A Russian company associated with Roman Abramovich has backed a plan by local wine industry veteran Denis Polyakov to launch a new importer in the country, according to sources close to Polyakov.
Separately, it is understood that Abramovich has become an investor in the Gai-Kodzor winery in southern Russia.
It is believed that the new wine importer will be established via an existing business entity named ‘Classic Plus’.
The parties involved could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Earlier this year, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported that a Russian firm linked to Abramovich, named Grano LLC, had invested in three wine businesses, ‘New Classics’, ‘Classic Plus’ and ‘Bardolino+’ via a share pledge agreement.
It cited information published on the Spark-Interfax database.
Russian wine industry analysts told Kommersant that up to US$150m could be needed to help a new importer build market share.
While analysts described the new venture as promising, they said serious competition plus exchange rate fluctuations and planned excise tax rises on alcohol could pose challenges.
Wine tourism investment
Separately, it has been reported that a structure affiliated with Abramovich has invested in the Gai-Kodzor winery, which lies 5km from the Black Sea near the resort town of Anapa and specialises in premium wines, including those made from the main Rhône grape varieties.
Business newspaper Vedomosti reported back in 2015 that people associated with Abramovich had invested in the wine estate as a personal project.
When contacted by Decanter.com, Gai-Kodzor co-owner Edouard Alexandrov said that ‘Mr. Abramovich is among our recent investors’.
The winery, which has 70 hectares of vineyards, has been seeking to increase its image as a tourist destination.
It has built a new complex that serves as a ‘modern and stylish visitor centre’, while also providing space to upgrade winemaking facilities, Alexandrov said.
Experts at the Russian Ministry of Agriculture believe that wine tourism could prove a good investment, because the sector is relatively under-developed in the country.
Abrau-Durso, a leading domestic winery, has already invested in this field and was recently reported to have invested extra funds in a winery in the Russian Caucasus region.
Extra reporting by Chris Mercer.