is a fight going on. The adoption of a new law on viticulture and winemaking and the emergence of a protected geographical indication (PGI) wine category, despite all the criticism, is better than nothing. This has definitely moved some processes forward - namely, large farms are gradually forced to abandon the bulk wines and develop their own vineyards. So there is already a proposal, and work on quality is underway, and plus the wine tourism and hospitality sector available to us is actively developing, which cannot but rejoice.
It will be very interesting to see if Hungary can take advantage of its position as a country that is on its own side. Hungarian wines have every chance to occupy empty shelves, especially since the country has world-class pearls - first of all, Tokaj wines. But its potential is much greater than the position it has occupied in the shadow of Germany and Austria: a huge number of autochthons, ancient history, the constant interaction of Hungarian winemakers with Austrian colleagues. Why, by and large, the Hungarian wineries, which are located on the Austrian border, often do not determine their exact affiliation themselves - this is practically the same thing. Not to mention the fact that the practice of organic, biodynamic and natural winemaking is actively developing here.
Let's move to the New World. It is interesting that some of the New World wine powers, being in the role of the Cinderellas of the Russian wine market, can offer treasures comparable to those of the Old World, and absolutely uncompromisingly.
Let's start with from Chile. The first vine was brought to the country by Spanish missionaries a very long time ago: in year 1538. Since then, the Chilean wine industry has been developing dynamically, and what is especially interesting in the light of the current situation is copying, or rather, focusing on French and other European winemaking models. The most popular grape varieties here are French, but Spanish and German are also cultivated.
Of the Spanish varieties, the historically significant one is Pais, exotic for us (Chilean winemaking began with it in the 16th century), which has long since left the horizon of visibility in its homeland, but in Chile it is mainly represented by local strong pisco drink and rustic wines for domestic consumption. The rest and the main wine market here is focused on European style.
The Chilean wine regions focus on the possibilities of their terroirs, which are so diverse that they can offer conditions reminiscent of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone Valley, and Spain, and Germany. Imagine only a territory stretched for 4,300 km in a narrow strip from the north, from Peru to the south, towards the South Pole, sandwiched between the Andes mountain range in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. And if some great European wine region has not yet found its reflection here, then it is possible that it will find it in the near future. So, over the past decades, the development of wine areas from the center has moved both to north and south, where cooler valleys are planted with grapes. The very south of Chile is Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost point of Latin America: the place from where ships start to Antarctica and where they go to get acquainted with penguins in their natural habitat. An amazing land of opportunity, a huge plus of which is almost five centuries of winemaking experience and investments that have been pouring into Chile for centuries from France and Spain, primarily from the leading European winemaking dynasties. And the lower cost of living makes it possible to produce wines much cheaper than in Europe. In terms of price, the offer of Chilean wines ranges from quality and inexpensive supermarket-friendly wines to elegant premium wines that rival the finest French wines.
Interestingly, Chile's wine representative is carmenere, a red variety that was practically lost in its homeland, France, due to phylloxera. And in his new homeland, he makes everyone who gets aquainted fall in love with him.
And it would not be out of place to say that it is in Chile, according to one of the versions, that the world's best bordeaux-blends are made, beating Bordeaux itself. This is the wine of the Chilean winemaker Eduardo Chadwick. In 2004, Steven Spurier co-hosted the Berlin Tasting with Chadwick, modeled on the 1976 Paris Tasting (also known as The Judgment of Paris, which story is told in the cult film Bottle Shock). Then, in competition with the best Bordeaux wines, the first place went to the Chilean Viñedo Chadwick 2000 of the Viña Errazuriz, the second is also a wine from Chile, Seña 2001, a collaboration between Chadwick and Robert Mondavi.
Argentina follows the same path: starting with pais, which moved to the country a couple of decades after the appearance of the first vines in neighboring Chile, it began to actively develop winemaking in the last couple of centures and has achieved outstanding success in all price categories. It has an undeniable advantage: the highest altitude vineyards in the world. Argentina occupies most of South America from south of Bolivia, capturing the Andes and reaching the Atlantic coast, stretching to Tierra del Fuego. It is the Andes that give her such luxurious terroirs, one of the best in the world. Alpine sun and a large difference in day and night temperatures are the main weapons of Argentine winemaking. Plots located at an altitude of several thousand meters allow the grapes to gain phenolic maturity, i.e. the whole complex of aromatic compounds that create a rich taste and aroma of wine, coupled with excellent acidity - and these are the main components of a high level of wine.
The traditional and one of the oldest regions from which the glory of Argentine wines began is Mendoza. However, recently new terroirs are being developed, located closer to the Atlantic and giving very interesting results. Therefore, Argentine wines, like Chilean ones, offer a wide variety of grapes and styles, focusing on the best European examples.
Argentine wine representatives are red malbec and white autochthonous torrontes.
Winemaking in South Africa was born a century later than in Latin America. But still, it was a very long time ago - written evidence points to 1659. This happened shortly after the arrival of the first Dutch, French and German settlers, who laid the foundations for it by planting vines on the Cape of Good Hope. At the same time, wineries appeared, which are still working and prospering. One of the oldest, which is part of the split economy Constantia and still produces excellent wines - Klein Constantia. Already in the 17th century, a magnificent sweet wine from Muscat Vin de Constance, or simply Constance, was made here, very appreciated in Europe. So this is a country with traditions that go back very deep, and which was already included in the world wine market centuries ago.
Today wine South Africa is a small model of the world. Here you can find anything from all over the world and at the same time of excellent quality. Those who until now believed that South Africa produces exclusively flat coffee-fruit bombs from Pinotage are in for pleasant revelations - if they switch to a different price segment or simply abandon stereotypes. In blind tastings, the main beacon signaling that South African wine is European elegance, which at the same time cannot be attributed to any European country. Indeed, pinotage is an indigenous South African and its red representative, but its best examples are made in the style of exquisite European classics, little resembling the New World that is usually associated with Robert Parker's favorite style. In addition, red and white French varieties are excellent here, and chenin blanc has become a white wine representative.
Rich traditions, elegance, classicism, a wide variety of grape varieties, wine styles and appellations - that's what South Africa offers us. And even the possession of their own blends - wine brands of South Africa. This is a red South African cape blend - pinotage, shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cape classic - sparkling wine, which is produced according to the classical champenois method.
This is not all, but this is what you should think about first of all and, if possible, expand your presence on the wine shelves of Russia as much as possible.
Lyudmila and Sergey Ladonin