hidden europe 11

Through Russia to Japan: the Beaujolais route

by Nicky Gardner


On a November night there are tens of thousands of bottles of Beaujolais wine on the tarmac at a remote Russian outpost.

The airport at Ulyanovsk on the Volga River in southern Russia is not the sort of place that features heavily in the airline schedules. A daily flight to and from Moscow, a few summer holiday flights to Sochi on Russia's Black Sea coast and to Antalya in Turkey, and the occasional charter flight to and from Tel Aviv constitute the airport's entire passenger operations. Given the paucity of transport, it will come as no surprise to hear that the airport is bankrupt, though it continues to operate under the watchful eye of an administrator.

For all its troubles, Ulyanovsk airport comes into the limelight once each year when it has an improbably busy night. For this out-of-the-way airport has become a well established staging post on the annual Beaujolais run, as cases of infant Beaujolais Primeur are sped from central France to Japan.

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