The History of “Soviet Sparkling Wine”
It is well known that the birthplace of Champagne is France, or, more precisely, the province of Champagne. It is there, that in the middle of the XVII century, the first sparkling wine was produced.
However, the first mentions of sparkling wines in Russia also date back to the middle of the XVII century. The first sparkling wine in Russia was produced in the Don region’s Cossack villages of Tsimlyansk and Kumshtatsk. The weather conditions in these villages were found to be similar to those of the Champagne region. We can find mentions of the Tsimlyansk wine in national Russian history. This drink was the favorite wine of Count Matvei Ivanovich Platov, the legendary hero of the war of 1812, who always carried with him a few casks of Tsimlyansk wine. Great general Kutuzov enjoyed celebrating the victories over Napoleon with Tsimlyansk wine. After the war, this wine became ever more popular. Of course, Russian winemakers did not possess the know-how of their French counterparts. Unfortunately, their folksy experience left unnoticed during that time and was never recorded.
The first official mentions of Russian sparkling wine date to 1799. There, in the city of Sudak in Crimea, the first experiments took place in sparkling wine production. Mass production of Crimean sparkling wines started only 10 years later. However, in the pursuit of profits, the owner of the plant, the merchant Krich, began gluing labels of his wines on top of French labels of Champagne from Roederer, thus tarnishing the reputation of the entire national winemaking. After this incident, the emperor ordered to shut down production.
The situation was recovered by another plant in south Crimea, in the village of Ai-Danil near the town of Gurzuf, owned by Count Mikhail Vorontsov. According to reviews, survived until our time, the wine produced there was no worse than its French counterpart. However, during the Crimean War of 1853-1856, the French and the British cut down all the vineyards and destroyed documents with the secrets of production, along with the equipment.
A few years later, Russian sparkling wine saw its revival at the hands of Prince Lev Golitsyn. In 1900 at the World Fair in Paris, an unprecedented event for Russian winemaking took place. It is then that the “Golitsyn Champagne” made a splash, defeating all the French entries to claim the internationally coveted ‘Grand Prix de Champagne’ as the world’s best champagne. How great was the surprise when during the announcement of the winner, the winning bottle carried the name “Novy Svet, Plant of Prince Golitsyn”. This is why Prince Lev Golitsyn is considered the father of Russian sparkling wine.
When the Russian Revolution came in 1917, Golitsyn’s cellars were sealed off and the French specialists returned to France, taking all documentation with them. The country was dominated by hunger and devastation as the alcohol prohibition law came into effect. In 1924, the government set a challenge for domestic wine producers: to make sparkling wine available to the masses.
The implementation was led by a well-known chemist and champagne-maker – Prince Golitsyn’s best student – Anton Mikhailovich Frolov-Bagreev (1877-1953), who had spent most of his life developing first Russian, then Soviet winemaking. Frolov–Bagreev is indeed considered the father of “Soviet Sparkling Wine”.
According to the rules of production of French Champagne, its aging time must be at least 15 months. This clearly did not fit into the objectives of mass production, significantly raising the cost of the drink. Following a great deal of testing and experimentation, Anton Mikhailovich created a device for sparkling wine production that reduced the ripening time of sparkling wine to as little as 3 weeks.
The “Soviet Sparkling Wine” trademark was developed by the National Economy Council in 1928. In 1936, through the personal involvement of Joseph Stalin, a resolution passed ordering to build plants in order to start “Soviet Sparkling Wine” production in the major cities of the USSR. In 1937, the first bottle of “Soviet Sparkling Wine” came off the conveyor belt, produced according to the Frolov–Bagreev method. From that moment, champagnization of the entire country began with a rapid pace. The results were impressive: in 1940, among 30 plants, a total of 249 million bottles of sparkling wine were produced. In 1942, Frolov–Bagreev received the Stalin Prize.
After the end of the war, the question of modernizing the “Soviet Sparkling Wine” production technology remained open. In 1954, “Soviet Sparkling Wine” production began through the continuous flow method, which had been suggested by professor Georgy Gerasimovich Agabalyanc in collaboration with his colleagues. This innovation reduced the price of each bottle of wine by 20% and increased the quality of the drink. It became more foamy and bubbly and its resistance to cloudiness increased as well. For the scientific design and implementation of the continuous flow method in production of sparkling wines with process flow automation, G.G. Agabalyanc, A.A. Merjanian and S.A. Brusilovsky received the Lenin Award in 1961.
Today, the production capacities only among the plants in Russia, can reach up to 220 million bottles of sparkling wine annually, of which over 3 million bottles are produced according to the traditional method.
The “Soviet Sparkling Wine” trademark
According to the terms of the Madrid Treaty of 1891, producers of three European countries and other regions of the world, who had signed the treaty, were not eligible to label their wines as “Champagne”. The exclusive right to use that name belongs to the French province of Champagne (regulated by the Treaty of Versailles, signed at the end of the First World War).
Sparkling wines are produced all around the world and in each country, they have their own common name: “Cava” in Spain, “Sekt” in Germany, “Spumante” in Italy, “Cap Classique” in South Africa, the Muscat sparkling wine of the south-eastern Italian region of Piedmont is called “Asti”.
According to Russian-French agreements, Russia is allowed to produce wine labeled as “Soviet Champagne” and “Russian Champagne” only for its domestic market. In 1969, the “Soviet Sparkling Wine” trademark was registered, under which Soviet Sparkling Wine is exported to the West.
The “Soviet Sparkling Wine” name itself can only exist in the Russian language, as international winemaking regulations prohibit writing this name in Latin characters.