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The Massandra Collection

by Tom Cannavan, 10/03

For years now I have heard others talk about the wines from the "Massandra Collection", though I have never seen, let alone tasted anything from this legendary wine cellar and wine making estate.

A winery at Massandra has existed since the mid 19th Century, situated near Yalta on the Black Sea. The cellars were built in 1894, as seven 150-metre tunnels bored deep into the mountainside. The temperature is said to be a perfect 13-14 Centigrade, thus ensuring the wines are stored in perfect condition. The Massandra Collection was originally built by Prince Lev Sergeivich Golitzin, who was a collector of both Massandra wines, and the best wines from around the world. The collection was augmented in 1922 when Stalin ordered all wines found in the Tsar's many palaces to be moved to the cellars. Some wines bear the Tsar's seal.

Wine is still nade by the Massandra Collective, established under the Soviets, where a number of member estates employ 5,000 people and farm 4,400 acres of vines. The bread and butter of Massandra is fortified wine, in a style similar to Port, and dessert wine made from Muscat, Tokay and Pinot Gris.

 

The Massandra Collection is a treasure trove of ancient wines. The Massandra library retains a minimum of one bottle of every wine, but limited numbers of these historic wines are released for sale periodically. Fine and Rare Wines are worldwide distributors of these wines, and have just put a new collection up for sale. Unfortunately I have not tasted the wines, but the list is fascinating, from a single bottle of 1865 Yquem bottled for the Tsar at a cool 7,000, to a 1948 Massandra Tokay for 165, and rated at 96 points by Robert Parker. Younger wines from the 1980s are available from as little as 20 per bottle.