Nowadays, wine tourism (oenotourism, enotourism) in Russia is only gaining momentum, but it is already much in demand among wine lovers and gastro-enthusiasts. Roman and Yana Kucha, the BROOKWINECAMP project initiators, spoke about wine camps and how they can help promote the Russian winemaking.
- How did the idea of setting up a camp and conducting wine tours come about?
- The idea to set up a wine camp leaped in our minds in 2019 after visiting a similar project in the Crimea. It was implemented by our friends and partners.
We were a pilot group and even at that time, we realized that such type of travelling would be very interesting to us and our visitors. Winemakers get the opportunity to tell about their unique product, and travellers can get to know all the nuances and get the most complete information first-hand.
The impetus for launching a wine camp was the fact that we communicated very closely with some winemakers and winery owners, we were and are sure of their wines’ quality and actively promote them in our bars in Anapa. By the way, we were the first wine bar in Russia with the wine list offering only the Russian wines.
No wonder that the slogan of our wine camp sounds like “A wine camp born of love - the love for the Russian winemaking”. It was not just talk, this is how we see our project.
- Why do you use the word “camps” to call your tours?
- Your question sends us straight to our childhood when in summer camps, we gathered in temporary “teams” for “shifts” and joined various interest groups.
After all, we also become a community for four days - a community of enogastronomic aesthetes.
We have a basic schedule for the day that includes the visits to the wineries and tastings that are not to be missed. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are in the best gastro-locations of the Krasnodar Territory in order to “add to the visitors’ experience”.
There are also optional activities including evening gatherings in the bar, sunsets on the beach and sunrises with a glass of sparkling wine while the rest of the team are still sleeping.
- When the visit is over, we continue to communicate and call each other, meet in different cities, like in childhood, remember?
- Wine brings people together. That‘s how it goes - such a hobby club!
Are there many wineries cooperating with you at the moment?
We cooperate with all the wineries in the Krasnodar Territory. Some of them are our very close friends, so the meetings are especially sincere.
Just imagine that you are going to visit an old friend of yours, a winemaker, whom you have not seen for ages. Your friend usually welcomes you in the warmest way, shows you the beautiful vineyards, takes you along special trails (not for tourists) and offers his best wines to you.
- How do you differ from other companies offering similar tours? What is your highlight? What are your plans for the future development?
- During four days, the guests of our camp take part in our unique wine projects, most of which are not suitable for independent tourism.
For example, the “MARKOTKH ESTATE” project by Alexei Tolstoy who is a winemaker of an absolutely European type, and he follows the original Kuban traditions as well. He knows how to adopt and improve FOREIGN experience, while maintaining love for OUR country.
We, as the initiators of the BROOKWIN and BROOKWINECAMP projects, personally accompany our guests from meeting them at the airport to the final day of their stay in the wine camp. This is the only way for us to keep the real atmosphere and flavour of our quiet and “sparkling” travels.
We also take care of organizing the entire tours. Our guests just have to come and enjoy the wine.
And also enjoy their breakfast with sparkling wine in the company of the like-minded wine lovers, enjoy the answers to their questions that they will not get from an ordinary “wine guide” - all this is an integral part of our tours.
In the future, we plan to offer new tours, but this is a secret so far!
- What are the prospects for the wine tours in Russia? What regions, in your opinion, can be called “attractive”?
- The wine tourism in Russia is in its early days. Nevertheless, now both large and small wineries in the Krasnodar Territory and in the Crimea are engaged in its development and today, these are the two main wine tourist destinations.
The Don Valley does not lag behind them. The potential of this region has not yet been unleashed, but the farms working there prove the region is promising and has unique opportunities. The indigenous grape varieties preserved in the valley are of particular interest even to foreign oenologists, since these varieties are found in Russia only.
- Is the wine tourism seasonal? Or do winemakers welcome their guests all year round?
- Already today, the wine tourism has become an all-season one.
The most favourite time of the year for us is from August to October when you can see the vineyards in all their beauty, taste the juicy Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot berries directly from the vine, take part in harvesting and processing the crop, and after a year or two, buy a bottle of wine made with your personal participation. It is clear that it is not always possible to have a meeting with a winemaker because of the high season.
Early spring, it is always comfortable and cozy in the vineyards and our guests enjoy sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine, talking and seeing the “awaking” vines.
Winemakers are amazing people, they always welcome their guests. Getting feedback is very valuable for them. Unfortunately, with the active development of the wine tourism now, they do not always find time to meet their visitors personally.
That is why more often, we see wine brand ambassadors at the wineries, the people who are as close as possible to the winemaker and the production process. Often, they know everything or almost everything about their wines.
- In your opinion, what is the state of the Russian winemaking in general now? Do the wine tours help to promote the Russian wines?
- When in 2015, we opened the first bar in Russia with a wine list offering exclusively the Russian wines, everyone thought we were crazy.
In fact, all the wines that were produced at that time were the result of a large-scale experiment, which we willingly supported.
- But how to convey a message to the target audience, the consumers?
- This is how a series of meetings #субботнийвинодел (Saturday winemaker) appeared where any guest coming to our wine bar could taste wines and also get to know all the details about its production from the first person of the winery during a friendly talk.
The mission of the project is to get the visitors acquainted with the Russian wine and break the stereotypes that OUR RUSSIAN wines are not tasty.
For 6 years of the project, more than 80 meetings with winemakers have been held, the visitors enjoyed more than 2,000 bottles of domestic wines, and over 3,000 people attended our meetings.
The highlight is our wine travel when our guests can see the production of their favourite wines.
We believe the answer to the question is obvious!
- A large number of people are prejudiced against our domestic wines and prefer foreign ones. How can this trend be reversed?
- The point is that a lot of people just haven’t tasted good wines. This is because the choice of the Russian wines in the supermarket near their houses is very poor.
Small production enterprises with a small output and an emphasis on quality are well aware that they cannot beat the foreign wines, so they focus on a narrow circle of wine lovers who can pay a little more.
Simply put, the new wave winemakers are like pret-a-porter designers. Their wines need to be bought in specialized boutiques, which is not always convenient in the conditions of “here and now” consumption.
By the way, about “here and now” approach. The wines sold at supermarkets are generally ready for use and do not acquire higher quality upon further aging, but of course, there is a chance to buy wine that is “not ready” for use.
This happens because the wine producers are not ready to keep their wines for a long time at their micro-enterprises. There are two reasons for this, and one of them is simple - the lack of a storage space at their enterprises.
Second, the wine put for further aging in the bottle is like “frozen” money, which is needed “here and now” to buy more advanced equipment, acquire additional piece of land, purchase and plant new vines, and so on.
There is always a way to spend money. No winemakers will ever tell you they don’t need an investment. I have not heard these words during my 5 years in the industry.
Very soon, everything will change a lot, and people will drink our domestic wines in Russia again!