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'Land of wine in crisis' -by Caroline Gilby

Published:  23 July, 2008

It's hard not to feel desperately sorry for Moldova, a country being brought to its knees by Russia's strong-arm tactics. This small, landlocked country is Europe's poorest, with the average wage hovering around US$70 a month.

Moldovans don't drink much wine, at least of the commercial variety. Vodka is cheap, at under $1 a bottle, so it's not surprising that the country gets through 75 million bottles compared to just 5 million bottles of wine. Acorex chairman Sergey Borets sees this as a huge lost opportunity for wine.

He is lobbying for prices on vodka to go up to make wine more competitive, which would also boost employment. At the same time, there's a huge need for education in hotels and restaurants locally, where rejecting a corked bottle can cause enormous distress to untrained staff.

The reality for Moldova is that it has lots of potential and plenty of good reason to get its winemaking right. A few wineries are showing the exciting prospects that could lie ahead for the country, but most have been lulled into the easy route of shipping trainloads of cheap wine eastwards.

Whether the Russia crisis is resolved sooner or later, the Moldovan wine industry has undoubtedly been rocked to the core. It is time to wake up and smell the global competition. Perhaps this crisis, brutal as it is, is the catalyst that the industry needs to change its ways.