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Massandra Collective

On the Crimean Black Sea Coast, at the West end of the town of Yalta, lies the Massandra Palace and Imperial Winery. The winery is situated in a beautiful park containing formal rose gardens, mature trees and shrubs in a natural amphitheatre, protected on three sides by mountains and facing the Sea.
 In the 1890’s the Tsar decided to build the ‘Best winery in the World’ at Massandra to provide wines for nearby Summer Palace at Livadia. During construction, miners were brought from Georgia to tunnel deep into the mountainside and construct cellars on three levels. There are seven parallel tunnels on each level of 150 metres in length interconnected by crossgalleries. The temperature is a perfect and constant 13/14 degrees Centigrade. Massandra is considered one of the finest winery cellars in the world only, perhaps, bettered by those in Champagne.
After the revolution of 1917, the winery was used to make wines for the country’s new leaders and for the Russian embassies around the world. The quality of the wines made is exceptional, consisting almost entirely of white desert and fortified wines. Since 1936 the Massandra Collective has controlled most wine making along the south coast of the Crimea including wineries at Livadia, Gurzuf, Tavrida, Alushta, Sudak, Maloretchenskoye, Morskoye, Veselovskoye and Privetnoye. It has 5,000 employees and 4,400 acres of vines.
Massandra, with its associated wineries, is responsible for 28 defferent types of wine. With the exception of a small amount of red wine made at Alushta, all the wines produced are fortified (Port and Maderia style) or dessert wines (Muscat, Tokay or Sauternes style).
The winery suffered severe difficulties when its traditional market in Russia was severly reduced after the fall of communism and the Ukraine became independent in 1991. Today however there are clear signs that the wealthy ‘New Russians’ are helping re-establish this market, the wines being readily available in the sprinkling of fine wine shops now opening in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
The Masandra Collection
The first wine maker at Massandra from 1891 to 1897 was Prince Lev Sergeivich Golitzin (1845-1915). During this period Golitzin collected many fine wines from other parts of the world, all of which were donated to Massandra upon his death, the start of what is now known as the Massandra Collection. The collection remained safe during the Russian revolution for, although the Bolsheviks established Soviet power by January 1918, Massandra and the Crimea remained in the control of the White Russians. The struggle continued here for another three years with intervention also from the Germans, French, and English. During this turbulent time the collection remained safety hidden, as the tunnel in which it was stored had been bricked up and concealed.
At the end of 1920 the Red Army finally took control of the Crimea and the collection was discovered. In 1922, on Stalin’s orders, wine found at the Tsar’s many Russian palaces was moved to Massandra and the majority added to the collection.
In early 1941, fearing the German advance, the commissar of Food, H. Mikoyan, ordered the chief wine maker to prepare the entire collection for evacuation. Each bottle was marked with an evacuation number before being packed into crates for shipment. As time ran out, the younger vintages were hurriedly packed without numbers, only the crates being marked. The last part of the shipment left for the cellars of the No.1 winery in Tbilisi on 21st Septmber 1941and the Nazis arrived in Yalta on 8th November. The entire 1941 vintage and much of the 1940 vintage was in cask at the time of the invasion. This, plus any other bulk stock that could not be moved, was allowed to flow into the
Black Sea, turning it red as far as the eye could see. Yalta was liberated by the Detached Seaboard Army on 16th April 1944 following which the monumental task of shipping all the wines back was undertaken, all bottles being back in the cellars by the time of the Yalta conference in February 1945.
The Massandra Collection is one of the largest collections of old wines in the world, estimated at over 1 million bottles, covering vintages from as far back as 1775. The Massandra Library Collection has at least one example of each wine (which are not available for sale). Available for commercial sale are wines dating back to 1891, including some of the extremely rare bottles incorporating the Tsar’s personal seal.
On Golitzin’s death in 1915 the job of chief winemaker passed to Aleksander Aleksandovich Yegorov who guided the winery through the difficult period of the revolution and Second World War, staying involved until his death in 1969. Today Aleksandr’s grandson, Yuri Dmitrievich Yegorov, is one of the head winemakers.
 Massandra’s vineyards are spread along 180 kilometres of the Southern Crimea coastline on the narrow strip of land between the sea and the Crimean Mountains.
The White and Pink Muscats of Massandra are their classic wines and are considered by many to be the best Muscats in the world. The regular wines are produced to be drunk after two years, but a Special Cuvée is placed into the Massandra ‘Collection’ and not sold until it is six years old. These fabulous wines need between forty and sixty years to reach their peak, when they are a golden brown in colour with intence flavours, still very sweet but with a refreshing acidity to balance.
Muscat is the oldest known species of grape in the world and is possibly the forebear of all other existing grape varieties. It was probably introduced into the Crimea by the Greeks. Grape seeds found near Massandra show that grapes have been cultivated here for at least 2,500 years.
Some early experimental wines by Prince Golitzin, the Tsar’s winemaker, are labelled as ‘Muscat Yquem’. This was an attempt to imitate the great Bordeaux wine, one of the Tsar’s favourites, in the Crimea.
Bottling : after 2 years in old oak barrels of 400-800 litres.
Average Production : 100,000 cases
Alcohol : 13-16%
Residual sugar : 200-230 gr./litre (270 gr. Livadia)
Vineyards : Massandra, Livadia, Gurzuf, Kastel and Red Stone.
Vintages available from the Collection : 1896, 1903, 1905, 1910, 1914, 1916, 1918, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1929, 1931, 1934, 1936-40, 1943-66, 1969, 1971-77, 1979, 1984, 1986-8.
2 year old White Muscat – 92 points – The Wine Advocate.
Dessert Red Wine made from the Yemin-Kara and Kefessia varieties. Black Doctor is a name used by several wineries for their sweet dessert wine and was made at the Sunny Valley Vineyards until 1980. It is no longer in production at Massandra.
Bottling : after 3 years in old oak barrels of 400-800 litres.
Alcohol : 16%
Residual sugar : 60-100 gr./litre
Vineyards : Massandra
Vintages available from the Collection : 1957, 1960, 1967.
Alcohol : 16%
Dessert Red wine made from the Saperavi grape which is of Georgian origin and unusually has red juice as well as red skins. Also translated as ‘Cahors’, and although the wines have few similarities, Kagor does have the same ‘black’ colour of old style Cahors and is noted for its extreme longevity. Kagor has much more in common with Vintage Port.
Bottling : after 3 years in old oak barrels of 400-800 litres.
Average Production : 25,000 cases.
Alcohol : 16%
Residual sugar : 180 gr./litre
Vineyards : Ayo-Dag.
Vintages available from the Collection : 1933, 1936,1938-40, 1943, 1944, 1946-49, 1951, 1953-55, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1986, 1987.
2 Year Old Kagor – 92 points – The Wine Advocate.
Dessert wine, uniquely grown in the Sudak area of the South-eastern Crimea where it was recorded being used over 200 years ago. Kokur is a lighter style than Muscat but with some similarities. The Kokur grape was probably introduced by the Genoese when they arrived from Italy and colonised the eastern Crimea. The vines are fairy fragile and do not produce quality wines every year. The grape is also used in the production of sparkling wines, dry white wines, and white port style, wines.
Bottling : ater 2 years in old oak barrels of 400 – 800 litres.
Average Production : 40,000 cases
Alcohol : 16%
Residual sugar : 160 gr./litre
Vineyards : Surozh (Sudak)
Vintages available from the Collection : 1944, 1946, 1956, 1959, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969 -71, 1973-77, 1979, 1986, 1988
Located on the coast just east of Yalta. It is the location of one of the Massandra Wineries and also encompasses the small town of Ai-Danil (St. Daniel) which produces some of the best Muscat, Tokay and Pinot Gris.
The old name for the important town of Sudak at the eastern end of the Crimean South Coast wine producing area. Kokur wines are made here.