by Minh Thu
|Fruit of the vine: There are various types of grapes in Uncle Ba Moi's farm, ranging from Black Queen to Red Star.
It felt like the burning sun in the central province of Ninh Thuan had been turned off as I walked under the green leaves in Nguyen Van Moi's vineyard in Ninh Phuoc District, 7km from Phan Rang City.
The sunlight radiated through the vine leaves creating fanciful emerald patterns and a relaxed atmosphere.
Standing on Mong Bridge spanning the Dinh River, tourists can enjoy the panoramic view of the 2ha vineyard which receives many visitors everyday.
The best time to visit the vineyard is in the summer when the grapes are ripe.
The vineyard is open to foreign and domestic tourists alike, and also for other farmers, scientists and students who want to discuss cultivation techniques.
It's not difficult to find the way to his farm as he's the most famous farmer in the province and many people know him as Uncle Ba Moi. Pioneering in planting grapes and producing wine, he has helped create a trademark for the small fruit in his province.
|Learning the trade: Russian tourists visit the vineyard and learn about planting grapes and making wine. — Photos courtesy of Nguyen Van Moi
"In the 1990s, the quality of grapes was low," said Moi. "Then we farmers received support and guidance of specialists from the Agricultural Science Institute for Southern Coastal Central Viet Nam to improve our planting techniques."
At the beginning, Moi invested to experiment with a grape variety called NH 0148 over an area of 1,000sq.m. Now the plantation is 1.5ha. He's also tried other imported grape varieties like Black Queen and Red Star.
Moi received the VietGap (Vietnamese Good Agricultural Products) certificate for his products in 2010. Since then, he has been thinking of ways to show off his vineyard to visitors.
Apart from the 1.5ha vineyard and a 0.5ha apple orchard, he grows flowers to create a more beautiful scene and that are some facilities for tourists.
Visitors to the site have a chance to take a stroll around the farm under trellised grape-vines and listen to the history of the grapes, how to plant them, how to harvest them and how to produce wine from a fruit that has sweet and sour overtones. The tour guide is none other than Uncle Ba Moi.
As he takes visitors around his vineyard, they are free to pick ripe fruit and enjoy them without worrying about pesticides and other chemical substances. Moi's vineyard was the first to be certified for the production of "clean" grapes in his province.
Moi said he developed his technique of planting grapes "cleanly" by replacing chemical fertilisers, pesticides and other substances with biological products.
He said the technique also gave the grape its sweet and sour taste and crispness, instead of the acridity found in small grapes back in the 90s.
He helps tourists separate grapes that are good to eat fresh and others that are used to make wine.
"I have four species which are a light pink and purple and very sweet when they're ripe," he said. "Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Syrah are suitable for making red and white wine."
Tourists may be surprised by Moi's simple wine-making process.
His workers select the best grapes, clean them and pound the whole grapes including the skin and seeds. Then they are soaked with sugar made from cane in sealed jars for several months.
"Of course, the longer the grapes are kept in jars, the better the wine is," Moi said.
"My vineyard is near a boundless rice field and is bordered by the Dinh River," said Moi. "The picturesque sight attracts many tourists. Some people told me that they feel like they're visiting a vineyard in the rural area of southern France or Chile."
"The host, Uncle Ba, was very nice," said a Russian tourist. "He gave us a very detailed guidance and introduction. The fruits are outstanding and the price reasonable, much cheaper than buying them at the market."
"Tourists will have a memorable experience after taking a walk in the vineyard and enjoying fresh fruits, juice and wine when they take a rest," said Moi.
Moi doesn't only offer tourists a chance to enjoy his grapes. He tries to extend his hospitality even further.
"I told my workers to learn some poems and songs and legends of different regions for the tourists to enjoy," he said.
"For example, when we receive a group of tourists from the north, we can sing folk songs from the region and get to know them. Once, some Russian tourists visited my farm, and we sang and danced a Russian popular song together. It was good fun."
"I think my vineyard and hospitality leaves a good impression on tourists, especially foreigners," he said, "the farm is free for tourists so we can promote the image of Ninh Thuan grapes and wine, not for commercial purposes."
"I received a group of tourists who visited the farm, picked some grapes and listened to my stories then left without buying anything, but I didn't feel unhappy."
"I know farming, tourism is not my business. So I expect that the provincial department of Culture, Sports and Tourism to help us to serve guests better."
Some travel companies like Viettravel, Saigontourist and Fiditour have described Ba Moi's vineyard as a must-see destination for visitors to Ninh Thuan Province. — VNS