Photo: Andrey Kara
19:43 / February 26th, 2016 Marina Talagaeva
Experts and producers told about how to accustom metropolitan consumers to good Russian wines.
It seems that for Russian wines producers the best time has begun. Consumers begin to prefer home products again. It is getting more popular among the elite class to buy vineyards instead of football clubs, and a word combination “Russian wine” is beginning not to be a synonym to something at the second rate.
Our wines win prestigious awards abroad, foreign experts come to our South to work, and stay there felt in love with Russia. Many wine events took place in the South, wine tourism has being developed, Rostov garage festivals are known by experts from all over the country. And only Moscow has not been ‘conquered’ yet. ‘To conquer’ the capital means to conquer all the country. But how one can accustom metropolitan consumers to good local wines? What makes it difficult – imperfection of laws, market inertia, consumers’ uninformedness, high competition with foreign wines? These were the main topics in ‘Moi rayon’’s round table discussion.
How to make Russian wines more attractive to Moscovites?
Leonid Gelibterman: Before we answer this question let us draw a portrait of a Moscow consumer, what makes him differ from Saint-Petersburg’s or, for example, Kazan’s consumer? Every region has its own distinctions.
Vladislav Gratsianskii: I would like to say that the Moscow consumer is spoiled. He saw a lot, he tasted a lot. But this fact should not prevent Russian wines promotion. One should hold special events in chain cafes and restaurants and set Russian wines correctly up. Together with Anatoliy Komm we turned out an extraordinary set. Today in his restaurant you can get truffle set with our wine. That is a contrast. Foreign visitors are delighted with this set. And sanctions play in our favor, it gives rise to a huge wave of public spirit and interest to Russian production.
Ella Akopova: Moscovites travel more, that’s why they are more informed. And, of course, they prefer wines from France, Spain and Italy. Moscovites trust in these wines. There is no information about Russian wines. Krasnodar consumers, for example, need no extra information, they in any way confide our producers. So we need first of all printed materials and more information. Let me now express great thanks to Mr. Sarkisyan for his guidebook (Author’s guide “Russian wine”).
Leonid Gelibterman: What do you think about awareness-building, should we lead one? Wine image is important for an experienced Moscovite, isn’t it?
Ella Akopova: Definitely!
Leonid Gelibterman: And it’s more important than for people from other regions?
Ella Akopova: I think that right setting up of priorities is of the same importance as well as in Moscow, Vladivostok or London.
Leonid Gelibterman: Moreover there are many Russians abroad.
Ella Akopova: Correct. We need to understand that today people write about their experiences on blogs and social network sites similarly the same as well as in London, Kazan, Vladivostok and Moscow. Just imagine a man buying a bottle of expensive Russian wine and writing on his facebook page: “Yeaaah, not a Piemonte”. Of course, we need to teach cavistes in shops and sommeliers in restaurants. We need to explain why the bottle costs 3,000 rubles, not 300 rubles.
Irina Vlasova: All roads lead to metropolis, we have choice here. But nevertheless the Moscovites depend on import. Moscow consumers trust in some countries a little bit more than in other countries. For example, if one sees a word “France” on a wine label, one automatically thinks “Oh, it’s a good wine!” But with sparkling wines we have another situation.
French champagne is a bit too expensive for our middle-class society. That’s why in this category buyers vote with their wallets for wine brand. And in situation with an ordinary wine - it’s rather a habit to choose a particular grape variety.
Leonid Gelibterman: And what about Raevskoe Winery, whose wine lovers bought all the last year harvest?
Anna Lysenko: Yes, it’s true. In question concerning Moscow consumers I identify myself with my colleague’s opinion. In fact, wages rate in Moscow is higher, a consumer is more scrupulous, Moscovites travel a lot, there are many things to compare with. But unfortunately the awareness in the sphere of Russian wine is not very good. Beginning with sommeliers and cavists and ending with printed advertisement. Here we come across one more important moment: we can talk about the quality of our products, but we cannot agitate for using it.
Mariya Bogdankevich: I think that one thing that distinguishes the Moscow consumer is skepticism. Previously the attitude towards Russian wines was like “good, but not too much”. Now the situation is beginning to change, most of all it’s happening because of the first awards, international experts’ recognition. More expensive wines in the segment from 800 to 1500 rubles per bottle have equaled in quality with good prosecco, cava and even with French champagne. For Russian wines promotion we need not only chain cafes or restaurants but also specialized boutiques where cavists can popularly explain why this wine costs 300 rubles, and the other one – 3000 rub. Meanwhile consumers are guided by the bottle outlook –oh, it’s a beautiful one, I’ll buy it. Of course, we also need special degustation and lections. People are interested in it.
Vyacheslav Vovk: Moscow consumer is more mobile and more informed. Russian people are less open to fashion brands, they are more conservative. If a person drank Abrau-Durso, then he is drinking Abrau-Durso. In general, in the Krasnodar region people mostly drink local wines.
And by the way, the government made it all possible, actively interacting with the trade and the media. I agree with Vladislav, now there is a wave of enogastronomic patriotism and it’s a crime not to use it!
Does it make sense to invest in Russian Winery?
Leonid Gelibterman: I have to say that for a classical investor - no. Wine production equals "long money", and our investors usually want things quickly. And besides, to be honest, there are not so many investors in the Russian Federation, who can afford themselves investments in such projects.
Artur Sarkisyan: I do not agree. On the contrary, it seems to me, that small peasant farms - it is easy and profitable. When a person has already bought everything - apartments, houses, villas, in what he has to invest? Of course, it becomes interesting to do something different, why not wine? It is rather interesting to people. But, of course, we must understand that this is a long term investment that will pay off, at best, in 25 years, maybe in 35, maybe in 45 - if we rely on foreign experience. ‘More investments - more good wine’, as competition improves.
Vyacheslav Vovk: I think that it is profitable. Wine, of course, pays off in the long run. But we should not forget about the agritourism. It is advantageous sphere and so it will be more profitable and more interesting with the rising number of wineries. While there are 5-7, it is possible to visit the entire list in a day. And imagine that there are 20-30. You’ll need a whole week to travel from one to another winery.
Ella Akopova: Yes. This raises the prestige of the entire region. The infrastructure has been developed. First of all the hotels are builded. Generally winemaking rise creates new work places. We have, for example, employees from two villages plus imported workers.
Leonid Gelibterman: I'd rather separate financial perspectives and beautiful dreams with which, by the way, I absolutely agree. After all, the purpose of the investors is to return their money over time and start to earn.
Anastasia Samoilova: We are discussing the profitability from the point of individuals, but in the scientific literature one can read about the fact that no industry can be considered to be effective if there is no public investment.
Leonid Gelibterman: It seems to me that the government in general cannot to be an effective companion in questions concerning winery in particular. And it deals not only with the Russian government. Just a week ago, I took part in degustation of German Quality Wine Producers Association and there appeared a businessman who bought the vineyard from the country’s government. Before that, the government produced remarkably low-quality wine. And that man immediately reduced the vintage per hectare and raised the quality. Experience shows that in our country there are no examples of the government as effective winemaker.
Irina Vlasova: Yes, and everything is opposite - private companies purchase the resources from the state. We also bought the first mill, recently bought additional last part of the vineyard.
Anna Lysenko: But with private enterprises we also do not pull such a volume. How many people we have? The state must still invest in vineyards. To grow a hectare of grapes, we need 1 million rubles, and for the production we need 50-100 hectares.
Maria Bahdankevich: And only in 5 years you will understand whether you invest these 50-100 million rubles properly or not, and you still need to build the production nearby. Investing is rising in space volumes, these are millions and millions, and millions!
Leonid Gelibterman: The problem with such a large area of vineyards was always solved through the cooperative development. We talked once with colleagues on this issue with the Portuguese, I asked them about the government investments - they looked at us like we were crazy. As to working with foreign raw materials, even in Scotland producers buy more grain to produce whiskey. And there grows no cocoa in Switzerland in spite of the fact that their chocolate is one of the world's best.
How to show a Russian wines drinking culture to Moscow consumers? And are the fashionable metropolitan locations ready to expand the geography of their wine cards?
Artur Sarkisyan: We are ready, but that is not the main question. Everything depends on competition. Big wine trading company, starting business with any restaurant, does not want to see the competitors there and pays money for not-including another wines into the restaurant’s wine card. There are such absurd examples - no Armenian wine in the Armenian restaurant. There are others - French, Italian, Spanish. Why does it look like this? And it happens because one wine trading company does not allow the restaurant to buy wines from other companies, and there is no Armenian wine in their portfolio. In many restaurants the sommeliers do not solve anything, but the amount of money brought into the restaurant by vintners. At best, the sommelier will get 10% of the wine card in his discretion, in art, like he will be happy to include Russian wine.
Ella Akopova: I agree with you, there were such cases. People taste wine, then saying "Good wine you have," but, unfortunately, we have an agreement, we will not announce to anyone, and this company has certain conditions.
Artur Sarkisyan: Today we have enough Russian wine to provide the restaurants. But we have a complex retail system. For example, I do not understand how you can put some wine in the "Metro" on its shelves, and then “Metro” runs a sail campaign - 50% discount. And then you also need money for the campaign, which you did not order.
Ella Akopova: I absolutely agree with Artur, and I believe that all winemakers must speak out against what is happening in the "Metro". There 'Divnomorskoe " costs 500 rubles per a bottle. This poor producer will not be able to sell their wine more expensive and restaurants will not take it. High-quality wine productions should cooperate. If I go in a restaurant and see in its wine card "Divnomorskoe" or "Phanagoria", I'm happy for them. So, they were able to convince. Let wine trading companies compete, we can compete with imports, but not against each other.
Does it make sense to promote Russian wines in the Russian locations with a new Russian kitchen? And what the situation with vodka will look like - whether it will compete with wine?
Artur Sarkisyan: These are different levels and different people. Different segments. Someone's desire, sorry, is to get drunk, but someone’s is beautifully to drink. Now I’m turning back to the question of Moscow consumers. In terms of wine I like Saint Petersburg. There this culture is better developed, people have a kind of wine patriotism, some clubs have been organized, such as the so-called club of ‘garazhistov’. You walk down the street - everywhere you can see banners: Wine bar, Vinoteca. This is something you will not find in Moscow. And in Saint-Petersburg they gladly put Russian wines in the wine cards and on the shelves.
Maria Bagdankevich: In Moscow as well as bars or wine shops want the same. Even many fashion brands are not against the idea to have a small champagne bar in their boutiques and showrooms. But not everyone can afford it in terms of the license. Our people want see the same as in London or Paris. Where even in beauty salons champagne is served, but when it becomes clear how many investments it needs... Now there is a great interest to small bars, where people do not dinner but come to enjoy a drink and to have a snack. A good example - bar ‘Sparkling dog’ at the Flacon, where champagne, including locals, is served with hot dogs. Champagne bar ‘Abrau Durso’ has been recently opened in GUM. Within two months of actual technical discoveries, we see that the format is popular. I think this format will be of great interest among consumers and further.
Prospects for the development of wine tourism
Irina Vlasova: I love visiting wineries abroad, we are also trying to develop wine tourism. Now we are the only wine company within Moscow. We arrange excursions to our production. People come from different regions, mainly from the Central region. They get strong emotions - we have space capacities, sterile cleanliness, champagne running out the small cock. And, of course, everybody is impressed that it is in Moscow.
Leonid Gelibterman: How do you organize your groups?
Irina Vlasova: With the help of travel agencies. We understand that these excursions are very important for the promotion of the brand.
Anna Lysenko: I’ll support my colleagues. I believe that Russian tourism has its future. And we plan to develop eco-tourism based on winery. We plan a construction of a reindeer farm: beauty and aesthetics in the lap of nature, vineyards, deers... We would like to develop gastronomic tourism in the future – matching game and good wine.
Maria Bagdankevich: For us, wine tourism is an important issue, everything is churned out. We have become the most visited winery in Europe - last season 200 thousand people visited our winery. We also have tours and degustation, and visit to the vineyard, and you can make the wedding in the vineyards in a special chateau. But our experience has shown that this is not enough for a Moscow consumer. We need a serious infrastructure - for example, the hotel with at least 4 stars rating. Champagne-spa, where we pour a bath with champagne and manage wine-therapy. It needs a good restaurant - not some fast food and interesting interpretations of Russian cuisine. Black Sea cuisine. Here we have a great story – the chef who studied in France. I was amazed like the same Moscow consumer learning that in the Krasnodar region there is a high level cuisine. There are safaris on quad bikes and helicopters. Now the quests are popular in Moscow, and we made them in the mountain tunnels. We also have yoga studio...
Ella Akopova: But Mariya, not all wineries can afford a level like this, it needs a very serious investment. And first of all good roads and general accessibility are important for tourism. We in the valley Lefkadia have started with these problems, and then gradually added entertainment component: excursions, a small wine museum, workshops, photo shoots, and even weddings. Of course, we built a guest house and restaurant.
Leonid Gelibterman: For every budget and for every taste there must be an offer. In this sense, of course, Russia has its prospects. Because both, wine and gastronomic tourism, in general, bring good money. International experience demonstrates it.
What happened among the winemakers during the last year?
In January 2015, the first batch of Russian champagne "Kuban-Vino" bottled magnum format was released. The bottle capacity is 1.5 liter.
In April, 2015 at ‘Flacon’ was opened the ‘Sparkling dog’ bar, where you can sip champagne and eat a hot dog. You can find also sparkling wine "Abrau-Durso" among others in the wine card.
In May, Russian wines participated in the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. As a result, Russia in this year took away 3 silver medals (two went to "Kuban-Vino" and one - to "Abrau-Durso") and 8 bronze (four to "Abrau-Durso", two to "Kuban-wine" and two to "Lefkadiya ").
Wine "Fanagoria" was served in the set with the Piedmont truffle in restaurants by Anatoly Komm. Foreigners have a special demand on Russian wines.
In October, 100 bottles of "Inkerman Winery" went on the seabed at a depth of 50 meters. That is how local winemakers are looking for new tastes and flavors.
The chain bars "Bread and Wine", belonging to the writer Sergei Minaev, have begun selling wine made of ‘Krasnostop’ varieties, which is considered to be the native Russian variety.
In December, on the third GUM line "Abrau-Durso" opened its Champagne bar, where there is a full menu as well as light snacks. Anyone can sip a glass of champagne while shopping.
In December, TV presenter Dmitry Kiselev announced that he would produce wine under the name ‘Cock t`est belle’, the same name had his estate, that was built in 2005. Kiselev began to develop winery with his partners in 2012. It is expected to receive about 4 million bottles a year.
On New Year’s Eve "Abrau-Durso" set a special train, taking tourists to the resorts of the Krasnodar region.
Instead of conclusion
The experts at the round table noted that one cannot only with the sense of patriotism "move to the capital", one also needs the government help. Why, for example, not to allow selling of expensive Russian wines in the parks, making them the territory of a great taste?