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BISHKEK (TCA) — Vine-growing and wine-making are among those old traditions in all of Kyrgyzstan and the south of Kazakhstan, while the east of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are now reviving the industry under new brands. Technological upgrading with European input could boost output even further with the outlook to conquer a place among global wine exporters.

Tolerable and affordable

The new development appears to be part of a regional trend and the overall impression is that winemaking has reached a turning point for the better. Still, winery in Central Asia has some catching up to do if it wants to meet domestic and export demand. The average consumer among the working and lower middle classes prefers imported wine mainly from Moldova and Georgia, which produced 98,800 and 120,104 tonne of wine respectively in 2013 and keep supplying both tolerable and affordable wine on Central Asia’s markets. Should local producers be able to reach adequate quality levels, then it would be thinkable that not only they will dominate the local markets but that export will bring considerable interest to the local industry and attract more domestic and international investors.

Demand outpaces production

Looking further ahead, not only a fair share on domestic markets is at stake, but Central Asian wines could even compete with their Caucasus and European competitors for export to Russia. The fact is that being a member of the Eurasian Economic Union such products will have a competitive cost since they will be completely duty free and export will not be subject to trade barriers in the form of duties, quotas, protection of local capital markets and other economic constraints. “Italian” wines produced within the EEU in accordance with all European standards and qualifications are considered “domestic” even though they are made with full support of European capital and technology.

Aloof of post-Soviet bureaucracy

On the ground, the various types of grapes are indigenous to Central Asia, such as the Angour (or Angur) of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan’s Bayan Shirey, Kuljinski, Maiski Cherny and Rubinovy Magaracha, Uzbekistan’s Gulyakandoz, Shirin, Taifi and Kishmish. Imported Riesling, Chardonnay, Muscat, Pinot, Cabernet, Carignan and other European types of grapes have become quite common in the region, resulting in blends which are not always familiar to the average European taste but quite unique in themselves.

This particularity has so far prevented the introduction of appropriate appellations in Central Asia’s wine industry, compatible with European parameters. The need of certification is another issue to be considered and this can be achieved with the introduction of European technology with the aim to preserve Central Asian wines’ special characteristics but under more measurable conditions. All this demands quality control without reducing quantity to middle-of-the-road levels. The advantage for those involved in such a venture is that winery in Central Asia has by and large remained aloof of post-Soviet waves of bureaucracy and state interference, and is thereby allowed to pursue independent marketing and sales competition in which quality prevails.

European equipment and technology

All this means that the importance of winery is being realised by an increasing part of the rural population throughout Central Asia.  The different wineries realized that the key to an expanded market is export and this demands a better quality and products suitable to the selected export market that given the present conditions can only be Russia. At agro-exhibitions in the region, European manufacturers of winery equipment have significantly increased their presence of late but if equipment is important, the need for an applied and tested technology is a condition for a successful development. This demands participation of foreign partners with a technology that should be introduced not only in the grapes processing but also in the vineyards with the introduction of new types of grapes and a considerable upgrading of cultivation methods in order to improve quality and grape selection.

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