Just 14 kilometers from Novorossiysk, Abrau-Durso it is a small mountain village famous for its inherent beauty, and for being the home of Russia’s sparkling wines. This marvelous destination is a lesser known gem, worthy of anyone’s “bucket list” if on for the sparkling wine called “Abrau-Durso.” Otherwise, a trip to this region of Russia affords visitors a chance at remarkable experiences. Here’s a history and a brief preview of what travellers can expect from the land of the four springs.
Since the time of the Czars, members of the nobility, princes, and titled persons in the court of the emperors have revelled in the taste of the sparkling dry wines of the “Abrau” brand. Court celebrations of all kinds have been toasted from the far reaches of Russia, and into the imperial palaces by the products of the Abrau-Durso winery.
An abridged history of Abrau-Durso begins with the word “Abrau”, translated from the Circassian, which means “fall”. Those Circassian people lived in a mystical surround of an unusual green-blue lake in these mountains. Abrau Lake,s waters today, are as unbelievably fresh and clear as in yesterday’s recollection, water so pure it can be used straight out of the streams for drinking and households needs too. Here the famous Durso River originates in these mountains, fed from four springs high up. This is where the word “Durso” comes in, it’s a turkic term meaning “4 springs.” The valley here, which leads into the Black Sea, is aptly named Abrau Durso, as you can now see.
Blessed with a warm climate, the Abrau area was perfect for vinification. So it was natural that the royal estate in Abrau-Durso was founded in 1870. The imperial agronomists first planted the selected varieties of grapes, Reisling and Portugieser, which were then harvested in 1877. Five years later, the winery Abrau-Durso began a tradition, later enhanced in 1882 when the first special cellar (tunnel) was built. By the mid-1890s types of Abrau-Durso vintage wines were finally formed, known as the “Sauternes”, “Lafite”, “Bordeaux”, “Burgundy”. Then the founder of Russian Crimea winemaking, Lev Golitsyn was appointed as administrator, and industrial production of these sparkling wines began in earnest.
The first consignment of Abrau-Durso sparkling wine was released in 1898, with an image of the State Emblem of the Russian Empire. Then famous French winemaker Victor Dravigny continued the tradition of the production of sparkling and vintage wines in Abrau, ultimately receiving two awards from Nicholas II for accomplishments in the field of viticulture and improvements of the quality of sparkling wines. By 1913, the construction of the plant and a huge homestead on Abrau Lake were completed. Then the revolution interrupted this imperial quest for wine perfection. The video below (in Russian) reveals much of the special character of this place.
During Soviet times the state took over Abrau Durso, and transformed it into a major research center, where special cold resistant types of yeast were studied and created. It was during this time that the best wines and sparkling wine of the Abrau-Durso brand were delivered to the Kremlin, where celebrations there were toasted by the famous wines. By this time the basement of the estate contained a huge collection of champagne – Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon and others. But World War II saw the devastation of these estates, and the homestead was utterly destroyed by shelling and aerial bombardment, and vineyards were mercilessly burned too.
What remained were less than 100 bottles from the once-famous collection of wines and sparkling wine. Then in 1943, the territory of Abrau-Durso was liberated by the Red Army. Restoration began almost immediately, and the vineyards were once again seeded with varietal grape types. Reconstruction was completed in 1956, and production once again began.
Fast forwarding to today, almost every resident of Russia now knows of these majestic sparkling wines. The village and winery now welcome more than one million tourists and guests annually. This part of Russia has become something of a magnet for Wine and gastronomic tourism. Enthusiastic visitors now discover the production aspect, take part in the creation of, and taste of all the various products of current production. Tasting tours, culinary experiences, weddings, festivals, and a host of other activities now integrate with life in the original village. The lake from which this wine tradition was born, has become a Russian icon of both refined and country living.
Now famous chefs teach master classes, and create magnificent dishes uniquely attuned to the wonderful wines of the region. And too, there’s never a dull moment with a full schedule of parties, events, festivals, and wine tastings going on year round. The village that once served the Czars of Russia, now caters to guests from all over the world.
Abrau-Durso is one of those places travelers stumble across, they wish they had added to a “bucket list” of destinations long ago. Argo Travel encourages wine enthusiasts make this wonderful village a port of call soon.
For more information on the winery, the culinary school, or other features of the region, readers should contact the Center for Wine Tourism Abrau-Durso here, or the culinary school here.