Tuesday, October 2, 2007

In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it

The best grape wine - The Soviet Champagne
N. Martynov, 1952

Soviet Champagne” has always been a part of every Soviet holiday and anniversary feast. It was the one and only brand available for the people.

The “Soviet Champagne” brand was created in 1928 after the Government ordered the soviet wineries to produce the sparkling wine affordable for the soviet workers. The original Méthode Champenoise was quite complicated and therefore expensive, as it implied fermentation in bottles for 1.5 years for the wine to fully develop its flavor. After that the lees settled in the neck of the bottle, got frozen and removed. Then the bottle was finally corked.

The Russian wine-maker Anton Frolov-Bagreev (1877-1953) managed to speed up the process and simplify the technology. Now the secondary fermentation of wine was induced in special champagne-fermenting water-cooled tanks of large capacity. This cut down the production time from 1.5 years to a month, and made removing of lees obsolete.

In 1936 the Soviet Government decided to build a number of champagne wineries across the Soviet Union as it was much cheaper to transport wine-materials than the final products. Several wineries were built and in 1942 Frolov-Bagreev was awarded the Stalin’s prize for his inventions. Reportedly before signing the list with nominees Joseph Stalin tasted the Soviet Champagne and did not liked it – as it was brut which seemed to be too dry to him. Another bottle with semi-sweet was brought in, and the Frolov-Bagreev finally got his prize. But this is probably the reason why nowadays Russians prefer semi-sweet wines over the brut which is popular in the world.