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Book Review: ‘Stalin’s Wine Cellar’ By John Baker | Quill & Pad

Book Review: ‘Stalin’s Wine Cellar’ By John Baker | Quill & Pad

May I start this fairly extraordinary piece by saying that I have been to Georgia (the country, not the U.S. state), yet nobody at any point offered me a glass of 1847 Yquem (all things considered, it would be more accurate to say I have been close to Georgia as it once was, and later became, yet I actually didn’t get any Yquem ).

‘Stalin’s Wine Cellar’ by John Baker

John Baker’s story, Stalin’s Wine Cellar , is quite possibly the most unprecedented, impossible, and fascinating anecdotes about wine that I have at any point perused. It sits rather perfectly close by Benjamin Wallace’s The Billionaire’s Vinegar , the narrative of the most acclaimed wine fakes, the Thomas Jefferson wines.

But whether this is an excursion about chasing more fakes, or if these jugs concealed away in the previous Soviet Union are veritable, makes for a rollicking adventure. Also, if the jug are certifiable, who truly claimed them and what in heaven’s name may they be worth?

No spoilers here (indeed, ideally very few). You need to peruse the book. You truly do. It is an unquestionable requirement on the off chance that you have the smallest interest in wine or Soviet history. It is likewise an absolute necessity on the off chance that you appreciate a decent spine chiller because, as somebody who peruses a great deal of thrill rides, not very many will have you as eager and anxious as can resemble this book. I’ll confess to essentially perusing it in a solitary meeting (however the family made me stop to cook them supper) until the exceptionally small hours.

John Baker, creator of ‘Stalin’s Wine Cellar’ (photograph courtesy Anna Webster)

John Baker has a long history in fine wine retailing, among different organizations, and with accomplice Kevin Hopko frequently purchased and sold astonishing old cellars. We are introduced to the pair when they have hold of a cellar with a couple of containers of the mythical Lady Grange.

While plainly the pair manages a lot of obscure characters, they do attempt to remain separate from the noise and distractions. However, when they get an unusual, undecipherable rundown from an acquaintance, interest is piqued.

This is 1998, and Sydney is as of now in pre-Olympics mode. It prompts a gathering with a decidedly dodgy (in any event that is the impression one additions) local mining business visionary who has his fingers in different pies, including gold mining in post-Soviet Georgia.

Next thing, we have John and Kevin’s “excellent experience to the new wild west”: Tbilisi, Georgia.

I got the opportunity to visit the previous Soviet Union back during the 1980s – I will not fail to remember the dates as we were in the Ukraine, not a long way from Chernobyl, the prior week it blew.

Fortunate timing, despite the fact that we had never known about the place and didn’t until we were back in London. Among the things I recollect from the time, other than a truly appalling spat with the KGB that was so humiliating it isn’t going into print, was that the solitary wine we at any point found in Russia was a sweet, and rather loathsome, shining wine from Georgia (however a ton of generally excellent vodka and in a real sense buckets of hair-raising caviar).

Sotheby’s auctioned wines from the Cassandra Collection in 2004

Who realized that there were diamonds in those slopes? I gave an account of the astounding cellars at Massandra some time prior. Back at that point, practically nobody knew of the fortune there. What’s more, significantly less knew the slightest bit about the cellar that John and Kevin headed out around the planet to investigate.

To diverge, and this is basically unadulterated speculation on my part, I accept that a decent chunk of this incredible cellar came from Massandra in the mid 1940s when Joseph Stalin had a considerable lot of the extraordinary wines held there moved to different locations all through the Soviet Union to forestall plundering by the Nazis.

As Stalin was from this locale of Georgia, and given the wines in question, it simply dovetails for me. Yet, I suspect we’ll never know without a doubt. It strikes me that this would have been a more convenient approach to get a portion of these wines than for Stalin to get them from wineries or unfamiliar merchants – not a decent search for the head of Communism to be seen purchasing the extraordinary wines of the world while battling the decadence of the West.

Eventually, our saints worked out that the rundown was composed phonetically and itemized a collection of wine that was just stunning. Could it be valid? That as well as it later arises (albeit the title of the book is somewhat of a spoiler for this) that the man behind much of it was Stalin himself. Also, before him, the tsars. On the off chance that it appears to be inconceivable and the beginnings of an untouched pointless pursuit, that is more than understandable.

Could there truly be a shrouded cellar of 40,000 to 60,000 containers, numerous well longer than a century in age, in a corroded, old, decrepit, neglected winery in the back blocks of the old Soviet Union? A cellar with many jugs of Yquem returning similarly as the amazing 1847? First Growths from the extraordinary vintages of the nineteenth century?

Given Stalin’s presumed sweet tooth, maybe that was the reason he loved the wine and why there was supposedly such a large amount of it (once more, my speculation)?

If valid, the folks frantically needed to purchase the cellar for resale/auction, however we are talking a collection that was conceivably worth millions.

‘Stalin’s Wine Cellar’ by John Baker

Stalin is not really the main individual one considers with regards to a wine sweetheart. However, he saved a considerable number astonishing containers, both domestic and purchased from unfamiliar business sectors, when he requested the cellar at Massandra moved and stowed away from the Nazis.

Stalin was likewise answerable for building up the Russian champagne industry, however other than some bubble in the subsequent concoction, the outcomes share precious little practically speaking with that extraordinary wine.

Georgia, Stalin’s country, was home to the most seasoned winemaking culture on the planet and he was clearly pleased with that, as in fact all Georgians appear to be. Making champagne accessible to all, regardless of whether cheap and awfully sweet, was an indication that Communism was working.

The Soviet individuals (well a couple of them in any case) could enjoy a quality lifestyle comparably well as those in the West. History specialists have noticed that the system endeavored to democratize extravagance things like champagne, caviar, and chocolate, making them promptly accessible to individuals to convince those all around of the Soviet Union that the Communist framework was the success they claimed. However, champagne assumes no part in this story.

I will not delve into the subtleties of the chase to locate and purchase these wines – I will leave those for perusers – however the book is a rollercoaster. The underlying visit to Tbilisi , the variety of characters from the vile to the carefree to the silly (the female unionist with control of the cellar scratches just could not be designed), racing through the roads of Tbilisi with intensely equipped winemakers, dropped jugs of unprecedented wine (excessively many dropped bottles for my enjoying), protectors, demise dangers, conceivable Chechen assassins visiting Sydney, endeavors to ascertain if this is one goliath con, twofold con, or a truly incredible find, and in the event that the last mentioned, how in the world do they get the wines out.

We travel back and forward from Sydney to London, Paris, Bordeaux, etc. We meet probably the most acclaimed names in the global wine world, men like Pierre Lurton from Château d’Yquem, as the folks endeavor to check if these are genuine or an intricate scheme of fakes. And at the same time the cast of obscure characters at the two parts of the bargain continues to grow.

It merits going on this excursion with John and Kevin. The book is composed with warmth and humor. The characters come alive on the page. Descriptions of Tbilisi recommend that John could well have a future as a movement essayist on the off chance that he wished (the book is co-composed by columnist Nick Place, so his contribution ought not be belittled). The place jumps at the peruser as they move from undesirable lodgings to the winery to a variety of eateries and awesome sulfur baths.

The story takes a great many turns. This was never going to be simple however Agatha Christie herself could not have come up with a portion of the distractions that the folks face. At one phase, John describes this as “Raiders of the Lost Ark for wine lovers.”

Aside from softening Nazis, he isn’t excessively far wrong. I’ll leave the conclusion to perusers, however I’m sure it will leave you with a delicate smile.

I have not appreciated a book as much as this for a long while.

For more data as well as to purchase, if it’s not too much trouble, visit Stalin’s Wine Cellars by John Baker and Nick Place and book .

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