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Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia

By Tamara Zubchuk
26 September 2016

Russian entrepreneur gets French help restoring and developing viticulture to produce our very own Côte de Altai Mountains.

The very first vineyard planted in 2009. Picture: Vladimir Vagner

To many it may seem a strange notion, but wine has been made in this part of Siberia since tsarist times in the 19th century and perhaps earlier. 

This is, in places, the coldest inhabited region on earth, yet the summers are as hot as many regions of France and other grape-growing countries, and peasants have long fermented homemade wine here; so there is no intrinsic reason not to try.

Now after enlisting professional help from France, Vladimir Vagner, head of Altai Winery OJSC, is convinced he can make a commercial breakthrough with varieties of  both red and white.

'Our French partners spent two years studying the climate conditions and soil, and once they made sure these were appropriate, they started choosing grape types,' explained Vladimir. 'Initially, we selected an area for the vineyards.

'It was a former fruit garden, we planted 600 saplings to see if they could make it through winter - and all but two of them actually did so. 

'In the first batch some 12,000 saplings were planted the next year. All in all, there were 20 types of grapes chosen for their resistance to cold. 

'Eventually, we picked four or five of them, including Pinot Noir and Muscat blanc. The French supervise all stages of production.'

Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia
The very first vineyard planted in 2009. Picture: Vladimir Vagner


A married father of two, and also a grandfather, Vladimir has a background in vodka and also cheese production, but now sees bringing a successful wine industry to the region - an Altai Appellation - as his greatest challenge and ambition.

He has grape expectations and hopes one day to pass on his wine venture to his grandson. 

'Since we began growing grapes back in 2009, we figured a way to preserve grapes from the cold during winter,' he said. 'We also worked out a timeframe for grapes to mature. And we realised that we do, indeed, have enough sunny days for grapes to gain sugars to manufacture dry wine. 

'We don't use any poisonous chemicals and grow an organic product. 

'Looking back, since our very first year, the territory of our vineyard has now increased from three to eight  hectares.'

Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia
The very first vineyard planted in 2009. Picture: Vladimir Vagner


Vladimir accepts there is no quick fix, and is content to allow time for a quality product with market potential, to be developed, while also overcoming the red tape that afflicts many developing businesses. 

'Our challenge to address now is making the production economically feasible,' he said, speaking at his vineyard in Altai. 

'Currently, we are allowed to manufacture wine for domestic use, and degustations. We can give it away but have no license to produce and sell it. A license costs 20 million roubles ($310,000) which is a bit too much given our output - 50,000 bottles - and that's a great obstacle. 

'Hopefully, we'll be able to sort it out next year.'

Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia
First winter, and the very first harvest which was only 6kg. Pictures: Vladimir Vagner


What about the wine and its quality? 

'As for flavour, there are several criteria,' said Vladimir, who is partial to Bordeaux when not drinking his own product. 'The thing is, flavour forms not immediately but by year 10. So that's why in first two years assessment was 'the wine is a bit sour, not enough sugar' and only in 2014 was our white wine described as good in terms of flavour, scent and colour.

'The red wine was described as good in flavour. That means that soil is not yet passing on its quality, which is why we are now working on adjusting cultivation technologies. Our soil is very rich in humus, and there is no reason for grape bushes to 'go underground'. They get everything close to the surface, so this year I grew weed around the bushes to dehydrate the surface layer of soil. 

'That allowed roots to penetrate deeper underground and gain useful elements for a more distinct flavour.'

Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia
Vladimir Vagner, pictured, accepts there is no quick fix, and is content to allow time for a quality product with market potential, to be developed, while also overcoming the red tape that afflicts many developing businesses. Picture: Vladimir Vagner


As for Vladimir, his roots are here too. This is his home region.

He was born at Pokrovka village, in the Bayevsky district of Altai region. In 1975, he graduated from Omsk Agricultural Institute. An earlier attempt at making wines here was - surprisingly - during the Stalin era. 

'People started planting vineyards around Altai Krai (region) in the mid-1930s. Then there was a pause during the war, and in the 1950s an experimental set of wine made of eight types of grape was produced in Biysk.'

Later in the 1970s, some six million decilitres of wine was sold all over the USSR: this, though, was made from sea buckthorn and black currant. 

More than three dozen factories were involved in its production, and whole hills were covered with fruit tree gardens. 

Mikhail Gorbachev killed it off in 1985 with his crackdown on alcohol: by the time the Soviet Union collapsed, the Altai industry was mothballed. 

Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia
A bottle of chilled Siberian? Pictures: Vladimir Vagner


'I myself was into cheese making and then the production of casein,' said Vladimir, 63. 'I was invited to share my expertise for the production of Altai vodka, and soon another invitation followed to head AltaiSpirtProm (Altai Spirits) corporation. 

'Once in charge of the company I travelled to France and got really interested in wine making. It was in France that I decided that we have the right kind of climate for growing vineyards and making our own wine.'

Today, he said, of his operation: 'We produce red and white wine from the Sauvignon grape. We named it 'The Altai Vine'. As of now I think that our white wine is of a better quality, yet personally I like our red better.'

Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia
Xavier Guillaume,  a noted vine cultivator and winemaker, personally oversees the venture in Altai. Pictures: Vladimir Vagner


The vineyards are some 300 metres above sea level around the village of Altaiskoye village in Altaisky district. The village - founded in 1808, and now with a 14,000 population - is between Belokurikha resort and Lake Aya in the foothills of the Altai Mountains.

The climate here in renowned for its hot summers and mild winters. 

'Work to revive wine making in Altai region started in 2007 when the local administration signed an agreement with Franche Comte region in France', Vladimir said. 

'This part of France, close to the border with Switzerland, is famed for its wine-making. Soon after, I was approached by a French company from Franche Comte that was into grape seedlings,' he said. 

'They offered to distribute our wine.

'I agreed but asked them first to help us grow vineyards and make wine properly, and they accepted the deal. 

'They've been travelllng back and forth, helping us and keeping eye on how things are going.' 

Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia


Coming soon: 'Chateau Permafrost', wine from Siberia
Russian entrepreneur gets French help restoring and developing viticulture to produce our very own Côte de Altai Mountains. Pictures: Vladimir Vagner


Russian winemakers have also travelled to this region of France to receive training in winemaking. Xavier Guillaume - a noted vine cultivator and winemaker - personally oversees the venture in Altai, he said.  

'He was here when we planted the vineyards,' said Vladimir.

'Actual works began two years later in October 2009 when we planted the first 600 grapes. 

'The first harvest in October 2010 was only six kilograms. 

'The next batch was 12,000 plants on the same area where we planted the first 600. In 2011 we harvested 600 kg of grapes.  

'In May 2012 we planted 10,000 vines of Pinot Noir.' 

Comments (11)

Пусть плоды вашего труда приносят виноградный успех! May the fruits of your labour bring grape success! I hope to visit one day and also to learn more about the wonderful additional types of fruit grown in your very beautiful area. Thank you for growing using organic techniques.
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
02/10/2016 20:08
1
0
Hi, can we visit this place ?
Priti trivedi , Novosibirsk
30/09/2016 14:32
2
0
Send this wine to beautiful Колорадо and we'll support it!
Alan C, Colorado, USA
30/09/2016 09:10
2
0
I have been looking for a vine that would grow here in Fairbanks as I know the summers would support a good grape.
Does anyone have any suggestion?

Thank you
Gordon, Fairbanks, Alaska
29/09/2016 12:50
4
0
Just a fantastic development for Russia, Siberia and wine in general. Place looks beautiful. Reminds me of the Sonoma hills....would LOVE to visit Mr. Vagner's winery...Я от всей души поздравляю его!
Jon, Santa Barbara, CA
29/09/2016 12:19
3
0
Siberia may be the new frontier for freedom loving people who soon may decide to leave the West for greener pastures.
pete wagner, Maryland US
27/09/2016 22:38
10
0
Permafrost is receding in Siberia so thousands of miles are liberated every year from frozen lands.
Enrique, Spain
27/09/2016 19:42
3
0
Probably, the Alvariño grape from North Western Spain (Galicia region) would fit well for Altai weather.
Enrique, Spain
26/09/2016 20:29
6
0
Altai is becoming the Eastern Krasnodar with tourism and agro-buiness, being the place with the highest temperatures in Siberia
Enrique, Spain
26/09/2016 20:27
8
0
We should not drink alcohol.


Adi, adrian.fanaca@gmail.com
26/09/2016 16:34
0
10
Oh Oh ! , This is an exciting adventure. Good wines, this is not a case with alcohol, but with the pleasure of flavors. It is a school of patience, know-how and passion. Photo landscapes are beautiful, perhaps in the future will be Altaï an oenotourism region? Personally I love cycling in Burgundy and my favorite cows are the Franche- Comté "montbéliardes" which provide milk for the "fromage de comté". Good luck in this adventure, we await further news!
And what about "chardonnay" seedlings for the white wine?
Jocelyne, France
26/09/2016 16:08
10
0
1

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