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Abrau-Durso: Home of Russia’s Sparkling Wines

Abrau-Dyurso
Abrau-Dyurso

Abrau-Durso it is a small village in the mountains, located 14km from the hero city, Novorossiysk.  The village is unique for several reasons, but mostly for its sheer beauty, it’s history, and the wonderful and sophisticated sparkling wine called “Abrau-Durso.” Here's a photo reportage on one of Russia's true wine legends, and resort treasures. 

Shop at Abrua and Dyurso
One of the winery shops at Abrua-Dyurso (Natalia Polyakova)

Since imperial times, members of the nobility, princes, as well as high titled persons at the court of the Russian Emperor have enjoyed the tasteful sparkling and dry wines of the “Abrau” brand. The greatest celebrations, solemn ceremonies, and even birthdays were always accompanied by refined sparkling wine, supplied to imperial Palace by the Abrau-Durso winery.

The old days at Abrau-Dyurso
Abrau-Dyurso in olden times (Abrau-Dyurso Facebook)

But to learn more of this wonderful wine, let’s go back to the history of Abrau-Durso. The word “Abrau”, translated from the Circassian, it means "fall". Since olden times, the Circassian people have lived near an unusual green-blue lake in the mountains. This Abrau Lake has unbelievably fresh waters, fresh enough for drinking and households needs for centuries. There is also the Durso River in the mountains, in few kilometers from the lake. This mountain river is fed by four springs in the canyon, and from these we get the turkic word "Durso" meaning "4 springs." So it is that the area around the lake and the valley between the mountains, which goes to the Black Sea, was called Abrau Durso.

Abrau-Dyurso
Abrau-Dyurso

The beauty of the landscape and the wonderful warm climate here contributed to the development of vinification in Abrau area. So it was, that in 1870 there was founded the specific royal estate in Abrau-Durso. Experienced imperial agronomists began to plant selected varieties of grapes – Riesling and Portugieser, and the first quality crop was harvested in 1877.

Overlooking Lake Abrua (Natalia Polyakova)
Overlooking Lake Abrua (Natalia Polyakova)

Industrial production in the winery Abrau-Durso began only 5 years later. Then in 1882 the first special cellar (tunnel) was built. It was equipped with everything necessary for winemaking. By the mid-1890s types of Abrau-Durso vintage wines were finally formed. They are – “Sauternes”, “Lafite”, “Bordeaux”, “Burgundy”. Then a new round of wine-making began in 1891, when Lev Golitsyn was appointed as administrator. He is the founder of Russian winemaking in the Crimea and the industrial production of sparkling wines.

\"Marselan Divnomorskoe\" 2012.
"Marselan Divnomorskoe" 2012.

In 1898, the first consignment of Abrau-Durso sparkling wine was released under the company label, with the image of the State Emblem of the Russian Empire. The famous French winemaker Victor Dravigny continued the tradition of the production of sparkling and vintage wines in Abrau.  He got two awards from Nicholas II for accomplishments in the field of viticulture and improvements of the quality of sparkling wines. Later, in 1913, the construction of the plant and a huge homestead on Abrau Lake were completed.

Vladimir Putin at Abrau-Dyurso
Then there is the occasional surprise for tourists visiting the winery. Here President Vladimir Putin says hello during a surprise visit (Abrau-Dyurso)

Then in Soviet times, there was a state farm Abrau Durso in this place. The farm was a major research center, where special cold resistant types of yeast were studied and created. Reconciliation of compositions of the assemblages for different types of champagne, and experiments on the primary vinification were an important part of this research center ‘s  work. The best wines and sparkling wine of the Abrau-Durso brand were delivered to the Kremlin for the celebrations of the Communist Party. In the basement of the estate was a huge collection of champagne - Dom Pérignon, Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon and others.

Abrau-Dyurso
Liquid gold pouring out at Abrau-Dyurso

Unfortunately, the Abrau-Durso territory was occupied by the German army during World War II. The homestead was hit by shelling and aerial bombardment, and vineyards were mercilessly burned. At the beginning of the war, the most valuable equipment and some of the finished wine and wine materials were taken from the factory, and the factory building and some of the tunnels were destroyed during the Battle of Novorossiysk.

So what remained were less than 100 bottles from the once-famous collection of wines and sparkling wine. In 1943, the territory of Abrau-Durso was liberated by the Red Army, and restoration work began as vineyards were planted again with varietal grape types. The final work on the reconstruction and recovery of Abrau-Durso was completed by 1956.

All-Russian tournament on bodybuilding and fitness Cup \"Asankya 2015\".
The all-Russian tournament on bodybuilding and fitness Cup "Asankya 2015". (Abrau-Dyurso)

Since then, almost every resident of Russia knows the wines and sparkling wines of the Abrau-Durso brand. Every year about a million tourists come to Abrau-Durso. Wine and gastronomic tourism are very popular here, and visitors so enjoy the unique tour of the tunnels and halls of the factory. Tourists can also discover the stages of production of sparkling wine, take part in wine remuage, and taste more than 5 types of factory products.

Limited edition sparkling wine ABRAU LIGHT.
Limited edition sparkling wine ABRAU LIGHT.

A tasting Tour is allowed only for people over 18. Under the guidance of an experienced sommelier, guests will learn to distinguish sparkling wines produced by the classical method of fermentation, from those which are made industrially. There are also 3 restaurants in Abrau-Durso  that conduct culinary workshops. Famous chefs from around the world teach their craft at creating delicious dishes, so that attendees understand the flavors of classic sauces, and much more. As you can tell from the images of Abrau-Durso, the village has become a chic resort where there never seems to be a dull moment. The place that once was reserved for royalty, welcomes today's rich and famous, right alongside tourists and wine enthusiasts from around the world. 

The culinary school at Abrau-Dyurso
The culinary school at Abrau-Dyurso (Abrau-Dyurso winery Facebook)

Even though Abrau-Durso has a sort of "jet-set" ambiance about it, the place is a great place to relax with family too. You can walk through the beautiful park and relax on a bench in the shade of climbing roses. Outdoors  lovers will enjoy the opportunity to swim, or to take a boat or catamaran on Abrau Lake. Visitors can also rent a Robinson 6 helicopter and fly over the Abrau-Durso territory (Cost of 1 hour of flight is 45 000 rubles – approximately in 2015). The pebble beach on the opposite side of the plant provides a great sunbathing spot.

Foam party on the beach at Abrau-Dyurso
A disco foam party on the beach at Abrau-Dyurso

Abrau-Durso is a magical place, well worth visiting. It’s one of those spots you simply must see, and taste for yourself. 

Our thanks go out to the winery for the use of their fantastic imagery, and for more information about the wines of this magnificent region readers should visit the winery's website linked above, or perhaps visit their Facebook profile to find more wonderful images.