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Azerbaijani Wine Is Going Places, As Government Boosts Exports

Nargiz Mammadli

In 2017, Azerbaijani winemakers produced more than one million deciliters (or roughly 25,000 gallons) of wine, of which 375,000 deciliters were exported.

Azerbaijan’s Association of Wine Producers and Exporters recently announced its intent to expand wine exports throughout Asia and Europe.

“We expect to start exporting wine to Kazakhstan before the end of 2018. We also expect to expand exports to the Baltic countries, Ukraine, and Belarus that are potentially large markets for the sale of Azerbaijani wine,” Elchin Madatov, who chairs Association of Wine Producers and Exporters, told Trend

Wine shops from these countries are selling Azerbaijani wine in small volumes, according to Madatov.

Kazakhstan’s top wine suppliers include Georgia, Moldova, Spain and Italy, according to reports by the Kazakh State Revenue Committee. The main importers of Azerbaijani wine include Russia (338,000 deciliters) and China (27,000 deciliters).

In March, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev approved an eight-year State Program on Development of Winemaking. The government is planning to open an Azerbaijani trading house in Shanghai, China by the end of the year, which will specialize in wine, while domestic producers and exporters will have an opportunity to distribute their products to what is considered one of the most competitive wine markets. In addition, officials from Baku have announced their intent to increase wine exports fivefold by 2025.

In 2017, Azerbaijani winemakers produced more than one million deciliters (or roughly 25,000 gallons) of wine, of which 375,000 deciliters were exported, bringing in nearly $6 million revenues for the country.

Viticulture was the leading branch of agriculture in Azerbaijan and one of the main sources of economic well-being. Having all the favorable conditions for growing grapes, about 500 Swedish Germans moved to Azerbaijan in 1818 where they established three settlements – Helenendorf in Ganja, Annenfeld in Shamkir, and Traubenfeld in Tovuz. These three regions are considered a cradle of winemaking in Transcaucasia, or the South Caucasus.

In 1870, a German family led by Christoff Vohrer launched a large wine and cognac factory there that once supplied its products for the entire Russian market. When World War I started in 1914, the Vohrer Brothers’ Trading House was selling 350,000 liters of wine annually. The descendants of the Swedish Germans have long since returned to their homeland, but their legacy lives on, as locals in the region have adopted their methods of winemaking.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign, launched in 1985, resulted in nearly 130,000 hectares of vineyards getting rooted out in Azerbaijan. The subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the war over Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, and economic turmoil all took their toll and negatively affected winemaking. Only 20,000 hectares of vineyards remain today in Azerbaijan.

In 2003, Azerbaijan’s government launched a project in a bid to study varieties of grapes grown in the country. Researchers have counted 450 local varieties of grapes. Local producers are known for winning numerous international accolades for both wine and cognac, including at competitions held in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Frankfurt, Geneva, and contests hosted in France. Along with traditional red and white wines made from grapes, Azerbaijani winemakers produce an original drink made from pomegranates with a delicate taste.

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