The oldest grapevine in Sochi grows in the village of Chereshnya (Sweet cherry) in the Adler District. The locals say it is already two centuries old and the harvest was record last year - over 300 kilogrammes of grapes. There are no guided tours to the oldest vine, but tourists can easily get there on their own and see it right from the road. Our correspondent got some interesting facts about this unusual attraction.
Its address is 12, Mzymtinskaya Street. It is easy to get there from the Adler railway station by buses. The Mzymta River flows nearby and the street is named after the river. There is also a highway and a railway, so the grapevine can be seen even from the train window. The climate in this place is special that is why the people settled in the foothills and mountains in old times where there were no mosquitoes and malaria.
The Chernovs, Svetlana and Vladimir, are the owners of the unusual attraction. He worked as a game warden for many years, and now he keeps bees and they have their own beegarden. Of course, he also grows grapes as the ancient vine “obliges”. Only one root of the famous grape occupies a hundred square metres of land.
“I was born and live here,” says Vladimir Chernov. “This is our family nest and the house was built by my father. And the grapevine was here for a long time. In fact, the house was built near the grapevine. There may have been more vines, but only this one has survived. 40 years ago, we planted the cuttings of the vine in other parts of the ground. They still look like twigs compared to our famous grapevine. Our older friends from the neighbouring village of Moldovka remember that they climbed it in childhood, and even at that time, it was like a tree. So, we calculated its age - it is at least 200 years old.”
The couple have been together for 53 years, but Svetlana still cannot forget her first impression of the vine.
“I remember when I saw this vine for the first time, I was very surprised,” she recalls. “I was 20 years old at that time. At first, it grew in an open area and was fenced later on. We are very proud of this vine. We used to make wine on our own, but now we mostly sell grapes. We do not drink wine any longer, but we eat grapes. Last year, the grapes were very sweet and it took us a long time to harvest grapes.”
The grapevine has a powerful trunk of about 30 centimetres in diameter and its thin branches cover a 10-metre-long roof of the gazebo. If it hadn’t been pruned, it “would have reached the mountains,” the Chernovs joke. This vine does not even need to be watered as its roots are so deep that they get moisture from groundwater in the river valley. By the way, the roots of the vine can be over 15 metres long, which is equal to the height of a five-story building. Grapes must survive in any situation, even in a drought, so their roots go deep underground to find water.
“Grapes are one of the oldest plants that have been developed for thousands of years,” says Sergey Dyrdin, Chairman of the Sochi winegrowers’ society. “The Georgians say that the grapes came from Georgia, the Greeks are sure they came from Greece. According to one version, grapes come from the Kuban area. The Greeks settled on the Black Sea coast and they were good at winemaking. The Museum of the History of Sochi has some fragments of a Greek amphorae found in the sea. The Greeks kept wine in amphoras, which they took with them on their war campaigns, for example, in their pursuit of the Golden Fleece.
Also, the Adyghe tribes lived in Sochi who grew grapes and made grape wine. The 200-year-old vine is not an imported variety, but the one used by the Ubykhs. Grapevines from different parts of Europe were brought here. The most common grape varieties are Isabella and Gačić. Only those varieties survived in Sochi that got adapted to the humid climate of the subtropics. Cuttings of the ancient vine variety do not put down roots easily, and as for Isabella, Gačić, and Lydia varieties, “each their twig sprouts up”.
“As for this grapevine, if ten cuttings out of hundred strike roots, it will be a great success, usually one or two of them strike roots: it doesn’t put down roots easily, but if it does, your efforts will be rewarded,” continued Dyrdin. “The Ubykhs called this grape variety “chune”, which means an “ox’s eye”, or a “bull’s eye”; the grapes are large as the eye of a bull and we call it a “bull calf”. Every time we come here, we stroke the vine, say “hello” to it, thank it for the rich harvest and for giving us a taste of the “blood of the earth”. In 2021, we collected 220 kilogrammes from it during the season, and 310 kilogrammes last year, which became a kind of a record. Wine from the oldest vine differs in colour, aroma and taste. We call it “Legend”. Last year, we made about 200 litres of wine, but it’s too early to taste it as it’s still aging in barrels.
Many people believe that grapes do not grow in Sochi. For example, at the end of the 19th century, the famous landowner Vasily Khludov tried to cultivate grapes in the resort city, but his grapes were so tasteless that the Sochi merchants preferred to bring sunny berries to the local bazaar across the Black Sea from the city of Kerch. Khludov tried his best for a long time, but in vain because the vine began to die from fungal diseases. In 1900, the vineyard occupying 100 hectares finally died, and the bankrupt entrepreneur had to sell the land to the city treasury. Only the name of Vinogradnaya Street that became famous through the song of the composer and singer Yuri Antonov, reminds of unsuccessful attempts to cultivate grapes in Sochi on a large scale. But the ancient vine at 12, Mzymtinskaya Street proves that grapes grow in Sochi and delicious wine is made from these grapes.
“The main thing is to preserve and develop the traditions of local viticulture,” says Sergey Dyrdin, Chairman of the Sochi winegrowers’ society.
A new harvest will be in late August - early September. Whether it will beat last year’s record still remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Sergey Dyrdin has long dreamed of bringing the visitors coming to the resort city to the ancient vine and diversifying agritourism with winetourism - enotourism - but the guides are not yet ready to include this attraction in their tour programme.
A grape vine from the Middle Ages
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the oldest vine in the world is 450 years old. It grows in front of a house in the city of Maribor in Slovenia and still bears grapes. It’s called “Old Vine”. There is even a vine-museum and an annual harvest festival is held in its honour. These are red grapes of the famous variety Žametovka (also known as “velvet black” or “modra kavčina” in Slovenian). Each harvest yields only 100 bottles of wine (250 ml each). The Old Vine House Museum believes that this old vine was planted in the middle of the 16th century, at the end of the Middle Ages, when the city was conquered by the Turks. It was lucky to survive during the period of fierce battles between the invaders and the defenders of the city, because the current house where the old vine is now was a part of the fortress wall at that time.