Новые известия(en)
Russian wine: a guide to regional wineries and its' problems
15 June, 10:12
Russian wine: a guide to regional wineries and its' problems
Photo: 1MI
Russians began to switch from vodka to wine: according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, demand for vodka decreased by 1% last year, while still and sparkling wines were sold 10% more. But domestic winemaking cannot satisfy all requests.

Victoria Pavlova

It would seem - a great opportunity for domestic companies to increase production and get loyal customers. But according to Roskachestvo polls, 68% of respondents do not trust the quality of Russian products. In the mass market, domestic winemaking is represented mainly by semi-sweet wines (55% of domestic production) of the lower price segment (last year, the Gatchina Distillery became the leader in production, pouring wine into cardboard boxes worth less than 200 rubles per 1 liter), while 70% imported wines - dry. Nevertheless, Russian wines, according to Roskachestvo, last year occupied 50% of the entire market.

Experts are sure that you can find something interesting in supermarkets. But you can’t just take and collect a home wine collection in the nearest chain store. You will have to go on wine shopping tours all over the country in search of treasures. Why it happened and where it is worth going for wine - Novye Izvestia, together with experts, figured it out.

Why are there so few good Russian wines in stores?

Alexey Sinelnikov, founder and author of the Wine and People telegram channel, explained in an interview with NI that the low price of domestic wines is not an indicator of poor quality:

- Russian wines, which are inexpensive, can match imported wines more expensive in terms of class, because our wines do not have such an excise duty. Plus, our winemakers receive large subsidies. Russian wine for 500 rubles is not cheap, like Italian or French wine for this money, which is impossible to drink. The problem of poor quality has been almost universally solved, manufacturers understand what modern technologies and technological maps are.

Only domestic producers find it difficult to get on the shelves of the largest retail chains. Representatives of APF Fanagoria from the Krasnodar Territory note that interesting wines in Russia are often produced by relatively small wineries, and in order to get into retail chains, volumes and affordable prices are needed - do not forget that people choose our products because of attractive price tags:

- Large network players need mass deliveries and large batches of products, which, for example, small wineries cannot provide. The issue of price is also significant. For the profitability of a small business, the cost of a product on a shelf in a network should start from 700 rubles. This does not suit everyone.

No grapes - no wine

Many vintners may be happy to increase production and lower prices, but fail to do so. Manufacturers are in dire need of raw materials. Daria Akimova notes that this problem cannot be solved quickly:

- Most of the good Russian and Soviet vineyards were located in the Crimea and in the southern part of the Russian Federation, in the Kuban, and were laid back in tsarist Russia. But in the USSR, fighting alcoholism, these vineyards were destroyed. Now enthusiasts are trying to restore them. But in order to plant a vineyard, and it began to bear fruit qualitatively, it takes time. This is not a matter of one year.

Alexey Sinelnikov adds that the area of vineyards in Russia is 90% less than in the USSR:

- In the Soviet Union there were about 1 million hectares of vineyards, in the Crimea there were about 100 thousand hectares of vineyards. Now there are about 18 thousand hectares of vineyards in Crimea. There are not even 100 thousand hectares throughout Russia. In terms of area, we are inferior to both Moldova and Georgia. With our vineyards we can cover only a third of wine consumption.

State support for winemaking is a disservice

The state provides viticulture with great support, Alexey Sinelnikov notes:

- Up to 90% of the cost of vineyards is covered by the state. But the problem is that the purchase of only domestic seedlings is financed, their survival rate is not the best. 30% of seedlings may not take root. Europeans have a survival rate of 95%. People with money who gamble do not enjoy state support. They buy foreign seedlings. So more reliable - they are cleared of all diseases. Some varieties of our cheap seedlings are of little use. For example, "saperavi northern" (it is added to blends) - it does not make very good wine. So state support sometimes plays against the development of winemaking. There are lobbyists who promote the idea of subsidizing imported seedlings (they will still remain in Russia), but they do not find support in the government.

Since 2022, the federal project “Stimulating the development of viticulture and winemaking” has been implemented, which provides for the allocation of 25.4 billion rubles to farmers until 2030. But we will still not reach self-sufficiency in grapes: the area of vineyards should increase by only 35% in 8 years.

Where else is wine tourism alive in Russia

There is no chance that in the foreseeable future store shelves will burst from the abundance of domestic products. It remains only to go on a tour with tastings in search of masterpieces of winemaking. Enotourism is gaining popularity: from May 2021 to April 2022, attendance at the vineyards of the Krasnodar Territory increased by 1.5 times. Where else is worth going, said Alexey Sinelnikov:

- Wine tourism exists where the community of winemakers is developed. For example, Sevastopol, where there are many small craft wineries, infrastructure has been created. You can communicate with winemakers, taste wines that are not available in million-plus cities. Other regions of Crimea are also interesting. " Mriya Resort & Spa " has made perhaps the best wine park in the world. Very expensive, very beautiful. From there you can go to a small producer Oleg Repin, among wine lovers he is like a rock star. And then go to the "Zolotaya Balka", it is very large and designed for tourism. Afterwards, you can visit the biodynamic farm of Pavel Shvets. There are a lot of different things, you can literally go from gate to gate. Tourism is developing where you can not move much. Such a center of wine tourism was formed in the region of Novorossiysk and Semigorye. These are Myskhako, Chateau Pino, Abrau Durso, Sikory. There is a small winery with a good balance of production and tourism services.

Wineries with talented technologists, open to tourists, can be found in other regions of Russia, adds Alexey Sinelnikov:

- You can drink autochthonous Siberian in Rostov, there are several names in the region, but the production is very scattered. There are 2–3 wineries in Stavropol. You can find interesting wines in Dagestan, where there are 2 projects that deserve attention. One is huge, there are tours and great wines, and the second is small and does not even offer tastings. But in Dagestan, from the point of view of wine tourism, it is problematic to build a program. For the sake of 2-3 wineries, you are unlikely to go far.

What happened to the "northern" grapes

In Russia, the territories near Rostov-on-Don or Volgograd are already considered the Far North for winemaking, although in Europe they make their own wine in the Baltic States, and even in Sweden - these regions are much north of Volgograd. According to Nikolay Sidortsov, chairman of the Moscow Viticultural Club, northern winemaking has a number of advantages.

Northern winemaking in the world as a whole has very good prospects, it is actively developing, for example, in Holland, in Germany, in Sweden… Grapes can grow not only in hot climates. The grapes, which are grown in the middle lane, in the Moscow region, have great advantages, since in summer the daylight hours last longer, the sun sets later. In fact, the growing conditions make it a dietary product ,” the expert believes.

But in Russia it is almost impossible to find commercial production of technical grapes and wine even in the middle lane. In the Tula region, for example, there is the Kulakovo wine estate, where frost-resistant varieties are grown, seedlings are sold, wine is produced and tourism programs are organized. But this is rather an exception to the rule. There were attempts to grow French grape varieties in Altai - in 2009, entrepreneur Vladimir Vagner and Altaispirtprom began to do this. But the project stalled. "Altai Winery" did not start producing alcoholic products - it switched to mineral water. You can find your own wine even in the north of the Tver region - in Vesyegonsk, on the banks of the Rybinsk reservoir, there is also a winery with its own lands and tourist programs. But they produce wine from berries and fruits there - blueberries alone occupy 4 hectares of land. It was the berries that became the mainstay of winemaking in the northern and eastern regions, but that's a completely different story.

As the head of Kulakovo, Alexey Kulakov, notes, the problem of northern winemaking is not at all in the frost - in the Tula region, frost-resistant grape varieties do not even require shelter, but in the current laws:

- Winemaking exists where grapes grow: both in Arkhangelsk and Novosibirsk. But from the point of view of laws, the commercial activity of small enterprises is a dead end due to the law “On Viticulture and Winemaking” of 2019. Small business within the legal framework in this area is practically impossible, and full-fledged production requires large investments. Wine-making enterprises are formed in the south, because there is a large flow of people.

The law establishes a number of requirements for wine and seems to protect people from low-quality products. But, on the other hand, it hinders the development of winemaking in Russia. According to 468-FZ, wine farmers, owners of personal subsidiary farms and small businesses cannot claim subsidies and tax deductions at all. Farmers and gardeners with personal subsidiary plots are simply forbidden to produce dry and table wines from their own grapes. The concept of "microwinemaking" in the law is reserved exclusively for scientific institutions. And the icing on the cake is that only a vine grown on vineyards can be considered a vineyard. And most regions of Russia belong to the zone of risky farming. That is, de jure winemaking in Russia is allowed only in the southern regions.

Laws put an end to many undertakings. In the Far East, there is the only family winery "Maikhinskaya", which is included in the main tourist routes of Primorye. It was visited by both tourists and the governor of Primorsky Krai, who instructed to provide all kinds of support to the agro-tourist enterprise. They helped in this way: law enforcement agencies opened a criminal case against a farmer-winemaker for the clandestine production of counterfeit alcohol - small businesses are not able to meet all the requirements...

In the middle lane, in Siberia and the Far East, wine tourism is more dead than alive. And when traveling south, Alexey Sinelnikov warns, it is important to choose the right time, otherwise you may be disappointed. This is a feature of wine tourism in any country:

- Reception of guests at wineries strongly depends on the season. Tourism is not the main activity for manufacturers, and they do not have a separate staff of people serving guests. During the harvest season, or when they are busy with the technological process, they may not receive tourists. Also a big problem of wine tourism is the lack of accommodation. During the high season, people are sometimes forced to spend the night in cars.

There are plenty of development problems for domestic winemakers. They will not be resolved soon. Consumption exceeds the current capacity of factories by 3 times. In stores they take cheap domestic wine, and they don’t trust it, because sometimes there is simply no variety and expensive varieties. Vicious circle. So fine Russian wine will not be familiar to the mass consumer for a long time. In any case, while the laws in the country work for criminal cases against Russian winemakers, and not for their support.