Climbing vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see below the estate of Codrina, nestled among the quiet hills of Langhe in Piedmont, where Asti Spumante was born. But the war in Ukraine disturbed that calm, slowing down its exports to the East.
According to Marco Dogliotti, the son of the owner of this agricultural company located in Castiglione Tinella, south of Turin, in addition to the shock of Russia’s invasion of the neighboring country, Caudrina was a “hard blow” to cut off sales to Ukraine.
“Since 2017, we have been exporting to Ukraine about 4,000 bottles per year, 80% of which are Asti Spumante, with a good turnover. Unfortunately, this market, which flourished in 2021, is now completely lost,” he regrets.
Italy is the leading supplier of wine to Russia and Ukraine, far ahead of France. Over a quarter of Asti Spumante’s exports, which saw a 12% increase in production in 2021, came from these two countries, which are very fond of its sweetness and fine bubbles.
14 million bottles
“We hope that the war will end as soon as possible. From an economic point of view, it is indisputable that for us the markets of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus amount to 14 million bottles per year,” Flavio told AFP. President of the Asti DOCG consortium.
Two pallets of this very popular sparkling wine were ready from Kaudrina to Ukraine when the war started. “On the day of the invasion, our importers were calm, they did not imagine such a catastrophe, but the next day they fled,” recalls Marco Dogliotti.
Full beard, smirk, this 39-year-old winegrower says he is “passionate” about his job and is now looking for new opportunities around the world, whether in Japan, Australia or Nigeria.
The family business, founded in the 1940s by his grandfather, exports almost 40% of the wine grown on 25 hectares, and also produces white Muscat and the red Barbera grape variety.
If Asti Spumante is indeed on the list of luxury items whose export to Russia was banned by the European Union in mid-March, like champagne and grand cru, it should be excluded from it, since it only includes bottles worth more than 300 euros. a priori worried.
“Very few Italian wines fall into this category other than great wines like Super Tuscans, Brunello di Montalcino or Piedmontese Barolo, which are sold at very high prices,” Denis Pantini, agri-food and wine manager at Nomisma Observatory, told AFP.
“The Boys of Barolo”
For Asti Spumante, “the risk is not so much an export blockade, but a payment problem after Moscow’s exclusion from the banking Swift messaging network, the collapse of the ruble and the resulting difficulties in transportation.” he explained.
But some Italian wine exporters are making it through Belarus or Latvia and a few Russian banks that are not excluded from Swift, according to industry sources.
The war in Ukraine has also exacerbated the shortages and price hikes that have plagued viticulture since last year, such as shortages of cardboard, glass or aluminium, for which Russia is the world’s third-largest producer and used to make capsules.
“Last week we were on the verge of being out of sales due to lack of packaging, but at the last moment our supplier was able to deliver it to us,” says Giovanni Correggia, 29, head of fine organic wines. in the Canal in the Roero region, which borders the Langhe.
His father, Matteo Corregia, was one of the famous “Boys of Barolo” who, in the 80s and 90s, revolutionized the wines of his territory and managed to make them famous all over the world, starting with the United States.
As for Russia, the experience of a small Italian company founded in 1985 turned out to be sad: after several years of cooperation, its Moscow importer had to close in 2018 on suspicion of money laundering, leaving large debts.