In Search of Georgia’s Qvevri Wines

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


October 24th, 2015


Q9When tracing back the historical background to the production of wine, some of the earliest examples, both in terms of archaeological findings and the written word, hark back to Georgia, in the Caucasus region, and the Qvevri method. I enjoy big tannic reds, and am curious to learn how the extra tannins imparted during the Qvevri process will affect this ancient, and traditional winemaking technique.

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Austrian Red Wine, Mozart, Humperdinck’s Witches and Sachers Torte

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


October 18th, 2015


Vienna
I am in Vienna courtesy of the Austrian Government, who have invited me to speak at a Silk Road conference, looking at investment potential for Austrian companies within China’s great One Road One Belt scheme. My new book, China’s New Economic Silk Road has been well received in Europe, and I am travelling on a mini tour between Vienna, Tblisi and Istanbul to promote it.

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The Fastest Way Between Europe & Asia: Moscow-Ulaan Baatar. Plus Baikal & Mongolian Infused Vodkas and September Snow

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


September 30th, 2015


Map
I am fortunate to be able to travel often between St.Petersburg (where I have an apartment) via Moscow to Ulaan Baatar (where I have an apartment). In actual fact I have discovered that this route is also the most convenient and quickest to get from Europe to Asia. It is a five to six hour (depending on time of year and jet streams) Aeroflot jaunt from Moscow to UB, both being so far north the plane is literally flying across the top of the world. In fact by the time the flight reaches Ulaan Baatar, it is closer to the United States (Alaska) than Moscow.

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Chris Devonshire-Ellis’s New Book About China’s One Belt One Silk Road

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


September 25th, 2015


Silk RoadMy new book about China’s Silk Road ambitions has just been published, fortunately to great reviews. It’s what I’ve been working to complete all summer, although its actually taken a full 12 months to put together. The book contains trade and demographic details of all 60 countries participating in the project, as well as details of Chinese funding for the scheme, complete overviews of the overland and maritime routes, and the potential logistical bottlenecks to developing road, rail and sea links.

For example, China’s desire to have hi-speed rail all the way from Shanghai to Singapore will never get off the ground if Thailand and Malaysia cannot agree to develop the rail routes between Bangkok and KL. That is a lucrative airline route and interested parties don’t want competition. Likewise, upgrading Vietnams rail system to hi-speed will cost 50% of the countries GDP. So much needs to be done…

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Ulaan Baatar’s North Korean Restaurant

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


September 24th, 2015


FlagTravelling and living in places such as Ulaan Baatar is wonderful for putting one immediately into a different universe. Everything changes, the expats you meet are more quirky, interesting, the country provides more challenges, even dangers, and there are relationships not found anywhere else. One such is Mongolia’s visa-free arrangement with North Korea, while the DPRK Embassy is a couple of streets away from my apartment. Hush hush, but the Americans and North Koreans unofficially convene in Ulaan Baatar when they want to talk. Which is not very often, but it does happen.

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Roast Pike, Fried Pike Liver & Pike Caviar

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


September 15th, 2015


Pike4

Autumn comes early in Mongolia, and with the many fresh water rivers and lakes the country possesses it is a heaven for river fishing. This far north is very much Eurasia, with species of fresh water fish to be found here just as they are in Northern Europe including Britain. With the advent of mass sea fishing, the more delicate – and bony – river fish have fallen way out of fashion in London, which is a great shame, because as any Russian will tell you, fish such as Bream, Perch, Pike and many others make excellent eating.
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Yolyn Am, The Valley of the Lammergeier

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


September 2nd, 2015


Continued from previous post

LammergeirThe following morning we set off for the nearby Red, or Flaming Cliffs.

Roy Chapman Andrews had spent years here, convinced about his theory that dinosaurs laid eggs, and his first discovery of them was in this area. Today, parts of the Cliffs are still strictly off limits to travelers, with paleontologists still exploring fertile areas. The cliffs themselves are the remnants of a huge prehistoric inland sea, with the Gobi desert floor being the ocean bottom. Mongolia was warm and wet in these times, and clay sediments laid down over millenia proved a fine preservative. Even today, and in the easier to access areas of the cliffs, one can still come across dinosaur bones emerging from the red sandstone; wind constantly erodes the cliffs and the bones of long extinct animals protrude from the cliffs, some of them hundreds of feet up.

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In The Footsteps of Roy Chapman Andrews in Mongolia

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


September 1st, 2015


imageRoy Chapman Andrews is a legendary figure in exploration and scientific research, and especially so in paleontology. The character Indiana Jones was apparently based on him, and during the 1920’s, based on research he had conducted at the University of American Museum of Natural History, had a hunch that many species of Dinosaur had evolved in the now barren region of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Setting out on numerous expeditions, he was eventually proven right, with the discovery of the first dinosaur eggs (this proving their evolutionary link to modern birds) in addition to discovering many new species. He wrote about these in several successful books, where the battered fedora hat, rifle, and belts of bullets whilst seated on a Mongolian horse would be duplicated by Harrison Ford decades later. Andrews though was the original.

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President Putin’s Chateau Wine Estates

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


August 25th, 2015


Putin WineRussian President Vladimir Putin’s Vineyard, Chateau Divnomorskoe, is on the Black Sea, and produces some of Russia’s best, most expensive, and hard to obtain wines. Fortunately I live a block down from St. Petersburg’s oldest and most exclusive wine merchants. This is the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. Expensive means USD50 a bottle – about 2x the going rate for a decent Russian wine. So what’s it like? Well – excellent. And for fifty bucks better value than many European wines. It’s… dry enough, yet with peaches and almonds, and an excellent wine for fish (salmon is on the grill) or for a late summer evenings tipple. You have to hand it to Tsars, they really do know how to get a lot of things right. Can you imagine Chateau Merkel or Obama? Russian Wines have been doing very well in European competitions recently as well, with Chateau Divnomorskoe winning several awards at a number of competitions
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Stolichnaya’s new Salted Karamel Vodka

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis


August 20th, 2015


Stoli KaramelStolichnaya is one of the great Russian brands – everyone knows it. Although it has its roots in the Imperial era “Moscow State Wine Warehouse #1“, now better known as the Cristall Distillery, Stolichnaya as a brand didn’t make an entrance until 1938. Rather brilliantly, almost immediately after making its debut, the warehouse was requisitioned during war time and converted to making industrial strength alcohol, turning out millions of bottles of “Molotov Cocktails” to throw at the Germans. Post war, production returned to vodka and the Stolichnaya brand really began to take off as a Soviet Union primary product, a position it retains today. Part of its success is the fact the distillery was based in Moscow – the capital is reputed to have the best waters for distilling grain – and after holding a personal tasting test of various Russian vodkas sourced from all over the country I am inclined to agree. For me, the strength of Stolichnaya is its slightly oily quality, it has a viscosity not found in other vodkas, and I enjoy that. Today, the brand is subject to a somewhat complicated ownership dispute, actually resulting in two variants being of the market – one branded as Stolichanaya, which is owned by the Russian state (FKP) and distilled in Russia, while the other brand “Stoli” is owned by a Russian private group (SPI) and distilled in Latvia. The dispute over who is the ‘real’ Stolichnaya continues.

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