What is the wine market in Russia like today? What impact did the pandemic have? What is the position for Italian wine? We enjoyed a conversation with Anna Baranova, Italian Wine Ambassador certified by the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) and Chief-Sommelier of the “Caffè Italia” Italian restaurant in St. Petersburg. Baranova completed her studies with the Vinitaly training course (which teaches international professionals and educators how to master the diversity of Italian wine) in 2017. Before talking to us about trends in Russia, she explained the 3 reasons why she would recommend training with Vinitaly.
"The VIA course to become an Italian Wine Ambassador is a direct and convenient way to: update knowledge of the numerous grape varieties and related terroirs in Italy," she said. "Italy has a unique heritage of native grapes capable of producing high-class wines; VIA certainly helps you open the doors of your own markets to new Italian wines: we must bear in mind that Italy is not just Pinot Grigio, Prosecco and Chianti; lastly, on a personal note, it helps you take your career in the world of wine to a qualitatively higher professional level."
As regards Russia, Baranova emphasised how locally produced wines are coming to the fore on the market with distinct improvements in quality: “Activities promoted by wine producers in my country have expanded, even to include dinners, tastings or wine competitions. Following the closure of borders, the development of domestic wine tourism in Russia is achieving great strides forwards." Baranova warns Italian producers that “Russian wine lists have grown even in the best restaurants. I imagine that, in the near future, Italian wines will have to compete on the Russian market not only with wines from France, Spain and the New World but also with Russian labels":
This exploit by local wines is accompanied by broader knowledge of wine among of consumers, and in this case the reason is not linked with the pandemic but rather to “a natural evolutionary process in the modern world. My observation of what is happening in St. Petersburg shows that there are nine Sommelier schools here today: they not only train wine business professionals but also consumers who are keen to be better informed. WSET courses are also developing actively in the city. Wine is fashionable among young people and they are eager to learn more”.
As regards preferences in a country with 11 time zones, Baranova highlights white wine: “Dry whites are becoming increasingly popular, regardless of the season. More aromatic wines particularly stand out in this context and the real superstar is Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand".
As regards Italy, sparkling wines take the podium as regards consumption: “Italians have no competitors in the sparkling wine category. Champagne remains in the luxury product category, while Prosecco dominates the medium price range! Importers are already increasing their volumes of Italian wine but the Russian market is capable of expanding even more.” For the other types of wine, Baranova mentions that Pinot Grigio is losing ground in favour of Sauvignon from New Zealand. Red wines are still performing well: “Italian reds are still well positioned in several price bands. Russian consumers know and love Sangiovese, Barbera, Negroamaro and Primitivo in particular".
However, Italy is firmly in the hearts of the Russians. "The Russians love everything that is Italian: music, cinema, fashion, cuisine and, of course, wine. This love is so deeply rooted that it is almost part of our own DNA. The Russian mentality surprisingly manages to combine two extremes: typical Russian melancholy and Italian joy." The best known wine-making area? “Tuscany is the region we see as the embodiment of this sunny joy! Chianti is a classic and Super Tuscans are a new style, a kind of modern interpretation of classic wines."