Montenegro firm hoping China holds answer to increase in wine exports

Aljosa Milenkovic in Montenegro


Montenegro's industries were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its production levels dropped, while exports suffered the hardest. Now the country is looking at China as one of the ways to kickstart its economy. 

Montenegro's recent bids for EU grants were rejected by Brussels. The country hoped the bloc would help to provide funding for major infrastructure projects, but now has to take its business elsewhere, and China was one of the first destinations considered.

There are already several joint projects between China and Montenegro that the Balkan nation hopes will help its economy become more export-oriented - and boost its flagging status. Goran Kapor, an economic analyst with Daily Press PG, thinks that will be difficult - but there are some potential bright spots.

"Montenegro has no strategy for exporting its products. Its domestic production has almost completely shut down," Goran said. "The only company that had an export strategy was Plantaze, which exported almost 15 percent of its goods to China."

Grapes and wines are Plantaze's core business. In late July and during the entire month of August it is harvest time in their vineyards, and workers carefully pick grape clusters under the scorching summer sun. 


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Some of the grapes at the vineyards around the capital, Podgorica will end up on tables abroad. Yet, the vast majority of the total harvest is processed into wine that matures inside a wine cellar, that was once an underground bunker for Yugoslav fighter jets.

The cellar is 356 meters long and 30 meters under the surface. It holds up to two million liters of Montenegro's award-winning red wine. After two years, the maturing process is over, and all this wine heads to the market.

Before the global pandemic, China was Plantaze's main export market. And the company was among the top 15 wine suppliers for the Chinese market. But COVID changed everything, and Montenegro's wine now needs to remarketing.

"The problem is the high import taxes in China, which increase the wine's sale price," said Marija Gasovic, Plantaze's public relations officer. "We've sold over 5 million bottles of wine in China in total, and in our record year of 2019, our exports to China were worth $2 million. We hope and aim to overcome all obstacles and return to those numbers soon."

Given enough time, Plantaze's export to China will likely bounce back. Local experts say their experience might help other Montenegro producers find their way to the huge and lucrative Chinese market.

Montenegro firm hoping China holds answer to increase in wine exports

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Cover image:  Plantaze produces 22 million kilos of grapes from its single vineyard in Montenegro

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