‘100-300 people a day’ — winegrowers from Kamskoe Ustye rely on agrotourism
The only vineyard in Tatarstan in Kamskoe Ustye has not yet paid off, but tourists are helping the project to hold out
Tatarstan viticulturist Ayrat Yalaletdinov, who grows berries on an industrial scale in Kamskoe Ustye, intends to expand his business. As the entrepreneur told Realnoe Vremya, he is going to increase the grape plantations by another 2 hectares — now there are 7 hectares. There are also 0,6 hectares of blackberries and 1,5 hectares of strawberries, but these are not the main crops. The Kama vineyard was laid in 2016, but the project still hasn't paid off. However, the farmer and his wife Katerina treat their business more like art. In the last three years, they have been experiencing a large influx of guests, as a result, the originally conceived agricultural business turns into agrotourism. Read the details in the material of Realnoe Vremya.
“We depend on frosts and weather conditions”
Now the farm of Ayrat and Katerina Yalaletdinovs has 7 hectares of grapes. Among them, there are table varieties, and there are also wine ones. Table grape — for fresh food, wine grape — for processing and production of juice, wine, dried fruits. Winegrowers constantly experiment: they have more than 120 varieties of table grapes and 45 varieties of wine grapes.
“There are a lot of varieties, because we are experimenting to understand which ones bear fruit better in our climate, which are tastier, which are more popular with buyers," says the wife of the owner of the vineyard, Katerina Yalaletdinova. “We love when there is a choice, as each taste has its own aftertaste, its own uniqueness.”
The harvest of the vineyard, according to farmers, depends on the weather. If the spring is early, then the grapes appear early, if it is late, the berries ripen later. Unfortunately, this year 70% of the grape harvest has died from frost.
However, the vineyards still have brought their benefits, they became a point of attraction for guests: “There is no end of tourists. 100-300 people come a day. And last weekend, we received a thousand tourists. There were two buses with foreigners among them, with simultaneous translation into English," the farmers say.
“There is so much work that the second son was almost born in the vineyard”
Initially, Airat did not plan any tourist activity on his lands and did not even think about the development of the direction such as agrotourism. Buying the farmland, he did not even suspect that Kamskoe Ustye is one of the tourist pearls of Tatarstan, he was just looking for land with a southern slope. But over the past three years, the tourist flow to the vineyard has grown significantly, and this year the number of guests is just off the scale.
“Travel agencies find us on the Internet, call us, tell us how many people and at what time they will arrive, after which we make a schedule. We don't have any contracts or advertising," explains Katerina. “There is a huge influx at the weekend, it is impossible even to stop for a break. We have a website where individuals sign up for excursions. But mostly they come in an organised manner, by bus.”
The farmers tell the story of the creation of the vineyard, arrange for guests a walk around the plantation and the degustation of different varieties of grapes and other berries. Katerina explains the peculiarities of vine cultivation in Tatarstan, and tourists usually buy berries right on the field. This has become one of the main ways of selling products. At the moment, 80% of berries and seedlings are bought by tourists during excursions, and 20% are sold at a retail outlet in the Agropark.
“Everyone has different tastes and likes different varieties. Many guests prefer Garold. It has a pronounced nutmeg aftertaste and a rich aroma, a very delicate berry. We sell almost half of all berries here to tourists," says Katerina. “There is so much work that the second son was almost born in the vineyard. I called an ambulance and gave birth half an hour later in a local ordinary hospital. There is no maternity hospital here — a gynecologist and a pediatrician delivered the baby. For the first time in 6 years, they delivered a baby in Kamskoe Ustye.”
Among camping, glamping and vine care
Taking into account the great demand, the winegrowers decided to launch a new direction for the reception of guests. They are exploring options for opening a camping or glamping near the vineyard. But winegrowers believe that real agrotourism includes work in agriculture. While there is an idea to allocate 3 hectares for a house for living and work in the vineyard. Guests will be offered 5 rooms with all amenities and a short tour so that they can understand what viticulture is in practice.
“Probably, it will be a short tour — no more than 2 days. I don't think there will be many people willing to work in the field. It's pretty hard work," says the vintner. “There is already an idea in my head that it will be a house surrounded by vines. Tourists will live here, eat village products, and work in the vineyard. And we will show them how to take care of the vine. But this will not be a mass direction, rather, a chamber one, unlike excursion activities, which will also remain.”
Winegrowers plan to receive a grant through agrotourism and develop this direction within two to three years. We will have to hire a special staff to work in such farm. At the same time, Katerina is convinced that these should be professional tourism workers.
“We are only moving in this direction, but we want to make a high-quality, good product. Funds are needed for this, one grant will not be enough. They give a maximum of 10 million rubles, it's not enough," says Katerina. “After all, people want something new, while expecting good service, good accommodation.”
Tourists will have the opportunity to come in winter, but then just relax, without working in the vineyard. Now it is more an educational activity combined with the sale of products.
“People are very happy to come here, and they are very impressed when they leave us. At the same time, they say that they do not understand at all how it was possible to organise all this. They look at the vines as a miracle," says the entrepreneur's wife. “They understand that this is very hard work, especially after you explain exactly what needs to be done in the vineyard. Most of the people say that they definitely could not do this.”
Guests from new regions are added every year. For example, this year there has been a large flow of tourists from Kirov Oblast, in the past year — from Nizhny Novgorod. They come to Kamskoe Ustye, as a rule, for fishing, to see the tunnels and the Yuryev cave, and at the same time, look at the vineyards.