HISTORY1‘Cheers for Moldovan wine,’ The Economist 31 March 2018, p30.
In Soviet days almost all Moldovan wine went to the rest of the Soviet Union. In the 1980s its vineyards were uprooted when Mikhail Gorbachev began his anti-alcoholism campaign. With the collapse of the Soviet Union much of Moldova’s industry also collapsed; but the wine and brandy businesses did not. Russia, to which 80% of the country’s booze went, had an unslakable thirst for it. Moldova is wedged between Romania and Ukraine. A breakaway sliver, Transdniestria, is controlled by Russia. In 2006, when Moldova rejected a deal to end the frozen conflict over Transdniestria, Vladimir Putin’s Russia slapped an embargo on Moldovan wine. Millions of bottles already in Russia were poured away or never paid for. “The sector was dead,” says Gheorghe Arpentin of the National Office for Vine and Wine. The embargo was relaxed a little later, but Mr Putin redoubled it in 2013 when Moldova annoyed him by signing an association agreement with the European Union. Since then the industry has transformed itself. Moldova’s wineries have redirected their sales to the EU. The embargoes have forced producers to make better plonk: European oenophiles are picky. The main customers are former communist countries where Moldovan wine was already known, such as Poland and Romania. Chinese buyers are keen, too. Russia allows some imports, but only from Transdniestria, Gagauzia (a small pro-Russian region) and a handful of wineries lucky enough to have close Russian links. The Moldovans’ hard work is paying off. In 2017 exports were 19.4% higher than in 2015.