Ochakovo launches into wine

Related tags Wine Alcoholic beverage

Ochakovo, one of Russia's best known brewers, has launched itself
into the wine market in an ambitious move to revive the flagging
fortunes of the country's wine industry, writes Angela

The first shipments of the semi-sweet wine called Cancan and manufactured by Ochakovo's subsidiary, Southern Wine Company (SWC), have already hit the shelves in Moscow, and the brewer has made little secret of its ambitions in the wine market.

By 2007, the company hopes to be one of the top five wine producers in Russia - even though it is starting from nothing - an ambition to match its successes in the beer and soft drinks sectors, where is already among the biggest players.

"Today Russian-made wines are a rarity,"​ said Ochakovo's president Aleksey Cocetov, "but in the 19th century Russian wines regularly won medals at international exhibitions. We are hoping for a return to those glory days. Cancan is a low-cost grape wine, but it is only the start of our plans for the wine sector.

"Later this year SWC will launch a more upmarket wine, while next year we hope to launch a vintage premium wine. By 2007, SWC will have a production capacity of 1 million decalitres."

Ochakovo began selling SWC's wines - along with imported wines from Moldova (traditionally Russia's biggest supplier), the US, Greece, Argentina and South Africa - in the Southern Federal District back in February, using its base in Krasnodar.

SWC was created in 2003 and is on the Taman Peninsula, in the 19th century the centre of Russian winemaking. The region is blessed with a large number of warm, sunny days which help grapes to ripen, while the mild winters allow them to escape the rigours of snow and frost.

SWC has more than 1,000 hectares of vines and a newly refurbished winery which has cost Ochakovo more than RUR500 million. The winery can process 15,000 tons of grapes per year, producing 1 million decalitres of wine. The Cancan brand was first launched in 2003, but the new wine produced by SWC now takes advantage of the new production technology at the winery. Furthermore, the wine is now bottled in Taman - before it was shipped in bulk to Ochakovo's plant in Moscow for bottling.

The wine, which is sold in Bordeaux-style bottles, sells for RUR70 per 70 centilitre bottle, and will initially be sold in Moscow and its surrounding region, and the Southern Federal District around Krasnodar.

Russian consumption patterns have changed dramatically over the last few years, with a clear shift away from vodka towards 'lighter' alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine. This has seen increasing numbers of imported wines on Russian shelves, but has also led to the burgeoning revival of the domestic wine industry.

According to data from the Federal Statistical Service, in 2004 Russia manufactured about 40 million decalitres of grape wine, some 7.2 per cent higher than in 2003.

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