Moldovan wine producer Asconi Corporation is launching 14 new wine ranges as the company seeks to build on a recent sales increase and recover Moldovan wine's lost export markets in Russia, writes Chris Mercer.
Most of the new product lines will be still wine - 11 different categories including dry, sweet and dessert varieties - but Asconi will also introduce two new sparkling wine ranges, named Victoria and Gold of Moldova, as well as a bag-in-the-box variety.
Each of the 14 new product lines will contain between three and seven types of wine and the company wants to launch the products later this month.
Asconi, currently the largest independent wine producer in Moldova with 10 of its varieties recently making it into Moldova's top 100, will use its new ranges to try and hold off increasing competition from higher quality New World wines in its all important Russian market.
The company claimed it had been following trends in consumer preferences closely and will use its premier winery, Vitis Hincesti, to make nine of its new product lines. The firm has also been buoyed by a 20 per cent increase in case sales during 2004, selling almost two million cases.
Russia buys 80 per cent of all Moldovan wine and Asconi is the most recognized brand. Yet Moldova's share of the total Russian wine market was 70 per cent in 2000, but in 2003 fell to 63 per cent, and is now more like 50 per cent.
According to Pavel Shapkin, chairman of Russia's National Alcohol Association, Russian consumers who wish to buy better bottles of wine assume they must look to other countries of origin. "Moldovan wines have a reputation as being popular with low-income consumers, who pay around RUR70-80 ($2.30 -2.60) for a bottle but have no hope of paying any more," he said.
Georgy Kozub, chairman of the Moldovan Wine Exporters' Association, agreed: "We are not at a complete loss but the situation cannot remain as it is. We need to improve the quality, as well as the image, of our products. And I do not mean just the wines, but also the ingredients and the material used to make them - this is the area where Moldova is being outperformed by other wine-producing countries."
The problem has become a national dilemma in Moldova and Asconi, among others, will be encouraged by a new government fund set up to subsidise new vineyard plantations as an attempt to protect the country's share of the Russian market against European and New World producers. Asconi expects to be awarded $680,000 from this for the 925 acres of vineyards that it planted earlier in 2003.