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Magarach
 


The Crimea is famous for it's wines, and those made on the South Coast of the Peninsula are especially splendid. The gorgeous nature of the area makes them bright, mildly ardent and fragrant.

"Magarach". The word means "source" or "spring" and refers to the Institute, which is the principal research center of the industry and the birthplace of the national science of vine and wine, where the mystery of wine has been investigated for almost two centuries. Witnesses to that are the vaults of the Institute's cellars and its old, but still living, wines.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Crimea was a part of the Novorossiysk Region whose Governor General Count Michael Vorontsov was a enthusiast of wine-making. He had vineyards and a winery in his country estate in Aloupka, and in 1828 a special state-owned establishment was established by his order within the framework of the Nikita Botanical Gardens in the locality named Magarach, in view to grow best grapes on a large scale and to make vinification experiments. To do this, six hundred acres were planted with 4000 vines of Burgundean variety Pinot franc and a group of Bordeaux grapes Petit Verdot, Gros Verdot, Malbec and Merlot. Thus, the Institute "Magarach" began as a viti-cultural farm and a school of practical enology.

The French wine-maker Franz Gasquet (who had previously worked for Count Vorontsov) and his disciple Anastasii Serboulenko were the first to join "Magarach" as enologists combining theoretical research and practical winemaking. The Director of the Nikita Botanical Gardens and the two enologists decided that the task would be "to produce good, healthy wines capable of long-term storage, without trying to imitate aromas and flavors of any foreign wines".

"Wine is a product of a locality", this was a favorite saying of Prince Leo Golitsyn who himself was a devotee of winemaking, which gained him the title "Prince of Russian wines". Enthusiasts from "Magarach" were going to acquaint the world with the fascination of the Crimea by means of excellent local beverages. Soon it became evident that the South Coast of the Peninsula was best suited for the production of strong and dessert wines.

The best wines were kept to investigate the effects of long-term aging. The Governor General Count Vorontsov signed a decree (N 1060 of 26th October 1834), which stated, "Wines uncapable of long-term storage will be sold immediately. The remaining wines will be stored for three years to reveal their potentials for improvement. After that they are to be sold, yet certain amount of wines from best varieties, especially from muscat grapes, will be kept in bottles." This was the beginning of the collection of the Institute "Magarach".

Wines were made with a great deal of thoroughness. Separate lots were prepared from each variety, and even from the same variety grown at different locations. Casks would bear inscriptions in chalk: "Pedro from hills", "Pedro from lowlands". Muscats were especially great: fragrant, harmonious and with a full taste. This type of wine was pro-duced only in especially good years. To provide good sugar accumulation of berries, each bunch on the vine was twisted with special I scissors, which I was a practice of | Ancient Greeks. Leaves around the bunch were removed for better access of sunshine, and berries were slightly raisined. In 1871, the talented chemist Alexander Salomon joined "Magarach", which led to the establishment of an enochemical laboratory. Wines came to be analyzed for 28 parameters. This enabled theoretical research and the investigation of wines from other regions (Bessarabia, the Caucasus, the Don region), followed by recommendations pertaining to their production.

An important branch of the activities of "Magarach" was training of skilled specialists. The first ten students were from an orphanage for children of military men, and the term of studies was 15 years. Onward, the practice of compulsory work and study was abandoned, and only literates were admitted. Students had to pay 50 roubles per year and were offered board and lodging. Higher enological courses were also established.

Scientists of "Magarach" trained many specialists who went to work for private grape and wine growers. They improved viticulture and enology of the Crimea and sometimes worked at better conditions than their teachers. Private owners (Goubonin, Molotkov, Maltsev...) had modern foreign equipment, for instance, presses and strainers, which were unavailable to "Magarach" as the grants from the Government came only during the first twelve years since it was founded. This meant for "Magarach" the need to self-finance, and it even made up for the unprofitability of the Nikita Botanical Gardens.

"Magarach" had to make great effort to win the domestic wine market. It had been saturated with foreign products, and the consumer had grown used to them. Merchants added water to unique muscats of "Magarach" and sold them as French sauternes and Chateau-Yquems. Faked wines from raisins were made in Moscow and Odessa. In response to that, "Magarach" started selling its wines only in bottles with its own trademark, giving still more heed to quality.

International recognition also came. A Traminer, Muscats and a Pinot gris of "Magarach" won the highest awards at the International Exhibition in Vienna in 1873. It was emphasized that those types of wine were superior to their counterparts from other countries as concerned the delicacy of their taste, bouquet and aroma. Another highest award at the International Exhibition in Philadelphia followed in 1876, and medals for red wines and "an excellent muscat with a fine bouquet" were gained in 1893 at the International Exhibition in Chicago. Wines of "Magarach" have been awarded at all competitions where they appeared.

On 28th April 1892, "Magarach" held a tasting of its wines produced over the first years of its history. That was a test of professional skills since only wines of supreme quality can last 50-80 years and longer, revealing the best of their potentials. Specialists of "Magarach", the top managers of the Nikita Botanical Gardens and the Chief Enologist for the Imperial Vineyards and Wineries of the Crimea and the Caucasus Prince Leo Golitsyn took part in the tasting which consisted of 60 collection wines made over 1836-45.

Each wine was examined and characterized. Only table wines displayed signs of dicing. Strong and dessert wines were described as "excellent", "magnificent", "superb", "distinguished for quality" and "remarkably original".

The second and the third generations of scientists who newly joined "Magarach" worked in the field of wine technology. Processes taking place in the grape berry were studied. Wines came to be produced using fortification, which made the production of dessert wines less dependent of the weather. Domestic counterparts of some classical types of wine such as muscat, sherry, madeira, port, etc. were created due to the efforts of A.P.Serboulenko, M.A.Khovrenko, A.M.Frolov-Bagreyev, M.F.Shcherbakov, M.A.Gherasimov and N.N.Prostoserdov.

After the Soviet power was established in the Crimea, "Magarach" helped to promote, since 1923, grape and wine growing in the Union republics. Much work was done to further improve Crimean wines. Scientists of "Magarach" participated in the development actually of all brands of wine produced in the Crimea. In 1940, the basic assortment of the "Massandra" Winery was established, and it has little been modified since then. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45 and in the first post-war years, the Institute "Magarach" was evacuated to Middle Asia. Onward, branches and experiment stations were established in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Moldavia, which later became the Institutes for Vine and Wine in those republics. Over the Soviet period, the Institute "Magarach" was the principal center of viticultural and enological research in the USSR, and one of its activities was training of specialists for the country's viticultural republics.

Specialists of "Magarach" did considerable research in cooperation with vine and wine institutes of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Roumania, France, Germany and other countries.

Currently, the Institute has six scientific departments covering the following areas of research: (1) ampelography, grape breeding and propagation, (2) protection of vine from pests, weeds and diseases, (3) methods of vine cultivation, (4) chemistry and biochemistry of wine, (5) processes of wine-making, and (6) equipment for the wine industry. Particular kinds of research are done at eight minor laboratories. Ten high-yielding varieties of vine released by the Institute "Magarach" have been included into grape assortments of the CIS countries. Varieties Podarok Magaracha (Gift of "Magarach"), Pervenets Magaracha (Firstling of "Magarach") and Bastardo Magarachski are successfully cultivated in Ukraine, in Russia and Moldavia. Long-term research of the Institute has been dedicated to creating early varieties with resistance to pests and diseases and making them into new brands of wines. Wine-makers are interested in the ideas concerning the processes of accelerated production of wines and brandies and utilization of enological wastes. The lines of research done by the Institute "Magarach" are numerous and, in general, all new developments envisage waste-free production of clean vintage products.

A great help to that is the professional heritage of "Magarach". The ampelographical collection of the Institute consists of 3200 grape varieties and its wine collection contains 21651 bottles of wine, including a 1836 vintage rose muscat which is, if Records as the oldest wine produced in Russia. The Institute's collection of wine yeast was started in 1893 and contains 1057 strains with valuable technological properties.

The Institute has a large professional library (104400 stored printed items) but the main treasure of "Magarach" is its creative potential, people, which make its staff. Specialists of the Institute have written many theoretical monographs, reference books and various kind of literature to be used by practical wine-makers. The Institute publishes collections of its works and a periodical "Magarach". Viticulture anrl Enolnogv" concerned practical problems of the grape and wine industry. It is hard to find, throughout the former Soviet Union. a scientist whose name is in no way associated with this research center. One can speak about a multilateral scientific school of the Institute "Magarach" and a large contribution made, over the last decades of the 20th century, by V.I. Nilov, N.I. Bourian, E.N. Datounashvili, P.Ya. Golodryga, S.Yu. Jeneyev, G.G. Valouiko, A.G. Amirjanov.

New generations of scientists receive their postgraduate and doctoral training at the Institute's courses, and the Institute has specialized Scientific Council with the power to confer Ph.D. and Doctor degrees. Valuable testimonies of different epochs, documents pertaining to the history of the science of vine and wine are collected with reverence and devotion to be kept and studied in the Institute's Museum.

In 1990, the Institute "Magarach" hosted the 70th General Assembly of the International Vine and Wine Organization. Grape and wine growers from all over the world came to Yalta to participate in that international event. In 1995, the Association of the Enologists of the Crimea was established on the initiative of the Institute "Magarach". The Association unites both researchers and practical wine-makers. It holds courses of wine tasters and wine competitions, which helps to improve quality of wines not only throughout the Crimea. Such competitions welcome enologists from Russia, Belarus, Moldavia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Armenia and Baltic countries and encourage both human contacts and professional exchange of skills and traditions for the benefit of the art of grape and wine growing.

A small planet discovered by the Crimean astrophysicists was given the name of the Institute "Magarach". And that was a proper thing to do as its wines take people to the seventh heaven of delight. Read impressions of those who visited the Institute's tasting room, and you will see rhymes written by no poets. And there is nothing strange about it since wines of "Magarach" work miracles. Taste them, and your heart will again be awake to inspiration, and life, and love.