Finally, finally, we have found good wine in Bishkek ))
Bishkek is a beer haven. Actually, correct that – as far as I’ve seen, most Kazakh and Kyrgyz grocery stores could rival your local liquor store in terms of sheer volume and selection. I’d never seen so many different brands of vodka (never mind in one place) until I stopped in a tiny wayside Kazakh store to buy a phone card. I’d say your average store has at least fifty types of vodka (twenty, if it’s a ten-square-meter family-run affair), and while there are some upper-end and imported varieties (Finlandia, Beluga), most bottles run about $2-4. Basically gut rot (and something you nevertry unless it’s rude to refuse – and even then you “accidentally” spill half your glass). Seriously, I’m pretty sure vodka powers the adult population through Bishkek winters when the gas goes out. Cognac isn’t much better, and is thankfully usually reserved for business-things and more formal occasions. Beer is – better than China? Having turned twenty-one in Portland (OR), where there’s a craft brewery on every corner, my taste buds are a little too spoiled to appreciate the Bishkek fare. But – if you aren’t picky and like light – one thing Bishkek does have is dozens of neighborhood beer shops selling only fresh, on-tap beer (along with typical local beer snacks like petrified dried fish, fossilized yogurt balls, and pistachios).
But wine… I guess it’s (again) better than China, where Carlo Rosso was considered top-end and most consumers mixed sprite and fanta with their imported reds.
Wine is (for us) a winter drink, and every week or so we’ll try another bottle from the grocery store. Half the wine seems to be about $4-5 (200-250 som)and imported from Moldova or Georgia. Some of it is fine. Most of it is mediocre-to-terrible. Some of it is so bad that we can’t even finish a sip. Then there’s the 400-600 som range wine. “Fancy” wine that might cost two euro in Spain. Or might actually be good. You never know, as there’s little correlation between quality and price. Bishkek also has a score of really overpriced wine shops, where a bottle (supposedly from France) will set you back $20-$60 at least. Reportedly the taste is on par with the four-dollar wine from the grocery store. I wouldn’t be surprised – wine is an imported product and an imported taste in a developing country where people will sometimes pay a lot for something simply because it’s more expensive (and therefore must be better/denotes economic status).
BUT, hope there is! E and I have so far found two red wines that we can both agree are decent (and don’t stain your teeth:
For $4 (230 som): the red wine with concentric ruby-colored circles around a purple ball (I’ll take a picture next time we visit the grocery store) from Narodnie
For $7 (380 som): Condor Peak Merlot from Argentina (found in the non-narodnie grocery store across from Obama Bar on Toktogol; this grocery store, which is open 24/7, also had Portuguese Port for about $9 and a wide variety of imported cheeses, including blue cheese)
And, for $4-5 (180-280 som), this one will turn your teeth purple: UMBRA Red Dessert Wine from Moldova (also Narodnie)
If you have any other suggestions, let me know! Also, we were going to make hot apple cider (the non-alcoholic kind), but I’ve yet to see apple cider in Kyrgyzstan…
If we find more, I’ll update