Moldova - Sour Grapes

Tiny Moldova is the world's seventh biggest wine exporter so a ban on exports to Russia has hit hard. Tessa Dunlops asks if Russian politics will crush this thriving industry.

Wine making in Moldova is a source of national pride – they have been growing vines for centuries. During Soviet times the country was encouraged to become one of the USSR's major wine suppliers and it has remained so ever since. But recently Russia banned the importation of Moldovan wine for the second time in a decade.

For Assignment, Tessa Dunlop visits the prestigious Cricova winery - whose cellars have 120km of underground roads and holds bottles for the likes of Angela Merkel and President Putin - to see how the ban is affecting the poorest country in Europe.

Moldova fears that a continuing embargo will devastate its fragile economy. The Moldovan president has condemned it as an aggressive move by Russia to bully Moldova into reconsidering its commitment to forging closer relations with the European Union. Many Moldovans believe Russia wants to make their country reconsider ratifying an agreement with the EU at the end of November.

The result is that growers have vats of maturing wine that may have no market. Enterprising younger wine producers, many of whom bought out former state enterprises, fear their investment may have been a mistake. Workers are concerned they may lose their jobs with little chance of alternative employment in the poorest country in Europe.

For Moldova this symbolises a bigger problem – it wants to join the EU party and become part of Europe but its economy remains heavily dependent on Russia for gas and cash. Meanwhile the 14th Russian army is based just miles from their capital in the disputed territory of Transnistria. Moldova faces difficult choices.

(Image: Oak barrels of wine in Cricova’s subterranean winery. BBC copyright)

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