When one thinks of Russia’s famous drink, the first thing that comes to mind is vodka (or novichok), but did you know Russia’s South is a wine region ? Have you heard about Abrau – Durso sparkling wine ?
Last summer, on a day trip from Novorossiysk the Soviet Hero City on the Black Sea, a 20 kilometers marshrutka drive almost took me right back home to France (Yep, I’m french).
Abrau Durso is giving Alps vibes : a pretty blue lake surrounded by mountains covered with forest, but a short walk up behing the village and I ended up right in the middle of acres of vineyards !
In this post you will find everything you need to know about Abrau Durso, from the history of the vineyard to the best wine to taste (in my humble opinion).
Note : Even if you don’t drink alcohol, the scenery is worth the trip !
Disclaimer : This is not champagne.
As a proud french, I cannot call it “champagne” and here is why you shouldn’t either : Champagne is a wine region of France and its famous drink has a certification mark. It’s not just an international name for a fancy drink.
Paris and Moscow almost got into a diplomatic crisis a few years ago when the later made a law prohibiting the label “champagne” on imported bottles aka french champagne bottles. No kidding, it was all over the news in France for days.
So Abrau Durso is a good sparkling wine yes, but not champagne.
Abrau Durso’s wine history
In 1870, the Tsar Alexandr II, huge fan of French champagne ordered the set up of a vineyard on the Black Sea coast of his empire to produce russian made sparkling wine. It didn’t work out so well, so after years of research a french oenologist was brought in.
A whole french team led by V. Dravigny worked there from 1905 to 1914 and returned home due to the mobilisation for WWI.
The prosperity of the vineyard slowed down for a bit during the Bolshevik revolution and Abrau Durso was nationalised. It was popular all across the USSR and marketed under the name Soviet Champagne.
It became a generic name for sparkling wine produced in various countries such as Belarus and Moldova.
Day trip from Novorossiysk
Abrau Durso is located only 20 kilometers from the port city of Novorossiysk. You can easily catch one of the many daily marshrutka from the city centrer.
The marshurtuka’s station is located between the central market and the main bus station.
It’s a 30 minutes drive or so for about 60₽.
Marshrutkas N° 101 and 102.
The minibus takes you right at the entrance of the village. Most people travelling there will be tourists as well, so you can’t miss the stop.
To get back to Novorossiysk, take a marshrutka at the bus stop outside the village’s entrance.
Abrau Durso can be visited on a day trip but you can as well stay overnight or more. The area is very calm and pretty to hang around, do activities on the lake as well as around it.
Chances are, you might be one of the rare foreign tourist in Abrau Durso. Most tours are in russian but you may be able to get one with an english speaking guide through the tunnels where the precious bottles are stored.
A tour can obviously include wine tasting or not. They offer differents types. See directly on their website. You can contact them by email.
Note : I did not join a tour because I’ve seen enough wine cellars in my life. But obviously I did a wine tasting in one of the café by the lake. See below
Drinks & food
Drinks first because that’s the main reason to visit Abrau Durso, isn’t it ?
There are plenty of restaurants and cafés to eat delicious food and taste Abrau Durso’s wine by the glass.
My personal recommandation : Petit café, like the name states it, is a little café where you can enjoy a glass of sparkling wine on the terrasse by the lake. One could almost believe to be by the side of Annecy lake in the French Alps, only a bit smaller and far less crowded !
Friendy service, my smilling waitresss spoke some english, the sparkling (300₽ about 5€ per glass) was at the right temperature and they have a god range of classic but tasty food (not cheap though).
The best sparkling wine to try in my opinion is Victor Dravigny Extra Brut.
There are some sleeping options in Abrau Durso, though not very budget friendly but quality ones.
Mid range : Kryilya Hotel
Fancy : Imperial & Champagne SPA Hotel
As far as I know there’s no hostel in the village but I saw a camping after the beach. Have a look on Ostrovok for more accomodation options.
I was surprised to find 8 properly marked hiking paths in Abrau Durso, going around the lake as well as around the vineyard. There’re plenty of signs everywhere and lookouts (the highest is 288m over sea level) on the way.
Have a look on the official website to see the different routes. Only the russian version has a page with all the paths so just translate it in your browser. There’s an 11 kilometers hiking trail all the way to the Black Sea !
In late July 2022, I had the chance to enjoy walking around the vineyard alone. It comes with no surprise that holidaying russians rather drink than climb uphill under the hot summer sun.
The signs are in russian only but understandable anyway (colours, numbers).
Let me know in the comments if this Abrau Durso travel guide makes you want to visit this little known wine village !