EBRD and EU open up trade opportunities for winery Vinaria din Vale
By Volker Ahlemeyer
Moldova’s wine-makers are only partly known in European countries. And yet they can look back on a proud 4,000-year-old tradition of cultivating grapes in the country’s river valleys.
It is thus not a surprise that Moldova boasts some enormous wine cellars, including the world’s largest, Milestii Mici, covering an area of 200km of subterranean galleries – putting any sci-fi, life underground fantasies to shame. Yuri Gagarin,the cosmonaut and first man in space, stayed for a tasting in neighbouring Cricova, supposedly re-emerging only two days later.
“Our wines are very well known locally,” said Alexandr Rudenko, Director of Vinaria din Vale. “We hope to gain the same recognition around the globe in the near future.”
So where, if you’ll pardon the pun, are the bottle-necks? Why do only those business-travellers, tourists and eastern European enthusiasts in-the-know know about Moldovan wine? How can it conquer the world?
Modern marketing for export markets
“It is naïve to think that people will magically know about us,” said Mr Rudenko. “We realised that our company needed expert support in the area of marketing and turned to the EBRD for help.”
The EBRD’s Advice for Small Business worked with Vinaria din Vale to improve the marketing of its wines. It brought the company into contact with a local expert, who analysed its existing and upcoming competition.
He also created a website to present Vinaria din Vale’s vines to the outside world and to sell them, through online sales.
1,500 people have visited the website every month since its launch. Many of them were European exporters, so that the company was able to develop new business partnerships.
“There are many export opportunities for Moldovan businesses – now more than ever, since Moldova signed a free trade agreement with the EU a few years ago,” said Veronica Arpintin from the EBRD.
“Moldovan wineries, fruit processors, manufacturers and service providers increase their sales on international markets and they win EU consumers and become globally competitive.”
The EBRD supports companies in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to trade with the EU in many ways: €380 million in credit lines and trade finance for partner banks help SMEs to modernise their equipment and raise their products and practices to EU standards.
There are also direct financing available and advisory services to provide businesses with the know-how to grow. These projects are supported by the EU through its EU4Business initiative.
More than 60 per cent of Moldovan exports go to the EU – making it by far Moldova’s most important trading partner.
Wine for the world
For Mr Rudenko and his wine business, the project was a success with very real results.
“We have now expanded our offer and export to Italy, Poland, Denmark, Romania, the United States, Canada, China, Japan and other new markets,” says Mr Rudenko.
“This has provided a real boost in our business: our turn-over has increased by 20 per cent and we have been able to hire 10 more employees since the launch of our website and our new branding.”
The EBRD has supported the wine industry through various advisory projects – with funding from the European Union and Sweden. This included advice on marketing, energy savings and international certifications for wine producers but also on branding and improving sales for a wine bar in the capital Chisinau.
The Bank also organised several training sessions that brought together and improved links between suppliers and buyers in the agricultural sector. These served to increase expertise in profitable market niches, explore new export markets and modern production techniques.
They also included a study tour to Poland to increase knowledge about fresh produce retail, especially post-harvest handling and packaging standards in advanced markets.
At the same time, Moldova has firmly established itself on the wine map of connoisseurs. Several international competitions and wine clubs have honoured Moldovan producers with medals and accolades in recent years.
Free trade opportunities, new knowledge and the right taste for the international audience – Moldovan wine-makers benefit from fertile grounds to build a bright future for their industry.