The Buyer
How Ukraine is finding markets for its wines against the odds

How Ukraine is finding markets for its wines against the odds

Despite the on-going war with Russia, Ukrainian winemakers are continuing to brave missile attacks and do all they can to work in their vineyards in order to make the quality wine they know they have to make in order to provide for their future and ensure its winemaking sector can still prosper against all adversity. Here Victoria Makarova looks at what the current situation is for winemakers and their families and local communities and examines the new opportunities now opening up across Europe – in key markets like Estonia – for its wines.

1st March 2024by Victoria Makarova
posted in Insight,

You can visit and talk to Ukrainian producers and taste their wines on the Wines of Ukraine stand at this month’s ProWein exhibition in Dusseldorf.

Sad but true: the full-scale Russian aggression in Ukraine is on-going, and the forecasts are that it will take a few more years at least. The world (the better part of it) is watching the heroic resistance of Ukrainians with admiration and awe. The governments and people of many countries are doing whatever they can to support the nation fighting for the security of Europe, if not the global security.

Like all other industries, Ukraine’s wine sector has been affected by the invasion, yet despite the economic problems and the horrors of war, Ukrainian winemakers are getting the job done, stoically – cultivating their vines, some of them under regular shelling and missile attacks, and are continuing to make high-quality wines that demonstrate the diversity of Ukrainian terroirs and the power of Ukrainian character, winning medals from reputable international wine competitions. All of which are helping to grow Ukrainian wine exports.

Wines of Ukraine was able to make a big impact at ProWein in 2023 and will be back again this year

Wines of Ukraine, a new brand, launched just a couple of years ago, is doing a lot in order to promote Ukrainian wines both locally and internationally. Last year’s debut at ProWein was extremely successful and the Ukrainian pavilion attracted the attention of many experts, journalists and buyers hosting hundreds of blitz tastings and business negotiations. Some of which have been converted into existing and prospective export contracts.

Wines of Ukraine is returning to ProWein again this month with new hopes and ambitions. But, crucially there’s a massive shift in their focus.

Driving exports

Serhiy Klimov of Wines of Ukraine representative, explains: “Ukrainian winemakers have officially not been exporting their products to Russia (which used to be a huge market for Ukrainian wines and spirits) since 2014. The loss of the significant share of export gave impetus to more active cooperation with the European, British, American and Asian markets, and we consider these changes positive. This year, we plan to expand the geography and grow the volume of our exports even more.”

Apart from the big winemaking companies and major players such as Shabo, Chateau Chizay, Koblevo or Bolgrad, smaller craft wineries are also now looking to export and doing well in premium wine merchants, online and in the on-trade.

“Selling Ukrainian wines in Europe is definitely a challenge. But we embrace it totally,” says Martin Pärn, co-owner of Veini Ekspress, a wine import company from Tallinn, Estonia. Two years ago Pärn and his business partner, Juhan-Markus Laats, launched an online store called which is looking to provide a new platform for its wineries.

Ukrainian producers are using major fairs like ProWein to grow their international exports and get more of their wines on retail shelves in key markets. Photo: Stanislav Moškov/Õhtuleht

Veni Ekspress has built a reputation over recent years for holding monthly pop-up wine sales and introducing various regions and their wines to Estonian wine consumers who embraced the chance to to taste something new every month. When the Ukrainian-Russian war broke out Pärn and Juhan-Markus felt the urge to do something to support the country: “We were thinking — what could we do? We are not soldiers, we do not produce weapons. We sell wines. So we decided to find Ukrainian wines to sell,” says Pärn.

Martin Pärn has shown what success importers can have with Ukrainian wine when given their full support

They even travelled to Ukraine in April 2022, just two months after Russia’s invasion, to a relatively safe area, Zakarpattia (Transcarpathia), which is also one of Ukraine’s most important wine regions. They had an opportunity to visit several wineries, such as Chateau Chizay and Stakhovsky Wines, to see the amazingly beautiful and well-kept vineyards, and meet the winemakers.

There was a lot of tasting and discussion with the Wines of Ukraine team representative, Svitlana Tsybak, who is also the chief executive of Beykush, another wonderful craft winery located in the Mykolaiv region, in the south of Ukraine.

“It felt somewhat surreal at that time, the country in the middle of the horrifying war, the news of missile attacks, occupation and devastation, Svitlana was also quite worried because Beykush winery was located very close to the frontline – and there we were, discussing business. However, we were determined to make it work, and so were our Ukrainian partners,” adds Pärn.

Ukrainian winemakers are doing what they can to carry on and make wines in spite of the on-going Russian war

The first Ukrainian pop-up they held back home in Estonia was an outstanding success as people came out in their support for the Ukrainian people, but were also then surprised and pleased to taste the quality of the wines. They now had the chance to taste new varieties such as Odesa Black, a powerful Ukrainian red, or Telti-Kuruk, the sophisticated indigenous white. As well as discover what other international varieties, like Albariño, Timorasso, Tempranillo, Pinotage, are like when grown in Ukraine.

The fact they were still able to taste, drink and buy Ukrainian wine despite the war was an unexpected opportunity.

Pushing ahead

“It went so well that we decided we couldn’t drop the idea of selling Ukrainian wines, even though it took a lot of promotion and education for consumers and professionals. So we launched an online store, naming it, delivering not only to Estonia, but all over the EU,” says Pärn.

Veini Ekspress is also now selling Ukrainian wines to the on-trade and has won a listing on board Tallink Silja, a large passenger cruise ship company, which has included Ukrainian wines in its range. Pärn and Laats have now opened a bar, together with Ukrainian restaurant, Slava, in central Tallinn,translated as glory — as in “Slava Ukrayini”, or “glory to Ukraine”, a slogan which is important and meaningful to all Ukrainians and their supporters. The bar, of course, offers Ukrainian wines.

Juhan-Markus Laats pouring Ukrainian wine at the new Slava Ukrainian wine bar in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo: Stanislav Moškov/Õhtuleht

In 2023, Pärn and Laats visited Kyiv, this time to attend Wine&Spirits, one of Ukraine’s biggest wine fairs, and to join the jury of Ukraine Wine&Spirit Awards, the biggest wine competition in the country which is helping to show the impressive diversity of styles and varieties now available in the country.

“We believe that Ukrainian wines are an integral part of the European wine family. Ukraine has been long absent and winemaking has not been a priority, but this is about to change, and Ukrainians will bring their winemaking back to the European wine map where it rightly belongs,” says Pärn. “European wines without Ukrainian wines are not complete; we would miss Telti Kuruk, Odesa Black, Suholymansky, Citron of Magarach and many others. We would also be lacking the Ukrainian versions of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Saperavi, Chardonnay. The list goes on and on.”

  • Find out for yourself what Ukraine has to offer and show your support for its producers at Prowein where there will be 17 wineries taking part. The Wines of Ukraine stand is in Hall 13 H52. To book appointments in advance please contact the team at: