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Jun 20, 2022
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Russian wine tries to challenge Italy and Spain

Russian wine tries to challenge Italy and Spain

Photo: Sergey Malgavko/TASS

“There is more philosophy in a bottle of wine than in all the books in the world,” said the famous French chemist and microbiologist. Louis Pasteurthus supplementing the ancient Greek historian and writer Plutarchwho claimed that “wine shows everyone for who he is.”

Many quotes, good and different, are written about a drink made from grapevine berries. This one word – winemaking, which most people associate with something romantic and beautiful – can cheer you up. And if the wine also has an unforgettable aroma, coupled with a unique taste!..

The only question is how not to make a mistake when buying “a bottle of red, please!”. Or white, pink, fortified or dry. The choice in domestic stores is considerable. Especially compared to the times when vineyards were massively cut down in the country.

And where they weren’t cut down (in few places), production was redesigned there. As, for example, in the Krasnodar Territory, where they began to drive juice from selected elite varieties of vines.

By the early 2000s, little remained of both our vineyards themselves and the wine industry as such. However, in recent years, this industry has begun to develop. Some people even think it’s very violent. According to the recently published first annual rating of Russian wines, there are now about two hundred companies growing grapes and producing wine in the country. For comparison, in Italy, which is small compared to the Russian Federation, there are more than 40 thousand of them. But, as they say, the beginning is a dashing misfortune?

According to the national Union of winegrowers and winemakers, the situation began to change in 2010/11. And although there are still few grapes grown in Russia, the number of plantations is constantly growing. In less than twelve years – plus 100,000 new vineyards and seven vineyard (professional term) zones.

These are Kuban, Dagestan, Crimea and Sevastopol, Stavropol, North Ossetia, Don Valley, Terek Valley. Plus, there are 70 popular wineries and small productions.

But there are also problems. In particular, the realism of the conditions and payback periods for investment projects.

And funds, including state funds, are now being invested in the industry.

Another problem is the non-compliance of our wine products with world standards. Because of what, abroad it is not in demand enough.

This was discussed at a conference held this week as part of the business program of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2022. It brought together specialists from different regions of the Russian Federation, as well as abroad. The correspondent of “SP” also attended the conference, asking questions to the participants.

U Mikhail NikolaevI asked an entrepreneur from the Krasnodar Territory how he assesses the state of affairs in the Russian wine industry – is it really on the rise?

– An objective assessment can only be in comparison, – Mikhail is sure. – While it is not in favor of Russia. In our country, landings are now about the same as in New Zealand. At the same time, our export successes do not exceed several million dollars, and New Zealanders – more than three billion. Feel the difference?

Growing a vine and getting a harvest is not the same as producing good wine. When my father and I started our business in 2005, we thoroughly studied everything related not only to agronomy, but also to the history of wine production in our country. They came to the conclusion that it was impossible to rely on the Soviet experience.

It is not suitable for the technological production process that is currently used. And we wanted to put things in such a way that it would correspond to the global changes taking place in the world.

“SP”: – And what was wrong with Soviet, mostly Crimean spill, wines? More than one generation of compatriots, one might say, grew up on them. Brands such as Madera, Livadia, Massandra, and some others were also successful in the West.

– Soviet wine was famous among the Soviet people mainly because they did not know anything else. There was nothing to compare. In the West, it was purchased insignificantly and mainly by the countries of the socialist camp. And also the United States, thanks to the Pepsi-Cola company, under a contract that was beneficial for that company.

We studied the international experience of winemaking. We digested it and decided to create an original product, interesting both for our and Western consumers. The ex-chief specialist of the Rothschild family, invited from American California, helped.

Its feature is natural, that is, how to approach a plantation to a living organism. Thanks to this, as well as to a winemaker from France Patrick Leon, who worked with us for ten years, until his death, we began to look at the life of the vineyards differently. Think not only about them, as such, but also about local culture and traditions. They made it a rule to plant vines of different varieties, hybrids. At Patrick’s insistence, the first full-fledged specialized laboratory was built in Eastern Europe. Without her, he would not agree to work with us.

“SP”: – In what condition was the Krasnodar plantation, if at all, when you purchased it?

– During the years of mass cutting down of Russian vineyards at the turn of the 1980/90s, she was spared. The resulting crop was used for juice. The vineyards survived the anti-alcohol campaign there, but, unfortunately, they did not survive the crisis of 1998. What’s left of him is wild. If the vine is not looked after for more than two years, it is no longer good for wine. Therefore, we did not begin to restore, but started from scratch.

Now we have our own nursery. Selection is the path that the French and Italians have traveled before us. And we need to go through to find our right vine. But we do not refuse to purchase imported seedlings either. Five French consultants work for us on a permanent basis. In total, there are three hundred people who know and love their job.

More specifically, in particular, Mikhail refused to talk about the production of wine varieties. Early, please. Here in five years (the term of the first harvest of the vine) – please. He did not hide that he was looking at the Crimean plantations, considering them very promising. And maintains contacts with colleagues from different countries. After all, high-quality winemaking, he believes, is impossible without the exchange of experience.

Crimean vineyards are now attracting many. After the return of the peninsula to Russia, there is a real “grape renaissance”. So the French often went there. Who is still on the “bride”, take a closer look at the fields and the surrounding life. And who is already planting a vine. How Patrice le Lann from Provence.

He acquired two hundred hectares of grapes last year near Bakhchisaray. I planted thirteen of them this spring with imported seedlings. He rejoices: he issued everything without delay, and even received good subsidies from the Russian government!

He plans, having promoted the wine business, to sell products primarily in the Crimea (“After all, this is a resort region, there are many vacationers!”), As well as certainly in restaurants in Moscow and St. Petersburg. “It is important not to make mistakes. Neither investment nor agricultural, which often happens with your producers. And everything will work out,” says Monsieur Patrice, who has long and well known Russian business. Before viticulture, he had been selling perfumes with us for several years.

From the mainland, winemakers go to the Crimea. And Crimea … to the Leningrad region. The factory of vintage wines, the famous “Koktebel”, seven years ago, “flowed” into the Neva. The specialization of Gatchina residents is the production of ethyl alcohol, which is used in the confectionery and alcohol industries, and private label wines.

The planned amount of investment in Koktebel is about 1.7 billion rubles. More than 900 million have been invested since 2015. 450 jobs created. “Exhaust”? According to commercial director of the distillery Nikolai Rudakovit’s too early to talk about any results.

“We have been on the Crimean site not so long ago, and winemaking is a long game, not a quick process,” he said. – When we came to Koktebel, Madeira production actually stopped there. Figuratively speaking, it was neither alive nor dead. Under Ukraine, the plant did not develop. Technologies used are old. It was necessary to restore the vineyards. Look for an intelligent, technology-oriented winemaker.

“SP”: – You probably found it in France, like your colleagues from other regions?

– There is not in Russia. 36-year-old Kuban Denis Shevchuk showed himself well, working in the Krasnodar Territory. He attracted us with his literacy and initiative. Knows how to work with the soil, with seedlings. Makes new wines. His first harvest – from the vine to the bottle – is expected this autumn. We also preserve old traditions that have proven themselves well in the Soviet years. Our business card in Crimea is fortified wines.

“SP”: – But your products are not on the international market

– Not yet. There are great difficulties with exports from Crimea due to sanctions. Therefore, in the West we are not known. But the demand in the domestic market is growing.

Ends the theme Artur SargsyanHead of the Union of Sommeliers and Wine Experts, author of the Russian Wines guide.

— Assistance to winemakers from the state is great, but it is still not enough to get a good result from the vineyards that we have, — says Artur Georgievich. “Moreover, a third of the vineyards today are table varieties, you can’t make good wine from them. There are many examples when low-quality seedlings are planted. But you need to understand very well which varieties are suitable and where exactly. But there are not enough agronomists.

There is also a shortage of equipment and workers. Both specialists and the state subsidizing the industry need to work differently. If he gives money, then it is necessary, in my opinion, to clearly know to whom and for what. And not just to report.

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