Tasting Russia, Lebanon and India

Yesterday I attended the London International Wine Fair. A show that in previous years had left me wandering aimlessly around London’s Excel centre, unsure where to begin when there are thousands of wines to try. This year I went with a plan – well the start of a plan as who knows what will happen after a few wines have been sampled!

My plan was to try wines from the lesser known wine producing countries. So I decided to attend classes on Russian and Lebanese wine and threw in a few swigs of Indian wine just to keep things fresh.

Russia has been producing wine for over twelve centuries and has over seventy thousand hectares under vine. Their severe climate can make production challenging at times but with increasing technology, investment and winemakers from around the world sharing their expertise, quality wine production is on the up.

The Russian tasting was led by an exceptionally enthusiastic gentleman who spoke with great passion and also a thick Russian accent. This did make it a tad hard to work out what he was going on about at times, so I decided to let the wines do the talking.

We sampled six wines which showcased a variety of indigenous and international grape varieties as well as a wide range of quality. The star of the show was the 2008 Myskhako Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Krasnodar. This wine displayed ripe black fruit and sweet spice on the palate with smokey and earthy notes. The tannins were well integrated and the finish was long and smooth. Had I not know this wine was Russian, I would have easily thought it could be from Bordeaux.

The pick of the Russian white wines was the 2011 Kuban-Vino Mer Noir Blanc, which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat. This little number was light, dry, with refreshing acidity. The Muscat added a delicate grapey note on the nose and the citrus fruit from the Sauvignon Blanc shined on the palate.


Unfortunately the remaining Russian wines did leave one pondering, especially the Garage Winery Klyuch Zhizni Krasnostop Zolotovskiy, which was overly oaked with massive tannins which ripped all of the moisture from my mouth. Personally, I would have left this one in the garage.

Wine journalist Michael Karam led us through a stunning selection of Lebanese wines. There is evidence of vines in Lebanon from around 750 B.C and currently there are forty producers. The influence of French wine makers is demonstrated through the varieties that dominate production and the elegance achieved through blending.

As it was such a stunning summers day in London, it was fitting that the top wine was the 2011 Chateau Kefraya Rose from Bekaa Valley. The blend of Cinsault, Carignan, Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc may seem like a bit of a muddle but this wine was anything but. Beautiful pale pink with a light floral nose; pear, rose and nectarine notes flourished on the palate which had a soft and supple texture. A real treat and deserving of the £19 retail price.

The 2008 Coteaux de Botrys Cuvee de l’Ange was my pick of the reds. The blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre formed a vibrant, soft and juicy wine with dark plums and blackcurrant dominating on the palate. A subtle sharp cranberry note gave the wine a lift and I could easily knock back a glass or two with a beef shawarma.

Indian wines are becoming an exciting addition to the melting pot of wine available in London. The country has one of the fastest growing rates of wine consumption and experienced massive growth in production from the late 1980’s to early 1990’s.

Vallonne Vineyards is the first boutique winery in the Nashik Valley which is around 150 km north-east of Mumbai. I sampled four of their wines and it was the 2009 Anokhee Cabernet Sauvignon that got me excited. You can taste the hot Inidan summer in this wine as the black fruit is rich, ripe and supple. There is a pleasant sweet spice coming through from the oak and this would go exceptionally well with a spicy Masala.

I thoroughly recommend giving the wines from these countries a try. Waitrose and M&S stock a good range of Lebanese wine and the Indian Vallonne wines can now be found at London’s Tamarind restaurant. Russian wines can take a bit of searching out but I’m sure it won’t be long until we see wines from all three countries lining up on good wine merchants shelves.