Quality wines pour into Russia

Wine imports into Russia have been gradually rebounding after bans on imports from Georgia and Moldova. That came at the same time as the introduction of a new customs and excise system in 2006. A whole new range of foreign brands is on the shelves now.

The Russian wine market is one of the country's fastest growing consumer areas and foreign winemakers have been pouring in, hoping to cash in on developing tastes.

Wine import volumes into the Russian Federation jumped more than 61% in the first quarter of 2007, amounting to more than $US162 million.

“In the last five years we have seen a boom in the development of imported wine. Premium imports account for a little less than half of non-sparkling wines. Sparkling wine is still 95-98% domestic,” estimated Bruce Chelemer, Corpora Vineyards & Winery.

This year's sales boom comes after 2006 saw the government take steps to protect consumers from illegally-imported and contaminated products. Wines coming from Moldova and Georgia, which historically accounted for a majority of Russia's imports, were halted.

Diversification in place

Today’s market is diversifying, with wines coming into the country from: Spain – 21.8%, France – 15.9%, Germany – 14.9%, Italy – 6.6%, Chile – 5.7%.

Importers and distributors have been emphasising quality control.

“In every country, there are unique varieties of wine and technologies used to perfect them.  At the present moment, a large number of products are imported into Russia from foreign countries.  What is important is that these wines are really wine, and that their quality is verified,” stressed Aleksandr Kolyasnikov, commercial director of BulVinTorg company.

The sector is also rebounding from the introduction of a new labeling and customs tariff system, with more domestic producers taking their place on shop shelves to compete with imports.