If, like the lead character in the film “Withnail and I,” you demand “the finest wines available to humanity,” think about visiting the Russian capital.
A Moscow-based group of wine-loving expats has been hugely successful in dispelling the popular myth that the Russian capital caters only to lovers of over-priced plunk.
Wining and dining is something Moscow always does well, but this wine-tasting club’s parties are real vintage.
To begin with, things here are done properly. The club strictly sticks to all the rules of the game: there is a certain ritual that needs to be done before drinking.
First, you test the integrity of the cork – getting your first whiff of the wine. Then you swirl the drink – this is the moment when you must see so-called “legs” on the glass. After that, you smell the bouquet, and finally, you get to drink it.
“Look for pleasure,” sommelier Franko Moroni advised RT. “The wine is pleasure. If you don’t get that, drink vodka.”
The members of the club are schooled in what they are drinking by a professional sommelier. The really advanced palettes can distinguish vineyard, vintage and even which material the wine was aged in.
“I started working in a coffee plant when I was 21, and I had to cup coffees from different parts of the world,” Kent McNeley, a co-organizer of the club, told RT. “It helped me to develop my palette. When I started to get an appreciation for wine, my skills made it very easy to pick out the difference and flavors of wine.”
Like a fine wine, the club itself is blossoming with age: it formed just half a year ago, but already has nearly 100 members.
“The idea behind wine-tasting is three things,” a visitor to the club, Rosa Sanricca, told RT. “One thing is to have a great time, because when you drink a great wine, you can only enjoy. Second thing is to meet other people. Third thing is to discover something new.”
Russia is not known for its wine drinking: Russians drink just seven liters per capita a year – a tenth of what Italians quaff.
The club’s members, however, say that it is possible to find in Moscow all kinds of wine.
“It’s a myth there’s no good wine. You can find great wines in Russia,” McNeley said. “Tonight, for example, we’re tasting nine wines from Italy, and every one of these is rated 90-94 by Parker, which means they’re all rated outstanding wines.”
Still, with socializing a major art of the club, there inevitably comes a point in the evening where the emphasis shifts from quality to quantity.