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Sometimes it seems unbelievable that facing so many destructions of towns and entire cities, the loss of thousands and thousands of people, destroyed wealth, and putting all our energy into the desire to drive the invader out of this sacred Ukrainian land, it seems unbelievable, I say, that Ukraine and Ukrainians have preserved and deepened a process that began several years before: the rebirth of the Ukrainian wine industry and the understanding that this explosion that is coming is the other side of the coin of explosions, because this is the explosion of progress, and the opening of a door that leads to a staircase, which only has room to go up and where there is no place for those who want to go down.
I am an importer and producer in Ukraine. First, of course, I imported my own Vinos de La Luz, until we felt the duty to contribute our experience to the local industry. And there Big Wines Big Art, Odesa Black 2020, Ivan Marchuk Limited Edition, was born. Ivan Marchuk, a dear friend and one of the most important painters in the world, gave us an incredible work, which is part of the label.
Big Wines LLC is the arm of Vinos de La Luz in Ukraine and is directed – in all aspects – by Nataliia Burlachenko, to whom we owe the merits of Vinos de La Luz in Ukraine, and many recognitions for Ukraine in the world. The launch of Big Wines Big Art immediately earned the 2023 Gold Medal at the Berliner Wine Trophy, the 2023 Gold Medal at Mundus Vini, and in October, it received the 2023 Great Gold Medal from one of the most difficult competitions I know: CERVIM, the great competition held in Italy for Extreme and Heroic Wines. When I started importing my own wines, I found an immature market. There were opportunities for all foreign producers, and annual consumption grew until reaching €300,000,000 of imported products, wine and others. Competition is always healthy, although Ukraine still supports oligopolies in many imported brands, which importers repeatedly buy from competitor importers themselves, to sell in their stores. But that is going to finish step by step. It is a matter of time before the offer is segmented, especially on-trade, where the growth of HORECA had, maintains, but will have an unstoppable growth. It is logical that during wartime the priority is items related to subsistence. And although we will always consider wine part of the food chain when there is a crisis derived from a war conflict, neither local consumers nor importers bother us to tighten our belts a little but… staying in the market, with less, but staying here.
It has cost so much to impose the smells and flavors of wines from all over the world that no crisis can convince us that there will not be a good business in the future. And there is a reason that will weigh heavily at the time of victory: when all the Ukrainians who went into exile and drink wine there return – generally the closest one in Europe, they will come after tasting a level of wines of superior quality and at affordable prices.
Ukrainians will come from Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Great Britain, Hungary, Germany, and Holland, which are producing and importing countries with great internal competition based on quality. Let’s not leave Poland out, – which has received millions of Ukrainians – and which, in addition to a gigantic supply of imported wines, has a wine industry that is already common on the menus of the best restaurants and – not a minor detail – in its very large duty free shops in its international airports. The question that arises is what will happen to the Ukrainian industry when the local market begins to demand more quality from the wines produced today on its 28,000 hectares, which will be much more than 40,000 after the victory.
They are going to ask for the same quality that they have tried until recently in other countries around the world. And immediately the big question arises: are Ukrainian producers prepared to respond with quality to demand?
To answer that question you do not have to speak with your heart, but with facts. Recently, I have been a judge in many wine competitions, where small producers have and are anxiously waiting for the results of the tastings. They have known before and they know today that in matters of quality, the jurors are qualified not to reject a wine but to point out that it must improve. And I have spoken with most of about 120 small producers, among which there are several who already have national and international recognition (when at CERVIM Big Wine Big Art Odesa Black 2020 won the Great Gold Medal, the Gold Medals were for two organic Ukrainian wines that I have seen grow practically from the production of the first bottle). It is true that the industry’s greats have an important level of quality, but never in the history of free competition has a product related to the senses been able to avoid being surpassed in quality, even if not in quantity. Small producers have grown, and I would say that some no longer fit into the “small producers” clothing. But Ukraine has also grown in the institutional world of wine.
The entry of the country into the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) by the hand and will of the Minister of Agriculture, and with the swords of Volodomyr Pechko and Nataliia Burlachenko, in an unforgettable Assembly and a powerful speech by the Official Delegation, opened the doors of the world on November 4, 2022, in Mexico.
The entry of an intermediate organization Ukrsadvinprom – into the FIVS, which brings together all the producing companies in the world, the agreements that same organization are being made with international organizations to develop training programs, also the presence of Ukrainian wines at the Cite du Vin in Bordeaux, France, and even the work of DRINKS+ and the presence of many producers in the international expositions (PROWEIN, VINITALY, VINEXPO) and others regionals one, are an eloquent example of the giant steps that producers are taking. In other words, Ukraine is already launched, and the only thing left is to end this war with the victory that the country deserves, so that the best can dedicate their time and energy to developing the wine industry. They must have time to meet with the forces and capitals of the world who have already agreed to participate in the reconstruction of every corner of the country.
It is part of the Ukraine Marshall Plan that is already reaching several cities. There is no return on the path of growth of the industry, and I can say it from my historical perspective because I lived in it for the last 50 years: Ukraine is going to follow the path that Argentina, South Africa, and New Zealand have already traveled, and now are beginning to travel Great Britain and Sweden: parade with quality and not much quantity, the great Ukrainian wine-growing powers of the world.
UKRAINIAN PRODUCERS: JUST FOLLOW YOUR DESTINY!