No knife, no fork no bottleandno corck. Vol.2

August 2, 2014 § Leave a comment

Brief overview on the Wine sector in the Maldives Islands 


Malé is the capital city of the Maldives. Sometimes it’s called the Manhattan of Indian Ocean. The obvious explanation to this nickname is its geographic location. Besides that, Maldives has roughly almost the same amount of restaurants and bars[1] per capita as New York City. Per capita density of 795 people per restaurant in the island country competes with 1,228 people per restaurant in US’s wine and dine hub.

However wine consumption in the Maldives is 100 per cent formed by non-locals as Muslim religion, which is the only official and tolerated in the country, forbids alcohol. Therefore the fine wine scene is entirely driven by voyagers.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, top three generating markets of domestic leisure industry are China, Germany and United Kingdom. China strengthened its position increasing its share from 21 per cent to 24 per cent in 2013. Since wine has low popularity amongst Asian guests, a decrease in shares of European customers affects regional wine consumption significantly. Yet the UK bringing in on average more than hundred thousand tourists per year during the last two decades, who generate 9 per cent of wine-aware consumers.


Religion and island location builds a lot of barriers for wine culture development in the Maldives. For instance, France consigns the biggest share – 16,83% of total wine imports to the country. Ship freights from France through Suez Canal take approximately two months. Clearing and custom’s processing can add two more weeks to this time. In case of running out of stocks a distributor can’t act promptly – airfreights are too pricey.

“Planning matters.”

Described in previous paragraph local reality vividly shows that planning matters. If the entire wine list formed out of labels presented by local suppliers it’s their responsibility to maintain stocks. It also happens that resort prefers to arrange for the direct, self-import, then island sommelier or food and beverage manager is the one who keeps track of the bottles. Consumption of which, he has better forecast two or three month in advance. Moreover he/she has to take into account seasonal changes of guest-mix because it causes significant fluctuations in volumes of particular wines sold.

High season, falling onto December – March is driven predominantly by affluent Europeans and wealthy Russians who are much less price conscious in comparison with, for instance, Asian guests coming in June-July. So that in New Year Eve being an island sommelier here you would be harvesting magnums, while during European summer off-dry and sweet wines are the ones moving best, because suit Asian preferences.

Every season not only guest’s formation is changing but also the shape of the island resorts. It also takes a lot of effort to preserve the existing surface from water erosion caused by currents switches. Although from “wine point of view” square meters not that much matter. There is no ultimate proportion between the size of an island and its wine consumption. Sometimes 5km long giant consumes 50-60 liters of still wine annually, whereas 350 meters long and 50 meters wide dot generates an approximately 11.000 bottles container of wine per year and Goliath defeated.

“There is no ultimate proportion between the size of an island and its wine consumption.”

Overall, the Maldives is unique and controversial environment of existing wine markets but could definitely fit those for whom “’it never got wired enough[2]” in a good sense of this quote.


[1] Restaurants and bars that have the liquor license therefore are not situated on the local islands (inhabited only by locals) and not targeted on local population as alcohol is forbidden by the official religion (Muslim).

[2] Hunter S. Thompson

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Wine and the paradise by A. Burakovskikh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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No knife, no fork, no bottle and no cork

November 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Very informal piece on real food habits in the Maldives, while being expat in Malé. 

Once upon a time…I moved to Malé. It’s a capital city of Republic of Maldives and it is situated on a separate island. According to Lonely Planet Guide Malé is the most overpopulated capital in the World, its population density is roughly 11 times overcomes London, for quick comparison.

photo-4Whilst working with wines the one should also know that Maldives is a Muslim country, which implies the ban on alcohol at the local islands (the ones that are not occupied by resorts). So it’s not much of a paradise, especially if you are gonna-be-somm and year before lived in Burgundy…


There are a few things that international luxurious hotels, which are predominantly creating the image of Maldives worldwide, do not advertise. And one of them is local eating habit. Healthy and trendy Hilton’s detox program and Como Hotels Shambhala cuisine has nothing to do with fatty, oily and heavily spiced dishes which rule the local stage. They are usually accompanied by huge amount of carbs, such as rice or roti/roshi (analog of Indian chapatti) unleavened flat bread. Even the plants leaves are usually dried and fried. A good example is thelulu fai, also served with whole dried&fried chilies. Everything traditionally eaten with hands.

Historically, in this climate, fish needed to be either dried, or smoked to preserve it from spoilage. Just for your information, traditions are really powerful here: today you can easily mix up tuna with chicken due to its texture if the fish was prepared in a local restaurant. Because tuna is usually extremely overcooked. In this case the chance to get food poisoning is lower but possibility to enjoy tender&fresh red fish flash is aiming to zero.

New times contributed to local eating habits in a controversial manner. On the one hand you still can find couple of restaurants that serve sashimi. Though my friend told that when she ordered them the waiter sincerely asked her “Are you really going to eat raw fish?!”- with a trace of deep disgust and misunderstanding on his face.

Obviously, earlier mentioned resorts’ kitchens are run by some progressive renowned chefs. However, if you enter any grocery shop in Malé you’ll notice that up to 60% of its front display is taken by imported milk chocolate (never dark!), chocolate bars, Ferrero candies, Oreo cookies and its copycat – “Jack and Jill” cookies, which is better be called “Jekyll & Hyde”, because when you see its content you wish you had been studied chemistry more at school…

Describing all that I risk to seem negative, which I’m not. Since I’ve been saved by very well made Thai and Indian food. Moong, matar dals, paneer, great number of sea food soups, such as tom yum kung, spicy prawn soup, and hydroponically grown salads (by the way sold at a reasonable price) from Maafahi Harbour in the Haa Alif atoll keep me happy and healthy. Only the dark chocolate with salt is the one that I really miss in here.

So when recently found 65% cacao dark chocolate in a mini bar (at one of the resorts only) I had to go with it and my cup of coffee into the sea, to dip the chocolate in it with the aim of salt extraction. But that’s how you need to work out some things, right?

Neo-tribal wine-marketing or How to transform ordinary people into “every-day somms”

September 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

They say that intuition is when your brain has collected enough information about the subject so it unexpectedly strikes you with the most right and logical solution of the problem. That decision is coming as an insight painlessly and naturally. We often say this woman has taste implying cloths. But this knowledge couldn’t be stored initially in her DNA. It’s just the observations which the person has made subconsciously helped him to become aware of style or fashion.

Therefore, there is a chance that people can collect information about wine in the same manner-subconsciously and easily. So that further wine-choice will stop being endlessly difficult. It depends on how the wine knowledge was delivered to them. We could try to link wine with ordinary people’s association dominants. In other words with what is interesting to them or what is their every day routine.

It’s quite difficult to appeal to each potential winelover personally that’s why some king of segmentation (uniting people in particular groups with common features) is necessary. Let’s say neo-tribes segmentation. The theory of neo-tribes was created by social scientists Maffesoli and Cova, where they say that informational society, which we live in, doesn’t want to be mass anymore. Hence, they unite in smaller dimensions called neo-tribes, depending on the people’s interests and activities. There could be neo-tribes of fishermen, winemakers, fashionistas and manga creators, etc. All of them have their own slang.

So wine marketers just can try to speak with this people their tribal language (=slang) instead of ingrafting their own. If you tell to an obsessed with beauty-products girl about wine bottles collection as if it’s her countless cosmetics sets, in which she knows every small thing precisely, wine stops seeming so far and incomprehensible to her.

Here are 2 sets for him and for her, on which I’d like to demonstrate the approach described above.

This choice has been made basing on author’s own preferences, the men set was especially tried on the sample of The Boat Club members-7 men aged from 50-55 years old-who approved all 3 wines.


Trolling set

Trolling is a method of fishing where one or more fishing lines, baited with lures or bait fish, are dragged through the water. It’s a sport for a company, because there are some moments when a fish doesn’t bite a bait, it depends on a weather or time of the day, etc. For example, in the Northern part of Russian Urals pike prefers to come out at around 5 a.m. so it’s much more pleasant to be with a buddy to chat at this time then being completely alone. For this type of fishing I’ve chosen Berthet-Bondet, Cotes du Jura, Tradition 2001,  the blend of Chardonnay and Savagnin grapes kept in barrels for two years under the flor. It has very warm nutty aromas (warming up when it’s chilly wind) together with great acidity (refreshing when the sun is high) and easily paired with hard cheeses which you can take as a snack while fishing.


Fly-Fishing set

Fly fishing is another fishing method, which needs a lot of skills and attempts. It’s sometimes called hunting, because you need to suppose where the fish could possibly be. Also you’d better try to put the fly (=bait) very naturally on the water as a real fly would do otherwise a fish won’t believe it’s eatable one. Elegant fishing let’s pair with elegant wine, whose creator loves fishing as well – Bouzeron Aligoté 2011 from Domain de Villaine. Mr. Benoist (the winemaker) shared one secret: while fishing he puts the bottle out of the boat to chill. Also he said that 80 million years before instead of Bouzeron it was a salty sea, and now while drinking that chilled bottle in the boat you feel as if drinking that sea, thanks to charming salty hints in the wine.


Apéritif set

Every fishing trip should be finished with a great dinner, prepared of what you have caught. And while cooking it’s necessary to have something light, tuning you on the note of the upcoming dinner and at the same time interesting…to distract from hunger. Quinta do Vallado Douro Moscatel 2011 is exactly like that. It has a very pleasant nose composed of sweet fresh apples and flowers while unexpectedly hits you with a dry palate. Well paired with super-fresh just caught grilled pikeperch.

Next are the 3 sets for women who have cut their teeth on Beauty Products and fashion.


Anti-aging set

Très pure, mini face trio suits well to Domaine Weinbach, Gewürztraminer, Cuvée Laurence, because the best advertisement of the brand is its owner. And Colette Faller the head of Domaine being a grandmother has just brilliant skin on her face. That’s why I truly believe if to consume Cuvée Laurence moderately even at 70 you’ll look fabulous!


Rock-star set

I read somewhere that White Burgundy is a wine for the Rock Stars and I fully agree with this statement, for this wine being seductive and elegant at the same time. Here are two classic brands going into rock – Chanel Rouge Allure, Luminous Intense Lip Color Rouge №ir and white that conquered my heart this august – Frederic Mugnier, Clos de la Marechàle 2005. It’s citrus, creamy, briochy and amazingly smells white currant from grandma’s garden. Chanel said: “The woman without aroma is a woman without future”, this wine has great future not only because of its structure but also because this aroma you want to “wear” all day long.


Youth-friendly set

From one of the contributors of The Formula (Fashion and Cosmetics platform edited by Aimee Blaut) I’ve learnt about Cleanse. Cleanse “is an initiative founded to help young models achieve their career goals in a healthy and sustainable way while also  helping to preserve the health and beauty of our planet”. This summer I’ve met a winemaker who implements the same initiative at the Austrian wine scene – Fritz Wieninger. I’ve associated Wieninger Rose de Pinot with Cleanse, because this winery helps young winemakers ,for example, providing them with bottling facility. Also they promote sustainable, biodynamic viticulture together with the active group of winemakers called “Respekt”.

For further questions and clarifications just write a comment or to my e-mail:

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While looking for Russian gastronomic revolution

May 2, 2013 § 2 Comments

Great Russian Soul vs. Russian Soul Kitchen

When Google searching “Russian Cuisine wine pairing” it’s going to ask if you meant “Asian Cuisine”. That illustrates how scarce is information on the subject. It’s very well seen that Asian Cuisine goes through the boost of popularity. French cuisine have adapted to American ingredients, new Nordic cuisine even has it’s own Manifest. But have you ever heard about Rebirth of Russian Cuisine? Me neither.

Being situated on two continents (combined continental landmass, Eurasia), Europe and Asia, Russia adsorbed and rose both branches of traditions – average russian consumer can hardly imagine his/her life without dumplings or manti (bigger meat dumplings) like the ones that are present for example in Jing and Cantonese cuisine though made from another pastry and different stuffing.

I will never forget an accurate middle-size cooking book in dark vinous cover with engraved in golden letters name of the author L.M. Lemkul. With this book my mother was retiring to the kitchen from time to time, usually to check up the recipe of boiled cream for Napoleon cake.

That book was written in 1972 and it’s full of contradictions as that time of the country history. The ingredients are varying from primitive ones like cheese or sausages, stated neither which cheese or from what kind of meat were made the sausages no in what style. During deficit people where not asking what they were given according to their food-coupons. At the same time on the other page you can find cream soups accompanied with quails and chestnuts the combination that is not common for ordinary Soviet table.

Being born already in another political time I was more entertained by looking through modern colorful and “tasty” food magazines. Their reams spread everywhere still is the typical trace of my parent’s house.

This several words of prehistory were mentioned just to show how many influences Russian cuisine went through during a bit more than last 100 years. From Tsars’ rich and overwhelming dishes to simplified and unified Soviet meals, from Kremlin cuisine to invasion of Sushi and Chinese restaurants, having being maintaining the Eurasian historical food tradition from very beginning. When noble habit of putting a glass of Chablis 3 minutes before finishing cooking traditional fish soup was replaced by more proletarian 50 grams of vodka, that is apropos brining two completely different sounds to the dish.

Furthermore, I’m not the one who can describe very traditional Russian cuisine. My mother’s fusion, created during the numerous travels and explorations can’t be really called like that. But that what I like in a mixture of culinary traditions with elements of improvisation – the possibility to express yourself in the dish you are creating, despite some dishes have always been staying classical even on our family table.

If I would be asked what is my comfort food I would definitely say grilled on coals white fish like pike, river perch or preferably pikeperch. Prepared in foil with a mat from tomatoes and red onions that will grill first and become a little bit caramelized and soaked in the fish juice, a bit spiced with black pepper and simple herbs like parsley and dill. My choice of fish is very traditional for Urals region and Central as well. The locals would say that it’s definitely summer dish, served immediately because fish is caught just 30 minutes before enjoying the meal.

Russian consumers are often percepted with the assumptions of being only price-driven and constant vodka-drinkers with affected by this habit tasting buds. And that is the image having been created by Russian Demand in general. But what if I will say the strange thing: Russian Consumer really underestimate himself, and his knowledge about clean, completely naturally produced and simple but fresh and not genetically modified food that he gets at affordable prices by the way.

To make the contemporary cuisine of the country rebear it could be proposed for the start to play with rich Russian culinary history.

To my mind the neglecting of culinary Art of the country could be one of the reasons why the wine pairing with Russian cuisine is so unpopular in modern gastronomy.   Coming back to my experiences, I would claim that deprives the world of some beautiful combinations. Like, for example, creamy and smooth very buttery with hints of garlic “mushroom caviar” made from penny buns with Nebbiolo d’Alba from Piedmont though less dense and more transparent in color than Barolo or Barbaresco though still deep with embracing aromas and quite high acidity.

To make the contemporary cuisine of the country rebear it could be proposed for the start to play with rich Russian culinary history. So that public could see in the description of styles of food such word combinations as Modern Russian, Russian with international ingredients, historical Russian food reviewed and reworked, or emotional Russian style of food.

I hope to hear about Russian Soul Kitchen where simplicity has its concept or reason and not caused by just lack of knowledge.

We hear a lot about great Russian Soul and even greater Russian spenders. Though I hope in nearest future to hear about Russian Soul Kitchen with freshly prepared and naturally produced ingredients where simplicity has its concept or reason and not caused by just lack of knowledge.

To age or not to age?

April 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Modern dilemma in Wine Industry: is it worth it to produce wines for aging when the majority of consumers want to uncork the bottle just after crossing the wine shop threshold?

It seems that fashion and wine sometimes sound like a choral singing, while employing the same tendency and mirroring motive’s imitations after a while in each other.
In 2011 Christophe Decarnin left Balmain, and young designer Olivier Rousteing was announced as a new creative director of the House. The brand-vision shift was obvious: Balmain by Decarnin was driven by the image of very well aged rockers from the 80s while Rousteing advocates bright freshness of brand-new things. A year ago, Jancis Robinson mentioned in Financial Times (Special Wine Report) about how expensive young wine is in comparison with mature vintages. Just as Decarnin’s intentionally aged in acid, torn jeans and shoot-through t-shirts were left behind, mature wines or the ones that have great potential for aging became unpopular among consumers and therefore producers. Though some sources claim that the production side could be responsible for these changes.

“That is the last trend over the last 5 years. It could be explained by changes in the style of wine produced: earlier, 10-20 years ago, wines were more acidic so were aged easily, now they are more aromatic rather than acidic, that makes early consumption pleasant and aging more problematic.” said Juliusspital Würzburg Wein, export representative.

In any case, the fact remains: modern taste is for fast wines, breakeven and fast return on investments while earlier some wines were done as if with a hope on infinite life, wines that could wisely age for years. But consumers think in another way, prefer using immediate cross-the-threshold pattern of consumption.

In any case, the fact remains: modern taste is for fast wines.

“The company has wines that we encourage to keep, sometimes these Rieslings still seem young after 10 years, even though for the majority of customers aging potential is not a topic of conversation.” claims Cornelia Schlepper, export manager from Kloster Eberbach – German Wine Estate with more than 900 years of viticulture tradition.

Even the port-industry where the advantages of aging were never questioned feels that trend.
“Mostly, modern port can keep less time than the old one. There is a trend in the market – making the wines more ready to drink now. People becoming impatient.” told Pedro Ferreira Leite, Symington Family Estates Market Manager.
“People don’t want to age. The philosophy: “no time, consume now” in terms of reds. But interestingly it’s becoming trendy to have old whites 20, 30, 40 years old, among connoisseurs, of course.” continued Oscar Quevedo from Quevedo Port Wine.

The trend of early-consumed wines had its effect on the supplementary industries such as barrel making as well.
“A lot of winemakers being pressed by commercial departments can’t leave wine for longer periods in barrels. So we created a special proposition for them Sonsoriel Pure Process – with them the softening of the wine tannins is quicker, toasted barrel is washed additional times to make its tannins more pleasant without too many negative harsh molecules that need tobe proceeded while interacting with wine longer periods of time.” reports Francois Barbier, managing director of Cadus (barrel-making company, Burgundy).

The investments in aged-worthy wines are challenging for both producers and consumers. But I would assume that aged wines bring you the unforgettable pleasure of elegant brutality, like mature Rieslings with hints of petrol aromas or old sherry that aromatically almost makes you believe you are drinking one of the Old Masters oil-paintings from National Gallery in London.

GraZious Grapes

March 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

How does wine relate to fashion? In my mind, very obviously and in many ways. In both of them there is craft, the man is directly involved in the process of creation, there is a material used and all of these compounds somehow create Art. Though one should never forget that it is as much Art as business.

However, it’s kind of difficult to feel yourself as fastidious Lilian from Remark’s Borrowed life while you are wading through dirt along rows of grape vines. One would say it doesn’t matter whether they are socalcos, patamares or smooth burgundian slopes. But it does. That is a great possibility to choose not only an outfit that suits you but the great scene decorations for you daily life performance as well. They are able to reinforce your image much more than any accessory ever created.

Ashy-leopard Nikes+Quinta Sta Eufemia, Douro, Portugal

Ashy-leopard Nikes+Quinta Sta Eufemia, Douro, Portugal

Furthermore grape varieties are like people; they have a lot of social roles. For example, Tempranilio in Rioja (Spain) is a man, protector and “the king” grape, while in Douro (Portugal), Tinto Roriz (another name for the same tempranilio) is a nice and tender woman who is taking care of her “grape-blend family”.

As for real people, they are sometimes just like grapes: they change the soil and sometimes even the type of wine they want to produce. I’m talking about Vincent Bouchard from established Burgundy estate, Boucharde Pere and Fis. In 1992 he and his wife moved to Douro and bought Quinta do Tedo where Vincent acquired the fame of “roi du port” (king of port), according to a newspaper extract on the wall of Quinta’s living room. He changed limestone to shist, and pinot noir to touriga national, touriga franca and tinto roriz. The ratio is one third. Some of the oldest Quinta’s vineyards have up to 70 different grape varieties, meaning one Pinot versus almost 70 other grape varieties. That association recalls the “New Look” approach: when in the beginning of 20th century everybody was using 3-5 meters of fabric to dress one model. New Look outfits were consuming up to 19 meters of material.

Balenciaga vs. Dior

Balenciaga vs. Dior

So coming back to wine in Burgundy, Bouchard was more Cristóbal Balenciaga with a clean and strictly gracious style, while in Douro he started his kind of “New Look” approach in making Port, having become a kind of Dior of the wine world.

All of my thoughts shifted from fashion to wine when I saw Tedo’s winemaker Hugo Fonseca, who suggested trying some barrel samples. One of them turned out to be a clean Ttinto Roriz: it was impossible not to feel the feminine and floral Yin of this grape, like the slim waste silhouette of Dior’s dresses.

We are getting used to considering grapes as if they are people whom we love, but in different situations they are going to behave and react in various ways. Just like tempranillo planted in limestone or in shist soils. Anyhow, i get that their core essence is unchangeable and immortal, and it takes time and lots of tastings to start noticing it. So as I told you, relationships with grapes work exactly as with people and…sometimes follow fashion laws.

Rioja rhythm

February 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

The powerful accord of the wine-associative-dominants

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Every biography lies, you just need to check out the several sources and you’ll understand that. Wine is a kind of biography by itself, it tells about the soil, history, the region where it was made and it never lies.  Sometimes while showing misleading nose it just doesn’t tell you the whole truth, but who cares as far as it opens all the cards in flavour.

Even though every time you want to get the real picture you have to be an investigator. It seems more logical for me to define a sommelier (or any kind of wine specialist) as a wine-investigator. Like Michelin ones who are looking for underlying story or philosophy more than just tasty food.

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That’s how I got acquainted with Rioja trying bottles-evidences, while talking with sommelier-witness and watching black and white movies.

Like deductive method there is the association dominant principle – when you are truly interested in the subject it seems that everything around more or less is affiliated with it. Skeptics will call it coincidence but who cares about skeptics here.

One of the first bottles I tried was Puerta Vieja vintage 1985 and it consisted from inside contradictions: like a bluestocking, because it was made as crianza – for early consumption, not actually aging, it has stayed not opened during 27 years. Due to oxidation its fruit went down and alcohol rose. But while slowly dying it still desperately kept holding the traditional dill-smell the only thing that could remind you the early autumn when it was made.

The other was closed with a cork, which in its turn happened to be surprisingly heavy as if made from plumbum. Vega de la Reina 1982 was sweet as strawberries and crème du marron though wasn’t squeamish of MOG (materials other than grapes). Being meaty and sweety it was trying to imitate port style but in vain.

The last one to describe was born when Franco died and it still as if was affected by imposed role of the women in the Spanish society. Haro, Vina Real 1975 looked big, rough, tannic and appetite but when came the time to perform it’s closed, reserved and has disrespectfully hidden sexuality into the far corner of her soul.

So, as every biography is not perfect and Rioja bottles as a reflection of wine biography also have their charming skeletons in the wardrobes – which sometimes make their consumers only more interested in the particular exponents.

While there are another type of wines who are created from taken out of context best characteristics and features. They are modern-sound of the time, perfect wines in terms of body or balance but they are artificial because didn’t develop within the culture they can’t marry with food naturally because were developed separately from it. These wines are ideal outsiders, blamed for their perfection and fated to lonely sometimes-impersonal not-paired consumption.

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