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Straight from the grapevine: How Russia’s Stavropol Region peps up its winery tours

The regional authorities are now struggling to revive the winemaking industry and wine tourism

STAVROPOL, December 4. /TASS/. Gastronomy tours and trips to private vineyards can help the South Russian Stavropol Region revive wine tourism, Alexei Lysenko, deputy director of the Stavropolvinogradplodoprom winemaking company, told TASS on Monday.

"Wine tourism in the region existed in the Soviet times when both Communist Party leaders and people who were spending vacations at the Caucasian Mineral Waters resorts came to visit our winemaking companies," he said.

The winemaking industry in the Stavropol region dates back to the late 18th century.

For instance, in 1837 one of the largest Stavropol wineries produced more than 32,400 deciliters of wine.

In the early 1980s vineyards occupied some 17,000 hectares and in 1984, some 76.9 tonnes of grapes were harvested in the region. However, this period was followed by the Gorbachev anti-alcohol campaign and in 1985 many vineyards were destroyed.

The regional authorities are now struggling to revive the winemaking industry and wine tourism.

The Stavropol region guests are offered six types of wine tours, including visits to wineries and vineyards.

"We are witnessing no tourist boom at the moment," Lysenko said. "But we are cooperating with tour companies and we have many things to show."

Many Stavropol wineries invite tourists to see how wine is made and to taste wines.

"We have many old wineries, for instance, the Praskoveya winery founded in 1898. They have an interesting museum," he said. "The Bechtau-Tempelhof winery founded in 1864 has an old wine cellar built by Italian engineers."

The Strizhament winery in the regional capital, Stavropol, offers two or three tours a week.

"We do not cooperate with tour companies. All excursions are free of charge," said Antonina Obukhova, a spokesperson for the company founded in 1868.

Strizhament also has a museum named after Tamara Karlova, the only woman in the Soviet Union who headed a winery for 22 years. Under her leadership, the company produced 40% of the region’s alcoholic beverages.

Tourists coming to the Levokumsky district of the Stavropol Region combine wine and ethnic tourism. They visit a Cossack village and a local winery.

Sergei Brezhnev of Novotroitskaya village has not only founded a vineyard but also the region’s largest private winemaking museum.

"I am making wine using the recipes of my Cossack ancestors," Brezhnev said.

His museum has a collection of more than 1,000 wine bottles, old flasks, wine presses, jugs, etc.

"I have a wine press, which I inherited from my grandfather. It was made in Leningrad in 1932."

Brezhnev also has a passion for Russian samovars.

"When everyone was collecting stamps and badges, I was collecting samovars," he said.

Brezhnev’s 270 samovars are displayed at a special hall in his museum.

Wine festivals also help the Stavropol region attract more tourists. In 2017, the region for the first time celebrated the Day of St. Trifon, the patron saint of winemakers.

Kislovodsk, one of the popular spa resorts, celebrates New Wine Day. In 2017, the festival brought together some 50,000 people.