The only bottling currently underway in Ukrainian wineries is the making of Molotov Cocktails. Work in the vineyards has stopped as winemakers turn their attention to armed resistance to the Russian invasion of their country and delivering humanitarian aid. L.M.Archer hears from some leading winemakers as well as winemaker associations in Ukraine and how some global consortia and retailers are doing their bit for the Ukrainian cause.
“I would love to tell you more about Ukrainian winemaking, terroirs, grapes, etc., but after our victory!”
“It is war in Ukraine!” says Victoria Agromakova, CEO of Wine and Spirits Ukraine (VIA-Group LLC)
Russia invaded their country on February 24, 2022. Quickly, Ukrainian winemakers traded wine for weapons.
“We had to retrain in connection with Russia’s invasion of our land,” says Oksana Buyachok, owner of Fathers Wine, located in western Ukraine. “For now we have already made 2,500 Molotov cocktails, the so-called “Bandera smoothie.” We provide our civil protection office, and all those who need such a protective “wine”.”
Additionally, her winery sews pillows and blankets, fabricates metal hedgehogs and streamers, collects humanitarian aid for refugees, and prepares food for conscripts. “We are doing, and will do everything necessary, to win our country!” says Buyachok.
She isn’t alone. “I know no one now who didn’t take part in the fight against Russia,” confirms Agromakova. “As well, I don’t know anyone who works at [a] winery at the moment, because now in wartime there are completely different needs. Now winemakers are bottling not wine, but gasoline for Molotov Cocktails to protect their land from Russian troops.”
Aside from stalling wine production, the war also strangles beverage imports and exports. “The only goods we are receiving now [are] medicine, military machines, ammunition, and food,” explains Agromakova. “Moreover, the sale of alcohol in Ukraine is now prohibited in all regions at any time. We need a sober mind to protect our freedom!”
Other Ukrainian winemakers assist, too. Svetlana Tsybak, head of the Association of Black Sea Wine Crafts Producers, organizes and delivers humanitarian aid to Ukrainian cities hit hardest. In Barcelona, winery owner Eugene Sheyderis of southern Ukraine’s Beykush Winery coordinates humanitarian aid and delivery of goods and medicines to his native country.
Elsewhere, non-Ukrainian winemakers also contribute. Private Primum Familiae Vini (PFV) donated over $28,000 (25,000 euros) to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The global consortium of twelve wine families wanted to make a collective donation, in addition to individual efforts at their respective wineries, which include Marchesi Antinori (Tuscany), Baron Philippe de Rothschild (Bordeaux), Joseph Drouhin (Burgundy), Domaine Clarence Dillon (Bordeaux), Egon Müller Scharzhof (Mosel), Famille Hugel (Alsace), Pol Roger (Champagne), Famille Perrin (Rhône Valley), Symington Family Estates (Portugal), Tenuta San Guido (Tuscany), Familia Torres (Spain) and Vega Sicilia (Ribera del Duero).
”It was important to do something,” says Véronique Boss-Drouhin of Maison Joseph Drouhin.
Getting support stateside
In the United States, New-Jersey based Royal Wine Corp. will donate 100% of sales between February 24 – March 10, 2022 from two of their leading vodka brands, Ukrainian-made Xdar, and Polish-made Lvov (named for the Ukrainian town Lviv) to fund Emergency Ukraine. The family set a minimum donation of $30,000.
“We searched for organization that had the infrastructure to create an immediate impact, where our money can save lives and save pain now,” says Mordy Herzog, CEO of Royal Wine Corp. “As a family, we felt helpless watching these horrific acts unfold. We knew that we need to act. To make a difference. This is about Ukraine today, and tomorrow it can be another country. It’s about humanity and freedom.”
Additionally, the company is closing out inventory of their Russian house vodka, Rusya, and plans to eventually discontinue it. Ultimately, Herzog hopes others will follow his family’s example by supporting Ukraine. “We did this to encourage other companies in our industry and beyond to follow, and open their wallets to support the refugees,” sums up Herzog. “We can, and should, make a difference. Boycotts are very important, but in the short term we need to do more. We need to give.”
As the war grinds on, so does the country’s pleas for help. “To be honest, the only help Ukraine needs now is more medicine, military machines, and ammunition,” concludes Agromakova in her email. For humanitarian assistance, she suggests donating to Help Ukraine. “I would love to tell you more about Ukrainian winemaking, terroirs, grapes, etc., but after our victory!”
This article first appeared in Wine Business Monthly