Are more people in Russia drinking wine now than in the past?
Pavel: In Russia, yes, more and more, but wine consumption now may be growing at a slower rate now than it was before the crisis. And people's individual consumption is also growing slower. For example, before the crisis, wine drinkers would work their way up from one category of wine to the next, would be willing to spend more and more as their tastes grew with experience. Now, people have greater limitations -- they aren't growing in that way, like they were before. They stop at a certain category without growing.
Has your focus always been on the wines of Europe, or have you also studied Russian wine producers and regions?
Pavel: Well, first of all, I unfortunately haven't been to Georgia. Of course, I promise I'll go one day and check for myself and see the famous vineyards, but I think it's still too soon to speak about Georgian wines. Georgia has a deeper story than anyone else -- only Greece can compare. But even Greece has lost some of its traditions, whereas Georgia has retained them. This is like the mystique of a place. That's what I like to call it. Other than the old way of production and wines that aren't on the market, though, the newer vineyards are only five or so years old. As for Crimea and Krasnodar, wine production is growing. Lots of talented winemakers in both big and small vineyards. Even with the same terroir, the wines from different producers vary greatly, depending on the technique and talent of the winemaker.
In Crimea, there are four different terroirs based on the four rivers in the region. Near the sea, in the valley, a very interesting terroir is created, making rich wines that can't come from flat land. Two particular grapes are Kakur - white - and Krasnostop - red. These local grapes are authentic, local Russian grapes. There should be no monopolies in wine, because then the market is only commercial producers and there's no space for small producers like these.
As for other regions, Austria is one of my favorite countries to explore, both for travel, and for wine. Austria has a great wine culture, as does the former Yugoslavia. You can find a lot of great reds there.
A sommelier is someone who works with wine, not tea or beer or anything else. But, as a sommelier, I should know everything about all beverages. That's what I do, and I have passion for it. For example, I wouldn't call myself a water sommelier, but I'm currently an ambassador of Selters water. It's a historical water from Frankfurt, and I actually find it very gastronomic and very useful for the market. It's good for health, it pairs well with food, and those who don't drink alcohol can drink this water and really enjoy it.
Some wines kill your receptors, others refresh them. And my position on wine-food pairings, or wine-cigar pairings -- well, I'm conservative about some things, like varietals and terroirs -- but not about pairings. I love pairing a sparkling wine with a cigar, or even just a sparkling mineral water with a cigar. When you have whisky or rum with a cigar, it may be the perfect glass of liquor, but the pair will be competing. They can detract from each other. A sparkling, mineral-heavy drink places focus on the cigar and opens it up. But cigar smoke also dulls your receptors, and it's good to refresh them again, like with a sparkling wine.