Wine Ratings: Massandra

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 February, 2013, 1:46pm

Stephen Spurrier, a contributor to Decanter, predicted that with the onset of climate change, wine regions around the Black Sea would be the next places to watch out for. But he was not the first to identify the quality potential of these vineyards. The famed Massandra winery with a 100-year-plus history is located in the resort city of Yalta, on the Black Sea coast in the southern Ukraine.

In the early 1890s, Tsar Nicholas II established the Massandra winery near his summer residence in Livadia to supply wines for his personal use, and for the imperial court. His chief wine maker was Prince Lev Golitsyn who had a reputation for producing award-winning wines and went on to win the Grand Prix in Paris in 1900 for his sparkling wine.

The Massandra cellars are contained in seven 150-metre long tunnels that house a million bottles of wine. The wines have survived Russia and Ukraine's turbulent history. In the 1920s, Stalin was impressed by the wines, and saved the winery from destruction. Entranced by the winery, Stalin made Massandra Palace his summer residence.

During the second world war, the threat of a German invasion saw the Massandra collection evacuated to three secret locations. The only casualty was the unbottled 1941 vintage, which was disposed of into the sea. It was said that it was the first time the Black Sea had ever turned red. The Massandra collection made further headlines when Sotheby's auctioned a bottle of the 1775 Sherry for US$43,500 in 2001. Today the winery has over 20 wines in its portfolio. These include dry whites, red, sweet and fortified wines. The dry wines are rustic, with oxidative (walnut-like) notes.

The sweet and fortified wines really stand out. This is a fantastic opportunity to sample a taste of history.

Massandra Sherry 2007

The traditional variety for sherry is the palomino but the Massandra version is made from sercial and verdelho which are traditionally used to make Madeira. Abillo - a Spanish variety known for its high glycerol content - is added to increase body.

Aged for four years. Notes of salted almonds. Medium-bodied with salty notes, crisp acidity with long finish. HK$330

Massandra Livadia Red Port 2008

Grapes are sourced from Livadia. The first port was made in 1891, and is one of the first wines produced for him. Nicholas purportedly carried his favourite wine in a hip flask. The blend differs from traditional varieties - this port is made from 100 per cent cabernet sauvignon.

Dark blackcurrant, grapey notes. On the palate, the wine is concentrated, high in alcohol with a high level of residual sugar, firm tannins and long finish. Still youthful with long term ageing potential. HK$330

Massandra Rose Muscat 2009

One of the best expressions of muscat, showing the region's potential. Intense perfume, floral aromatics. Full bodied, very sweet. Rich, concentrated, long finish. Can age for decades. HK$390

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