The figure of the highest pinotage: how the billionaire Galitsky’s wine turned out

If the label says Galitskiy & Galitskiy, don’t think you’re seeing double. This is the founder of the Magnit retail chain trying his hand at winemaking.

When a well-known billionaire launches a new project, especially in such a fashionable area as the domestic wine industry, he is doomed to increased attention. Interest in the release of the first wines was methodically fueled by a year-long Instagram campaign. Picturesque landscapes and still lifes – wine subjects professionally photographed and videotaped – prepared consumers and the shop community for the strongman’s entry into the arena.

One of the most talented Russian oenologists of the new wave (Alexey Tolstoy) as the chief winemaker. One of the most ambitious Russian wine trading companies (Simple) as a distributor. Heavy bottles and sort of ascetic labels on expensive rough paper. Comme il faut, pardon my French.

The Red Hill line, named after a natural reserve near the vineyards, is made up of eight wines.

Pinot Noir is a trendy and provocative variety. Making Pinot Noir is the norm of life for the new Russian winemaking. For Alexei Tolstoy “Krasnaya Gorka” is not the first occasion to turn to the theme of pinot. But this time he managed to show the figure of a “higher pinotage,” slipping along the narrow 14-degree line between such dangers as alcoholic aggressiveness and “boiled down” fruit tones. Despite being born in the hot summer of 2018, this pinot is elegant and subtle, textured and fresh.

The only pink wine in the lineup cannot be denied in its precise balance. The aroma – so rich and dainty, with hints of ripe dogwood, red currants and strawberries – managed to keep it fresh, and the taste has the firmness of ripe but unripe fruit.

Merlot is probably the only Red Hill wine I wouldn’t dare return to until the next harvest. The variety, known for its rapid maturation in hot climates, turned out in 2018 in both the North Caucasus and Crimea too icky and ruffly – to the detriment of showing that delicate fruit aroma and that depth for which we love merlot from the best vineyards of Bordeaux and Tuscany.

On the other hand, in the varietal cabernet sauvignon, the powerful “body” did not seem excessive. Relief cabernet tannin plays here like the muscles of an athlete (and thus is very attractive), and the degree of alcohol is not overpowering.

Cosaque assembly wine (cuvée “Kosyak”, as ironic Russian Francophones already nicknamed it) logically completes the red line. The complex blend of cabernet, merlot, red-stripe and Zimlian black may in time rise to a quite symphonic sound, but for now, thanks to the temperamental style of the wine and its name, it brings to mind the allegory of the “Sabre Dance”.

The substantial sauvignon blanc from “Krasnaya Gorka” openly claims leadership in its varietal category among Russian wines. Probably not a single Russian winemaker has ever managed to come so close to the conditional gold standard of this capricious variety. “Greenish” herbaceous tinges, beloved in the aroma of sauvignon by one part of its fan club, are softened by seductive southern fruitiness, to which another part of connoisseurs is partial, and complicated by light vanilla which as if should not be, if we believe that this wine had no contact with oak… And, of course, we will not forget the “mineral” salty characteristic for the Northern Caucasian terroir!

Chardonnay is made in a classic Burgundian tradition, aged in oak barrels, so it greets the taster with a pleasant aroma of bread toast with butter. The vanilla does not overpower the aroma, the “thoroughbred” (read: typical for the variety) apple hue comes through in the second wave and lingers in a good glass. The flavor is fresh and mineral again. The level of acidity is palpably above the category average, which is quite in fashion, but fraught with acid-alkaline imbalances if drunk without an appetizer.

Riesling in the same line is certainly good and nuanced. The distinctive varietal “benzene” note in the flavor is light and not at all burdensome, so that even strict ascetics won’t prevent them from succumbing to the floral charm of youth. The increased (maybe a little harsh for some tastes) acidity can be attributed to the varietal characteristics or even to youth, which, as we know, is not a vice at all. By the way, I managed to confirm the potential of this Riesling with an involuntary experiment: we accidentally left the unfinished bottle in a cool room for a weekend without a cork, and on the third day the wine did not seem oxidized but passed into the floral and honeyed shades.

My first encounter with a bottle from Galitskiy & Galitskiy took place at the graduation tasting of the fall flow of Vasily Raskov’s wine school. The talented young teacher of wine wisdom asked his students to give not only a classical organoleptic evaluation of the samples tasted blind, but also to talk about the “charisma” of each wine, picking up an associative line.

One of the samples was “that” 2018 Riesling, the first vintage of Red Mountain. In terms of varietal composition, it was brilliantly identified by the graduates, and at the level of associations it was unexpectedly dubbed… “Baron Munchausen.”

When the foil was removed from the bottles, which provided the intrigue of the “blind” tasting, we first saw the label. And about the design approach of the postmodern era should say a few words separately.

Pictorial minimalism in the design of wine labels, which recently replaced the principle of maximum information content, can be considered an understandable trend of the new era. But not having any indication of terroir (read: place of wine origin) on the front label, except for the still little-known “Krasnaya Gorka”, is probably an extreme. Especially since the counter label, densely printed in small print, does not clarify the situation. Only from its penultimate line we learn that “the manufacturer: IP Head of the private farm Narykov S.Yu. (however!) is based in the village of Gostagaevskaya, Anapa District, Krasnodar Territory.

The association with Baron Munchausen was built on the German origin of Riesling, but, apparently, there was something else in this wine that should not have been believed.

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