The minimum program in Abrau-Durso features mysterious tunnels, baths with champagne and walks to the Vineyard’s Lodge


The taxi driver ferries us from the airport to Abrau-Durso using roundabout ways: there are serious traffic jams in Anapa on weekends. The signs “Pyatikhatka”, “Sukko”, in which a southern Russian accent can be heard, are flashing outside the window. However, Abrau-Durso sounds quite different. These two words are pleasant to taste and roll in one’s mouth, feeling like sparkling bubbles tingling the tongue.

Geographically, Abrau-Durso is actually not just one place, but two: Abrau-Durso Village on the bank of Lake Abrau and Durso Bay over the pike along the Black Sea coast. Nevertheless, the stereotype in the mass consciousness has long entrenched this name to the oldest sparkling wines factory in Russia, founded here by order of Russian Emperor Alexander II in 1870.

The squat, road-dust colored plant building, from where the tours to the museum, the old cellars and the modern production of Abrau-Durso Russian Wine House start today, is really the main magnet of these places. Although Russian wine tourism is only beginning to gain momentum, everything in Abrau-Durso is organized as at the best wine houses of Europe: a tour to the museum halls, a film on the history of the Company, a walk around the factory premises, finishing with wine tasting.

A walk through the cool cellar-galleries, where the temperature is maintained around +14°C all year round, seems especially seductive in the midday heat. The building of the wine storage tunnels in the rock was begun in the 19th century. During the Soviet times, Metro builders were dealing with this hard work. And today, the Abrau-Durso Cellar comprises of a ramified network of 16 corridors with a total length of 5.5 km. Here, on special stands that provide the necessary constant inclination angle, are millions of dust-powdered bottles waiting for disgorging (the obligatory operation of splitting the yeast sediment).

It’s easy to get lost alone, so the main thing is to keep up with the guide. Besides explaining the subtleties of the sparkling wine production technology, they tell a lot of interesting stories and details.

For example, the one about a mischievous monkey that knew how to pop champagne and became the prototype of a figure on a fountain in the courtyard. Or the fact that in the 1970s, the CEO of PepsiCo, Donald Kendall, liked sparkling wine from Abrau-Durso so much, that he started to export it to the USA, Canada, Mexico and other countries under the Nazdorovya brand. So, apparently, this is where the pseudo-Russian toast so popular with foreigners came from.

The sightseers, mellowed after tasting, rush into the art park with sculptures, installations and a white lace amphitheater. Bright boats that were painted by famous artists are dancing on the malachite water surface. Fishermen, who had come out to try their luck at the evening dawn, stand still at the edge of the shore. They say if you’re lucky, you can catch a perch, a bream, or a silver carp. However, the most coveted trophy is the Abrau sprat, which is unique to the waters of this lake.

Everyone has their own idea of a perfect Sunday morning: be it a lazy breakfast with champagne to the sound of the bells of the Church of Blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg in the background; or greeting the sun asana in the Yoga Lodge on a hilltop overlooking the vineyards and the Black Sea.

What the day before departure shall be dedicated to is purely a matter of taste. Sybarites lie around the pool and laze in a champagne bath at the Champagne SPA. The wine is literally poured into the bath: a bottle of sparkling pink for a stimulating bath, a white one for a relaxing one. An additional glass of wine, which this time you’re supposed to actually drink, helps believing in the effect of bubbles and in the healing properties of grapes. Enthusiastic foodies hurry to a lesson in the Gastronomic School, where the chefs reveal the cooking secrets of local dishes, and the sommeliers talk of how they pick the right wine for these dishes.

In the meantime, lovers of long walks go hiking through the vineyards. It takes a little more than an hour walk to get to the Vineyard Lodge, from where one can see Abrau Lake lying in a deep mountain bowl, the blue Black Sea, and steep hills with vineyards, as well as mountains on the horizon. This route on the ATV takes about fifteen minutes. However, getting up here is worthwhile in any case, not only for the fantastic panorama, pacifying silence and intoxicating aromas of different southern grasses, but also for seeing with your own eyes the land on which the legendary Russian wine is born.


Теxt: Svetlana Troitskaya

Published on: February 26, 2018