Wine in Russia should have the status of a food, an official in the southern Krasnodar Territory has said. Alexander Pochinok, a winemaking enthusiast, quotes European experience and studies that prove the health benefits of moderate wine consumption. Winemakers support the initiative, but lawmakers are strongly opposed.
“Wine should not be treated as an alcoholic drink,” Alexander Pochinok told a roundtable held at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry on March 21. “Wine must be classified as a food product.” He is confident that this measure would help develop winemaking and grape growing in Russia.
Russia should follow the example of France, Italy, Spain and other European Union countries where wine is classed as a food and not regulated by the same laws as hard liquor, believes Leonid Popovich, president of the Russian Union of Vine Growers and Winemakers.
“There are two approaches to wine, treating as a farm product or as an industrial product,” State Duma deputy Mikhail Blinov told GZT.RU. “The law that regulates the production and sale of alcoholic drinks treats wine as a predominantly industrial product, while genuine grape wine requires painstaking soil cultivation.”
“Every year EU countries allocate 300 to 400 million euros in subsidies to promote wine production,” Popovich says. “In Russia, however, there is no appreciation of wine.” Wine production in Russia is today regulated by the same law as vodka, he complains. This, he believes, stands in the way of Russian grape growing and winemaking.
Although Russia’s anti-alcoholism strategy is focused on shifting from the consumption of strong drinks towards wine, experts agree little is being done to achieve this.
Vadim Drobiz, director of the Center for the Study of Federal and Regional Alcohol Markets, agrees that “wine should be governed by a separate law.” “Russia,’ he said, “is the only grape-growing and wine-producing country that does not have a separate law on grapes and wine.”
However, the federal authorities do not support the winemakers’ initiative. State Duma deputy Viktor Zvagelsky, who is in charge of Russia’s alcohol reforms, does not believe in the winemakers’ good intentions. In fact, he thinks state regulation of wine production should be tightened further.
At the same time, he believes that the state should help grape growers and winemakers. He refers to the technical regulations on the safety of wines and spirits common for all Customs Union countries, which contain a fixed definition of wine, as the main document for the sector.
Winemakers, however, do not believe that they will be allowed to participate in the debate on the regulations or suggest their amendments. “Experts are being kept out of discussions,” says Pochinok. “We will see the regulations for the first time when they are adopted.” Pochinok said he had been trying to obtain the text for several months now, but without success.