Russians lost Abkhazian wines, but started drinking champagne for no reason

Russians lost Abkhazian wines, but started drinking champagne for no reason

Sparkling wine is no longer a holiday drink

At the beginning of 2024, Abkhaz wines, which have always been synonymous with cheap wines, are about to rise sharply in price. The fact is that Abkhazia has introduced a new excise tax on wine materials (30%), but taking into account the potential increase in the cost of wine, some producers decided that it would be most profitable to simply stop making it. Therefore, the plant, which produced the lion’s share of the sweet, inexpensive Abkhaz wines known in the post-Soviet space, simply suspended work – that’s all. So the problem is not that Abkhaz wines have stopped being brought to Russia – no, now they will simply make much less of them.

Red semi-sweet Abkhazian wines from Isabella grapes have always been a lifesaver for those who need something “inexpensive and tasty.” A bottle of such wine today costs 350-400 rubles in Moscow alcohol markets, and many consumers are absolutely not willing to pay more. Although they won’t have to: in this price segment there have long been enough simple Russian wines – most often Crimean ones, although the Krasnodar region is not far behind – which quite fit the definition of “cheap and sweet”.

Of course, we are not talking about gourmet food here, although in general the country is moving in this direction. At the end of 2023, wine consumption in Russia reached 90 million deciliters – experts record an increase of 14% compared to 2020 data. More and more Russians prefer wine rather than spirits.

The reduction in consumption of dessert and liqueur wines and sweet wines is not a Russian trend, but a global one. Sales of even such iconic drinks as Sauternes, ice wines, Madeira, sherry or port are declining – every year they lose approximately 3-5% of sales volumes. There are several reasons for this, and one of them is increased interest in a healthy lifestyle: sweet wines contain sugar, which modern people try to avoid at all costs. Moreover, dry wines are much easier to combine with food. However, Russia retains its reputation as one of the main countries for lovers of sweet drinks, and behind the words “introducing a culture of drinking wine in Russia,” retailers and sommeliers often mean exactly this – delicately retraining consumers and trying to develop their taste for dry wines. In the same way, for young wineries that are now just gaining momentum and entering the market, experts strongly recommend that they focus on dry and sparkling wines, and leave sweet wines to no more than 5-10% of production volumes.

The peak of sales of sweet fortified wines in Russia is traditionally before Easter: “sweets” are often bought by those who want to break their fast according to all the rules, but do not drink any alcohol other than a sip of dessert wine.

Although you can arrange a festive Easter breakfast, for example, with champagne. This will correspond to another interesting trend that is being recorded on the Russian wine market – the growing popularity of sparkling wines, especially outside of any significant dates. Whatever one may say, for quite a long time there was a stereotype in our country: they say that champagne is a festive drink, you need a reason for it, you just won’t buy it! In 2024, everything changes: in January alone, approximately 25 million bottles of sparkling wine are sold – the highest figure for this month since at least 2018.

Just two years ago, when asked whether there was any reason to open a bottle of champagne, only 8% of respondents answered “no.” Most needed either a holiday or an extraordinary event. Today everything is changing.

The socio-gastronomic paradox is that sparkling wines – both classic champagne and all kinds of prosecco analogues – are the most versatile and win-win when it comes to pairing with food. A bottle of sparkling wine can help out if you urgently need to “make friends” with lard, red caviar and a light green salad with vegetables that are on the table at the same time. In addition, only sparkling wine – due to its bubbles – can withstand a meeting with a liquid egg yolk, which is why there is a tradition of breakfasts with champagne: a glass complements it well with fried eggs, soft-boiled or poached eggs.

A completely new trend – for several years now, sommeliers and other wine world experts have been offering to evaluate the combination of champagne with fast food. “Bubbles” can perfectly set off the salty taste of French fries and the spicy crispy breading of fried chicken, not to mention nuggets, onion rings or cheese sticks. Someone even boldly declares that champagne is a new beer: all those “beer snacks” that can be found on the menu of pubs go well with sparkling beer. With the possible exception of garlic croutons – let the beer monopoly remain here.

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