Paradoxically, the war unleashed by Russia contributed to the growing popularity of Ukrainian wine both in Ukraine itself and on the world market.
The head of the Ukrainian winery “Beykush” Svetlana Tsybak.A photo: Andras Kralla
“At first we were afraid. But now we understand that war is our reality, and we are fighting. And we will fight to the end,” Ukrainian Svetlana Tsybak says with anger in her eyes.
In the middle of the war, Svetlana is trying to save herself and her loved ones, her small business and the entire Ukrainian wine industry from death.
The mission looks daunting given that Ukraine’s economy will shrink by at least 30% this year alone and that, according to estimates, at least 350 billion euros will be required to restore the country.
Svetlana is the executive director of one of the most reputable wine-making companies in Ukraine – “Beykush”, and at the same time the head of the Union of Winemakers of Ukraine.
Before the war, the world knew little about Ukrainian products, especially about Ukrainian wines, but today interest in everything Ukrainian in many countries is only growing.
For Ukrainian enterprises located far from the combat zone, this is encouraging. The rest will hardly be consoled by the growth of foreign demand, since they have practically nothing to export today.
The owner of the winery “Beykush” (Beykush) in the Nikolaev region is Evgen Shneideris. He founded a winery by the Black Sea in 2010.
The executive director of the company is Svetlana Tsybak.
Beikush vineyards are 11 hectares of French and Italian clones of popular white and red grape varieties.
In 2022, Ukrainian wines “Beykush” received a gold medal at the international tasting wine competition Decanter World Wine Awards.
The winery “Beikush”, located in the Nikolaev region on the Black Sea coast, was lucky: despite the fact that Russian troops completely surrounded the region at one time, they never occupied Beikush, did not plunder or blow it up – except perhaps a rocket flying over the vineyard , stuck in the ground in the middle of the field.
Many other wineries in Ukraine were far less fortunate.
“Even if the occupied territories are returned to Ukraine, local producers will not be able to produce wine for a long time. There are no funds, the equipment is stolen,” explains Svetlana Tsybak.
Impact on the industry
If at the very beginning of the war, all business in Ukraine literally froze (including the wine industry), in recent months the situation has begun to gradually improve. Ukrainians have overcome the first shock and understand that they must live and fight on.
Today in Ukraine there is not a single industry that would not suffer from the war. Svetlana cites large factories as an example, the lion’s share of their products used to be exported.
A Russian rocket, flying over the Beykush vineyard, got stuck in the ground in the middle of the field.A photo: Private archive
So, near Nikolaev, a large enterprise for the production of tomato paste was destroyed. “Completely destroyed. There was nothing left of him. Nothing at all,” says Svetlana.
In the same region, the largest poultry farm in Eastern Europe was recently bombed to the ground, where more than five million birds were raised.
“There are fears that there will be an ecological disaster, because there are dead chickens everywhere. You can’t even clean the territory from them – Russian troops are all around, ”Svetlana shares the details.
New bars during the war
Svetlana Tsybak recalls how on February 24, work at the Beikush winery completely stopped.
The local hotel and restaurant market actually ceased to exist with the start of the war, since there was nothing to sell.
Prohibition was also introduced in the country, prohibiting the sale of alcohol. Many enterprises managed to resume at least some activity only at the beginning of April.
“Alcohol could only be sold from eleven in the morning to three in the afternoon. From eight o’clock in the evening, a curfew was in effect throughout the country, and people had to stay at home, ”Svetlana describes the situation.
Previously, we could not even dream of contracts with chain stores: we were always told that only 10-15% of the space on the shelves next to imported wines is allocated to Ukrainian wines.
Executive Director of Beykush Company
Today curfew in Ukrainian cities starts at 11 pm. Well, restaurants, meanwhile, are ordering more and more wines from local producers.
Over the past couple of months, according to Svetlana, several new bars, cafes and restaurants have already opened in various cities of Ukraine, far from the front line.
“It’s so strange for me, they are just crazy!” exclaims Svetlana.
According to her, new catering outlets in the country are often opened by Ukrainians who fled to safer regions from territories occupied and plundered by Russian troops.
Svetlana herself has her own wine bar in the Old Town of Kyiv, which, as it turned out, she would gladly sell if there was a buyer.
“At the moment, things are not going very well there,” the hostess explains. “Some days there are customers, on others it’s completely silent.”
Harsh winter ahead
After Russian troops bombed to the ground the warehouses of several wholesale importing firms near Kyiv, retail chains began to show more interest in Ukrainian manufacturers.
“Before, we could not even dream of contracts with chain stores: we were always told that only 10-15% of the space on the shelves next to imported wines is allocated to Ukrainian wines,” says Svetlana.
Restaurants are opening in the country, wineries are receiving new orders. However, local residents, meanwhile, are increasingly thinking about how to survive the upcoming harsh winter.
Ukrainians have already been warned that in winter it will be much colder than usual in houses and apartments: the temperature in buildings will remain at 15-16 degrees, and electricity will have to be saved.
“We don’t know what will happen,” Svetlana states. “I think I will move in with my parents: they have their own heating system in the house.”
According to her, in the conditions of resource austerity, local restaurants and cafes will probably also have to be far from being heated at full capacity.
“I don’t know if people will have a desire to visit catering places where they will be cold. But it is possible that instead of wine, customers will want to drink vodka and whiskey,” Svetlana Tsybak jokes sadly.
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