5 Minutes with Vlada Lesnichenko
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Born in the south of Russia, wine connoisseur, lecturer and columnist Vlada Lesnichenko has worked her way up the vinology ladder to become a reputable and sought-after consultant, advising numerous bars and restaurants in her homeland, and promoting wines to new generations of drinkers. Lesnichenko takes five minutes out of her busy schedule to chat with VEEN Scene about her career and the wines she loves.

(1) How did you start your career in the wine industry?

My passion for grapes and wine stems from my grandpa’s vineyard in my early childhood. I started my career in the industry 16 years ago, with a company called Simple Wine. First, I worked as a marketing communications manager. Then I was put in charge of wine shops and a chain of wine bars. Now I’m on the other side, promoting wines and creating wine lists for restaurants that do not need a sommelier.

(2) Which wine first awakened your nose?

It is not normal for amateurs, but when I started my career and had my first tastings, I immediately fell in love with Arneis (a white Italian wine grape variety originating from Piedmont) and Nebbiolo (an Italian red wine grape variety also native to Piedmont). I tend to like delicate yet complex wines.

(3) Can you tell us what denotes a fantastic wine pairing?

One that creates a savoury flavour in your mouth that makes it water. In other words -umami. A good pairing also creates vivid images of the most charming moments of your life, especially your childhood.

(4) What is your favourite grape and why?

Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin Blanc and Gamay. The first three are the kings and I like their depth and elegance, the second two are my favourite every day pals.

 (5) When people think of Russian food and celebrations, they tend to think of one beverage to wash everything down: vodka. What does the perfect wine (when matched right) have to offer a traditional Russian dish that vodka does not?

Champagne as the Russian tsars taught us. Riesling. A dry Furmint can be nice. Skin maceration as for Vitovska or Malvasia. As well as Jerez. And light bodied reds for pelmeny and meat pies.

(6) Russian wine has experienced some success in recent years and is beginning to compete more seriously with the industry’s “big boys”. Can you tell us a little bit about Russian wines? What are your favourites and why?

We have three important wine regions: Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar and the Crimea peninsula. Appealing local “Kazak” grape varieties come from Rostov, and here the vines are covered-up for the severe winters. Krasnodar is interesting for its “terra and mare” geography and for dozens of various terroirs with international and local grapes. Crimea is a tsar terroir, where the Russian nobility used to cultivate vines and produce wines for their tables. I enjoy Sibirkovy from Vedernikov winery in Rostov-on-Don, Riesling from Sikory, Sauvignon Blanc from Villa Victoria, Chardonnay from Lefkadia – these are all from Krasnodar. I also enjoy Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc from Alma Valley, and Sangiovese and Rubinovy Cherny from Esse – these are from Crimea. Also, we produce some lovely sparkling wines, made using traditional methods in Lefkadia, Esse and Divnomorskoe.

(7) What would you say is Russia’s finest home-produced wine?

We are still working on it! Anyway, it’s not very professional to choose just one wine from various styles and terroirs!

(8) What inspires you to have so much passion for your job?

I’m from the south of Russia and there is a certain solar system inside me. I live on good food, great wines, much travelling and regular communication with interesting people.

(9) In terms of wine culture, what did you learn from working in the restaurant industry?

I learnt that the most important thing in our industry is how to attract and captivate a client with wine. To be patient, to play and to entertain.

(10) What wine would you pair with caviar? And stroganoff?

Blanc de blanc, Albariño on lees, Jerez fino. With a stroganoff I would add German Spatburgunder as well.

(11) What would you say is currently the best wine bar in Moscow?

There are many! Big Wine Freaks, Wine Bazar, SimpleWine&Bar, 15 Kitchen+Bar, Praktika by Darvin, Barrel, 13 and many more.

(12) Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc?

Both! Chardonnay from Burgundy and Jura and vintage German Riesling, because, as Oscar Wild said, “I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.”

(13) Which country – in your opinion – produces the best wine in the world

Planet Earth. Old World. France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Spain

(14) If you could open any bottle of wine right now – irrespective of the price – what would it be?

A Récoltant Manipulant champagne of the deepest millésime, followed by a bottle of vintage Rosé des Riceys.