Ten years ago Rioja, sangria and Jerez were the only wines of Spanish origin known in Russia. Sherry came mostly from Crimea, where some producers make fortified wines from palomino and other varieties (cercial, aligoté, kokur, etc.). These wines can be sweet, semi-sweet, semi-dry or dry. Obviously they are sherry imitations, but some are pretty good.
Spanish wines accounted for 3.6 % of all wine imports (which amount to about 20% of the Russian market). Spain, with a share of almost 13% in 2014, was the fourth-largest wine exporter to Russia after France, Italy and Georgia.
The Russian market still has a big growth potential; the country has not even reached half of the wine consumption levels registered in the days of the Soviet Union (21 litres per capita), despite a rapid growth over recent years.
In 2014 the wine bar boom took Moscow and St Petersburg by storm. Both cities saw new openings almost weekly over the autumn; all of them shared the same aim —to compile an original yet reasonably priced wine list. Thus they turned to wines from countries that were relatively obscure before like Portugal and Greece, but also Spain and Austria. Not all these wine bars succeeded, but they set a new trend and, more importantly, they encouraged people's curiosity for new wines and new countries. Until recently, "non-classical" wines (i.e. not French, Italian or Rioja) put consumers off, partly because a considerable number of such wines were just cheap and unpleasant.
French wines have traditionally been the most popular and well-known in Russia. The growing number of Italian restaurants over the last 15 years put the country’s wines on the spotlight, and now they are very popular.
Spanish restaurants are not common in Russia, so this educational resource does not work at present. Even tapas bars in Moscow serve Prosecco along with Cava. Almost all A-class restaurants stock a handful of the most renowned names in their wine lists, such as Vega Sicilia, Pingus and L’Ermita. Oddly enough, the most expensive wines are the most stable market segment. Despite the woes of Russia’s national currency, wine consumption holds steady, even though patterns are changing. Bordeaux and Super Tuscans are being gradually replaced by Burgundy, Piedmont and, to a lesser extent, by Priorat and Ribera del Duero.
For middle and low-priced wines things are even more difficult and the future is hard to predict. That is why we can only speak about the results of recent years and make cautious forecasts.
Sommeliers and wine bar directors look for interesting Spanish wines offering good value. Undoubtedly, in 8 out of 10 cases these wines come from Rioja - not because it is Spain’s best known wine region across the world but also because the appellation has prominent and well-funded promotions. But in order to satisfy the interests of wine geeks, restaurants select wines from Bierzo, Penedès, Utiel-Requena, Yecla and other Spanish regions. The growing interest for lesser known areas can be also seen in the growing interest to attend large tastings like Spanish Wines fair and the Guía Peñín tasting.
El Asador. Practically the only Spanish restaurant in Moscow –not a tapas bar or a themed restaurant, but a real one. Ten years ago the owner fell in love with the Spanish Basque Country and decided to open a restaurant with authentic Northern Spain cuisine in Moscow. El Asador has the city’s largest selection of classic Riojas, from Faustino VII to Artadi El Pisón, La Montesa and Beronia, as well as a couple of Txakoli wines.
Bolshaya Ordynka, 45/8, Moscow
+7 495 953-15-64
Gastropub Lo Picasso. Moscow’s newest Spanish restaurant with a strange name and a compact wine list featuring mostly Spanish selections. The format is "beer and tapas" hence most of the wines are either very well-known brands and/or easy-drinking wines.
+7 (495) 988 26 56
Vinnyi Rynok (Wine Market). One of the best wine shops in Moscow. Not Spanish-focused, but with a good selection of wines. The director is a big fan of Spanish wines, specially fortified ones. For this reason the venue was chosen to host a key presentation made by Sherry educator and member of the Spanish Trade Commission in Moscow, David Feijoo. Wines by the glass include Rioja and Ribera selections, but also some lesser known wines like the white from Somontano’s Bodegas Pirineos.
Komsomolskiy Avenue, 14/1-2, Moscow
Wine Religion. A very interesting shop and bar with an excellent selection of wines and a creative cuisine. Every wine from the shop can be enjoyed in the restaurant. The resturant’s chief sommelier also works in a London wine bar, so the list has an English accent, which can be felt in its good Spanish selection as well.
Michurinsky Prospekt, 16, Moscow
+7 499 753-23-40