This month Member InFocus speaks with
Ion Mereuta, sales manager, Asconi Winery, Moldova
For our latest series of interviews with key members of VINEX we turn to Moldova to talk to one of the leading producers in this fast growing and important wine producing country for both bulk and bottled wines - the Asconi Winery and its sales manager Ion Mereuta.
Tell us something about the winery and your history?
We started out in 1994 when we invested in planting 550 hectares of vineyards, which we split between 70% red varietals and 30% white. The next stage in our development is to expand the our vineyards to 1,000 hectares which would make us one of the biggest producers in Moldova. We want to be in a position where we are in the main using our own grapes in our own wines and only buy in grapes when we really have to. We now have an overall capacity for 6m litres of wine, or 3.5m bottles.
What grape varieties do you grow?
We have a wide range of both indigenous, local varieties, but also the main international ones too. But our main focus on the international side would be on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and a little bit of Malbec. As for Moldovan varieties we have a number but mainly Fetească Albă and Feteasca Neagra. We will be planting both more indigenous and international varieties. We need to get that balance right, but we can find a place in the market for both.
How long have you been involved in exporting your wine?
Ever since we stared out in 1994. Exports are now 99% of what we do. Around 60% of what we do is in bottled wine and 40% is in bulk. Our main markets for bulk wine are to Germany and the UK. We look to work with some of the major retailers and operators on their own label projects. Like in the UK where we are helping Morrisons and Kingsland Drinks source their wines from Moldova.
And for bottled wine?
Our main bottled wine markets are across the European Union and then out to Canada and the US. We are also selling wines into China, but it is a challenging market. We want to increase our bottled wine exports into the US, Canada and Japan.
How do you build your export sales?
ProWein is a major fair for us. We have been going there for 10 years when Moldova first took out a generic stand. It works really well for us and we were able to have 12 good meetings at this year’s fair. It is more business focused than other shows. We saw a lot of UK buyers at this year’s show. It’s good that they know the market and have heard of us. It’s very different to five years ago. People are now aware of what Moldova can offer.
What is the current pricing for your wines?
In April at ProWein we were quoting €0.60 for bulk wine and €2.50 per bottle on average. Which is very good value considering the quality of wine we are able to offer.
What about your own career as a winemaker?
I first started out in Moldova, but have also travelled the world and done harvests in the US, in California (Kendall Jackson), and Margaret River in Australia where I spent some time at La Crema.
What else are you doing at the winery?
We are investing a lot in the tourism side of the business and now have 20 rooms in a hotel. We also have our own restaurant. We get visitors from all over the world, from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, the United States, China, Japan and Europe. We also get a lot of visitors from Romania coming to the winery. People are so much more interested in discovering new places and also looking for new wine regions to explore which is good news for us and for Moldova.
How was the 2018 vintage for you in Moldova?
It was a good vintage. Higher than average. We had good weather during the key ripening period, and it helped produce grapes with good green tannins, but also with smooth, rounded finish on the wines.
Why are your working with VINEX?
It has been good for our business. First of all it is an easy platform to work with. It also helps you to plan your business better for the year, which is key. We, after all, need to run a sustainable business and both bulk wine and VINEX helps us with that.
How do you see the future for Moldovan wine?
We think the next few years will be very good for Moldovan wine. We have been there since the beginning of its journey. We like to look at South Africa as a role model and how that has emerged as a major wine producing and exporting country.
For more information, contact your VINEX Regional Manager here