Conflict In Crimea Casts Long Shadow Over European Wine Trade

Crimea has long been of strategic significance to its neighbours.

Perhaps you recognise the picture of Livadia Palace? This imposing residence in Yalta was built on the wishes of Tsar Nicolas II and his wife Aleksandra, inspired by their visit to renaissance Italy in 1908. This palace was inaugurated on 11th of September 1911. Before 9/11 became an infamous date, this had some occasion as writing the day, month and year numerically gives a palindrome.

Whilst war in Europe still raged the Palace hosted the Yalta Conference of February 1945 during which Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin decided what post-war Europe would look like.

This peninsular has recently again become the focus of events with far reaching consequences. Events that have overshadowed one of the most interesting things about this region; its unusual and fantastic wines.

Crimea has been producing wines for almost two centuries. The subtropical climate lends itself to producing fortified and dessert wines.

The most famous winery is at Massandra, founded near the end of the 19th century to produce wine for the imperial family. It survived a revolution, two world wars and a civil war. Apparently some of the wines within still bare the famous double-headed eagle, the crest of the Romanov family.

In August 2014 the Russian Federation instigated a trade embargo against Europe, the US and other western nations. However, it has not restricted the import of wine and spirits, worth around $1.8 billion to Europe. Imports make up around 80% of the Russian wine industry, but the story does not stop here.

A few days ago Decanter reported that Russia is planning to invest 250 million Euros in Crimea. This will increase vineyard area from 37,300ha to 100,000ha by 2025. Raising production form some 83 million cases to 600 million, a whopping 623% increase.

No doubt this is designed to allow Russia to reduce its dependency on wine imports and mitigate the impact of sanctions, which may last for decades to come.

The impact to Europe will be tangible. In 2012 France, Germany, Italy and Spain accounted for around $428 million of the $850 million worth of wine imported by Russia.

The current crisis may have quietened down due to events on the ground. However, the impact will no doubt play out for years to come.

Image is of “Livadia Palace Crimea“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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