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Ukrainian wines seek independents

Published:  06 June, 2022

Against many odds, a first shipment of 8,232 bottles has left Ukraine as part of a new initiative by Propeller designed to support its producers by bringing its wines to the UK.

Aimed primarily at independent merchants, retailers are being invited to place orders for a mixed delivery of 72 bottles, drawn from across the range, with wine costs and wholesaler margin going straight back to the wineries.

The full range offers some 14 wines from four wineries, which were consolidated in a secret location in Odessa before being readied for shipping.

Unsurprisingly, the war being waged against Ukraine threw up many obstacles and set backs, including the bombing by Russians of the access road to one of the wineries and of a strategic bridge once the wines had been readied for shipping, with delays setting the project back more than once.

The idea to bring Ukrainian wines to the UK sprang from a pre-war plan between Propeller’s Jamie Wynne-Griffiths and top Ukrainian sommelier Dmytro Gonchuruk, looking at creating a generic Ukrainian campaign, which was shelved when conflict broke out.

However, after a couple of weeks of adjusting to the shock of the invasion, Gonchuruk texted Wynne-Griffiths to say: “Everyone is determined to make this work, let’s do this”.

A WhatsApp group was then formed, including Svitlana Tsybak from Beykush winery and Sergiy Stakhovsky, Ukraine’s former international tennis star turned winemaker (both pictured at Prowein), to advance the scheme, while bringing labels up to speed to comply with UK Food Standards Agency requirements.

“Ukraine [wine] has been a little under the radar, but one of the things we can do with Propeller is work with a lot of producers and help them consolidate, so it's easier to get to market,” Wynne-Griffiths told Harpers.

“We laid some groundwork before… then the war started, but the interest and desire to support Ukraine was obvious, so we thought ‘how do you help from a wine point of view?’”

Wynne-Griffiths decided that the strongest action in support of the Ukrainian wine industry was to actually get some of the wines over to the UK, with independent merchants that he’d sounded out saying that they “wanted to have something Ukrainian”.

This, he added, could have positive longer-term implications for Ukrainian wines in the UK market, with the quality of wines being brought over likely to create more lasting demand.

In the here and now, though, the aim is to sell through as much as possible as fast as possible, with a suggested 35% retail margin, but the option to donate some of that to key charities such as Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

“We hope that UK buyers, particularly the indies, will embrace the opportunity to stock some of these wines,” said Wynne-Griffiths.

“The wines are extraordinary and include an Albariño, orange wines, amphora-aged wines, indigenous varieties like Telti Kuruk and Sukholymanske, a sparkling wine and Bordeaux style reds matured in used barrels shipped from the likes of Chateau Lascombes – these wines deserve to be on our shelves and wine lists, not just because of the humanitarian backdrop.”

The four wineries represented are Beykush, Stakhovsky, Villa Tinta and Kolonist, with suggested RRPs starting at £17.95, with stock expected to arrive at LCB for sale from week commencing 13 June. 

For more information, visit Propeller Wine