Moldova 'at crossroads' wine conference hears

  • Friday 30 November 2007

The Moldovan wine industry is at a crossroads and must look to the new world for inspiration, the first wine conference in the beleagured republic has heard.

The conference, ‘Towards A Competitive Moldovan Wine Sector: Learning From International Success’, took place in the capital Chisinau with experts from France, Chile, Australia, Armenia, Georgia and the UK.

Another participant was the newly-created Moldova Wine Guild, a grouping of the seven biggest and most progressive wine companies in the country.

Intended as a brainstorm to lay down the basic tenets of a sustainable wine industry, delegates looked to the success of private and public sector partnerships in countries like Chile and Australia for inspiration.

‘Moldovans are at a crossroads,’ consultant Luis Capitao said. ‘Can they make wine? Yes. Good wines? Possibly. But the question is, can they sell it?’

He added that although the Russian ban on Moldovan wine has now been lifted, the export challenge has been made more difficult with the introduction of ‘Quality certification, economic barriers, and competition with French and New World wines.’

The rickety economic and political situation in Moldova does not help. Around 80% of the population is officially below the poverty line. Faced with rising unemployment and political instability, as much as one quarter of the population (600,000-1m people) works abroad, the Migration Policy Institute, an international organisation, says.

A winemaker who had just finished harvest with minimal help told decanter.com he was about to emigrate to Canada with his young family.

While companies are going bankrupt, vineyards skirting abandoned villages are either not being farmed, or producing tiny crops due to bad upkeep.

The conference also heard from lawyer Diana Lazar, who said the wine industry is mired in bureaucracy, any reforms hamstrung by the lack of political will.

But UK wine writer Angela Muir MW is optimistic. ‘In Moldova they have top-class land. All they need is investment and a good image.’

Muir helps companies develop brands – like the Firebird Legend Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon – for the UK market. That range has been in Waitrose at £4.74 for three years, but ‘it will be hard to sell wines over that price,’ she said.

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