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Financial crisis hits high-end wine sales in Russia

High-end wine sales in Russia have plummeted due to the current economic crisis, traders say.

Wine sales plunged 50% compared to the same time last year, said Yana Jelvanova, import manager for Keider, a wine importer in Russia since 1998.

The shrinking value of the rouble combined with a troubled economy is being blamed for the fall in sales of fine wine.

Simple Wine Co – one of the largest wine importers in Russia – recorded a more modest 15% sales drop from January 2008 to January 2009, but a company spokesman stressed that consumers are drinking just as much if not more, but they are opting for less expensive wines.

‘We should just mention that consumers are simply trading down and turning to brands with good price/quality ratios,’ said Anatoly Korneyev, cofounder and vice president of Simple Wine Co. ‘It does not mean that consumption will fall in 2009 compared to 2008,’ he added.

And it seems it’s not just the mass market who are neglecting the more expensive brands.

‘Even big spenders are looking for bargains,’ said Kirill Drozdov, manager of Vinoteca Grand Cru, a popular Moscow fine wine retailer, also owned by Simple Wine Co. ‘They are buying less Montrachet and more Pouilly Fuissé.’

However, the forecast for the Bordeaux 2008 futures is mixed.

‘In this difficult market, we are not interested in buying futures, even if the vintage is excellent,’ Jelvanova from Keider said.

For his part Korneyev said Simple Wine Co has already stocked up on 2008 Bordeaux.

‘We follow ratings and our own opinion about the vintage but we have not taken into account the current market situation,’ he said.

‘We are sure that the Bordeaux top growths will sell anyway; if not in 2010 or 2011, they will be demanded in subsequent years when everyone will have forgotten about the crisis.’

Written by Panos Kakaviatos in Moscow

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