Russia may restrict wine imports from the European Union in a sign that winemakers are becoming embroiled in heightened political tension between the two sides.
Esse vineyard in Crimea
A spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin has said officials will meet on 20 August to consider restricting the flow of wines from the EU.
The move follows a petition from wine producers in Crimea, which was recently annexed by Russia from Ukraine, headed by Ioannina Pavlenko, chairman of the Crimean Office of Vineyards and Wine.
In June, the EU banned all imports from Crimea as part of its condemnation of Russia’s claim to the territory.
Political tension over the future of Ukraine has since escalated further, leading to the EU imposing economic sanctions on Russia last week. Russian officials have since found safety problems with a variety of food imports from the EU.
According to data from Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service, imports account for 39.5% of the country’s wine market and imports from the EU constitute 24.5% of the market.
France accounts for nearly a fifth of Russia’s wine imports, while Italy and Spain account for almost 15% each.
Leonid Popovich, head of the Russian Union of Winegrowers and Winemakers, said restrictions on imports would be a ‘normal response’ to EU sanctions on Crimean wines.
Even restrictions on fine wine imports, many of which are destined for the homes of Russia’s wealthy elite, ‘will not be a big loss’ for Russia, Popovich added. Volumes of these wines are only a small part of the market, he said.
Not all Crimean wine producers were in favour of Russia annexing their territory, Decanter contributor Andrew Jefford found while researching for his recent article on the region.
UPDATE: Several hours after this story was published, Russia banned agricultural imports from the US and EU. However, the initial ban was not believed to include wine. 07/08/2014
Written by Eugene Gerden