The Russian president offered the French president a 2015 Chardonnay and a red Rebo, both produced on the Usadba Divnomorskoye estate. The cellar of which is annexed to the “Putin Palace”, which was at the center of the latest investigation by Navalny
The meaning of an encounter is in the details. And Vladimir Putin disseminated a series of clues during Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Moscow. One was brutally aggressive: when he finally said, referring to Volodymir Zelensky and Ukraine, “you may like it or not, beautiful, but you catch it”, an obscene phrase that in Russian can wink at both rape and necrophilia , and which was greeted with almost unanimous horror by European commentators. The other detail, on the other hand, is a fairly obvious trollage, which Putin has included in the menu of the dinner offered to the French president. And here we need to explain.
The menu included a start with shrimp and potato salad, followed by spinach ravioli, soup with five species of fish, ginger sorbet. The main dishes were sturgeon steak, reindeer steak with sweet potatoes and blackberries. And finally the dessert, pear pie with vanilla ice cream. All washed down with a 2015 Chardonnay and Rebo red wine, from the Usadba Divnomorskoye estate. But these are an estate and a cellar that must be told. The cellar is annexed to the “Putin Palace” on the Black Sea, as the entire property was called in a famous video investigation by Aleksey Navalny, the last one before his arrest on his return to Moscow. Ten days after the investigation was released, one of the oligarchs closest to Putin, Arkady Rotenberg (the “judo master”, actually Putin’s simple judo companion, as well as head of the Gazprom construction company, contractor of many works, appeared. from 2008 onwards, in the construction of the South and Nord Stream gas pipelines, as well as the Sochi Olympics), to claim that no, that building was not Putin’s but his. Many did not believe him.
However, there is another curiosity: that winery received the advice of a great Italian winemaker, Riccardo Cotarella. At his time, the management of the estate on the Black Sea triumphantly announced to the sector magazines: «We are the Russian winery that makes the most“ Italian ”Russian wine there is». And Cotarella joked: «It is the umpteenth experience that tells us that the vine is a generous plant that knows how to adapt to the territory. We are on the 45th parallel, there is the sea, there are the mountains. The vine is a plant that pushes borders away and unites ».
A young Italian oenologist works in the Usadba Divnomorskoye cellar, and all the wines are “Italian” (the estate is also an experiment in Italian style in Russia, the same architect who took care of the interiors is Italian, Lanfranco Cirillo). International distribution is handled precisely by Cotarella, which also has Boris Titov among its customers, a man whom Putin has named “ombudsman” for entrepreneurs and who – Navalny argued – is actually a figurehead of the Russian president (he denies). Cotarella has followed the wine passions of many Russians in Italy, such as Roman Abramovich, or Konstantin Nikolaev, 1.2 billion dollars of assets, one of the major players in Russian ports, who in 2017 bought an estate in Bolgheri, in the Livorno area, choosing precisely Cotarella as an oenologist. A fame, that of Cotarella, which had already conquered the Umbrian winery La Madeleine among its customers. That of Massimo D’Alema.
On a hot Saturday in July 2018 these Russian wines – now served by Putin in Macron – were presented where? In Italy, at the Rome Cavalieri hotel. And there were Massimo D’Alema and the Sommelier Foundation. There was talk of Pinot noir produced by Titov, a single grape variety that Cotarella exported from Italy to the Krasnodar region, in European and southern Russia. Is it true that Putin is behind Titov’s wine ?, they asked the winemaker. Answer: «I don’t know anything, believe me. In any case, I never met Putin ».
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