The Kremlin Nationalises Russia’s Biggest Winery

As Russia increases barriers to imported wines, its government has moved to expropriate Ariant Group, the country’s largest domestic wine producer. Sergey Panov reports.

Reading time: 1m 30s

Antipov arrested, assets confiscated (Photo: AI/DALL-E)
Antipov arrested, assets confiscated (Photo: AI/DALL-E)

Ariant's assets

Ariant Group was founded in 1995, by Yuri Antipov, one of 200 Russia's richest businessmen, who had made a considerable amount of money producing metal alloys for use in military equipment. This business enabled him to establish a huge agricultural holding company, close to the Black Sea in the south of Russia.

With 9,157 hectares of vineyards, a nursery with a 67% share of national production and sales of 3m seedlings in 2023, and 85 branded shops, Ariant was a major player not only in Russia, but also in the broader European wine sector. The group's activities extended beyond winemaking, and included plans for ambitious projects like a Federal Viticulture Center and a whisky distillery.

The seizure and legal drama

The legal saga involved the accusation against Antipov that his purchase of three metallurgical plants had been illegal. The authorities moved swiftly and dramatically thanks in part to the the case being handled by the all-powerful FSB.

Antipov, was arrested – and remains behind bars – and, within four weeks, assets worth billions of rubles were seized. He and his fellow defendants were given three days to read the 25 volumes of evidence produced by the prosecutors and three minutes to address the court.

Implications for the market

The Russian government has been working hard to boost local wine demand, at the expense of imports. So, in 2023, customs duties on wines from 'unfriendly countries' were hiked, giving Russian wines a €2.00 per bottle advantage over European counterparts. Now, European exporters face a fresh challenge: a new May 1, 2024 law is raising excise taxes on still wines still further, from 34 to 108 rubles (€0,35 to €1,09) per litre, and on sparkling wines from 45 rubles to 141 rubles (€0,46 to €1,43). This tax in theory applies to all wines, irrespective of their origin, but Russian producers can get a tax deduction for the whole amount paid.

Additionally, the Association of Winegrowers and Winemakers of Russia has now proposed a further 200% duty hike on wines from countries that belong to NATO.

Given this background, the appeal to the Kremlin of owning Russia’s largest winery is even clearer.

Insights Wine

Despite many companies pulling out of Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, wine imports have risen. Increased duty rates on wines from 'unfriendly countries' are, however, now likely to have a radical impact on the range of wines on offer. Sergey Panov reports.

Reading time: 4m 15s



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