Despite the common belief that Russians do not agree to anything except vodka, they do, however, consume some wine. And there are strong reasons to do so.
I was recently stopped by a lady in a Moscow Auchan’s wine department — which wine she should buy — a 3L Tetrapak of Isabella (a prohibited-to-grow-in-Europe grape variety famous in Russia for low-level wines) or a Chilean Merlot of 5L volume. Confused I hesitated for some time and even took the heavy things in my hands for inspection. The thought of another victim of methanol poisoning came to my mind. I didn’t ask the woman, what occasion she was buying the wine for. I told her to put off Isabella and give herself a good treat with Merlot.
The beginnings of wine culture in Russia are rooted in times of Peter the Great and Empress Elizabeth the Second. Russians acquired taste for fine Champagnes and wines while chasing the retreating forces of Napoleon — straight to Champs Elysees. Cristal is a great example and a statement of recognition of the importance of fine wines for the Tsar’s Russia of that time.
Nowadays our winedrinking habits are at state of change. And challenge. No, no, people do increase wine consumption. And still most Russians, the mass-market, will require wines at very peculiar moments of their lives. Take a closer look — these are the major seven things to push us towards a glass of wine.
Improve our health
Many and many Russians consider wine (especially red) to possess medical capabilities and effects. While this is certainly true to some extent, normally we have no idea what these positive health benefits are. We just know it’s a “good thing”. Something connected with blood, haemoglobin reproduction, probably. Who cares?
To warm ourselves up
I am writing this sitting in front of a snowy scenery behind the restaurant window. February in Moscow can bring us as low as -25 degrees for 2-3 weeks in a row. And Moscow is certainly not the coldest part of the country. Red wine, on the other hand, is thick and often has some nice alcohol levels. Also the famous cooked wine — “glint vein” with spices and lemon — is a very popular way of drinking during the cold times.
When there’s no vodka around
The absence of the magical spirit can lead us into any crazy thing. Even into winedrinking.
To accompany traditional meat BBQ — “shashlyk”
Beginning of spring puts Russians into celebratory mood, our juices go up as it is with the trees. We love nature, in fact. Friday Moscow is a city of people leaving to their dachas — houses outside the megapolis. BBQ wine is normally as simple as can be although for most people it’s true for anything they’d drink.
When there are women in the company
Ah, women! They do drink wine: sweet and fizzy. Men consider it almost obligatory to dilute their vodka diet set with some blush.
When we can’t drink vodka
Imagine we have to go to work on Monday. There is no good time for vodka in this case. Some wine would do just fine.
To knock down the old year and welcome the New one
Some bubbly is required somewhere in between the famous Russian salad and the herring. Local Russian sparklings made of imported bulk are especially popular as “champagnes” when nobody really notices what’s in the glass — it’s bubbly, and we’re happy about that while looking at Mr. Putin speech on the 1st TV channel.