The wine sector holds a unique distinction in Moldova: Wine is one of the only products exported with its full value chain completed in-country. From grape to glass, wine is produced, processed, and packaged in the small eastern European country, an approach that has cemented the sector’s role in economic growth and job creation. As of 2015, the wine industry represented 7 percent of Moldova’s exports worldwide and employed more than 200,000 citizens.
But this success comes after a serious setback. Following a Russian embargo of Moldovan wines in 2006 — a blow that caused wine’s gross domestic product contribution to drop from 9 percent in 2005 to 2.3 percent in 2013 — the country was faced with an uphill climb to rejuvenate the sector. How would producers bounce back and keep the sector competitive?
Rather than focus solely on the vineyard, the Moldovan government, aided by the USAID-funded Competitiveness Enhancement and Economic Development (CEED) I and II programs, took this opportunity to enact legislative changes and business reforms to strengthen the entire sector. That strategy cultivated a national identity and brand around wine that has helped Moldova better position itself in the international market today.
It’s a simple truth: Good wine sells better. Following the Russian embargo, there was a renewed emphasis on wine quality in order to seek out new markets. A first step in diversifying export destinations to favor European Union markets was to modernize the winemaking process in Moldova and make the product more appealing to buyers in Europe.
To improve the quality of wine, CEED worked with six Moldovan wineries from 2005 to 2010, improving grape crushing, fermentation, storage, treatment, and bottling processes. One of these wineries, Asconi increased sales to the Czech Republic to almost 2 million bottles by the end of 2008. And as quality rose, so did the price; from 2011 to 2014, the price of bottled wine exports increased by 15 percent.
To ensure that future improvements to the sector would be consistent nationwide, the Moldovan government passed Law 262/12 in November 2012 that amended the Vine and Wine Law. The new regulations, facilitated by the CEED II program, set up the National Office for Vine and Wine (ONVV) and the National Wine and Vine Fund, a public-private partnership supported by national funding to promote the country’s new brand: Wine of Moldova.
Since the launch of Wine of Moldova in 2013, an event facilitated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the ONVV has taken a lead role in implementing policies for the wine industry, establishing regulated quality standards and streamlining procedures around winemaking and licensing. For example, the 2015 Wine Law has helped Moldovan wine regulations better align with international standards. And the Vine and Wine Register Project has established geographic indicators for wine to meet EU “place of origin” requirements.