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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Watchdog Checks More Wine

After having banned imports of Georgian and Moldovan wine, the country's chief heath inspector, Gennady Onishchenko, said he was checking imported wine from China and Ukraine on health and quality grounds.

The Georgian and Moldovan wine bans blocked off the main market for those countries' winemakers and have been widely seen as expressions of political displeasure by Moscow.

"As part of the work to control alcohol-containing products that have replaced Moldovan and Georgian wines on the Russian market, we have been checking sample products from China and Ukraine," Onishchenko said Sunday, Interfax reported.

Onishchenko said that two out of 45 samples of Ukrainian alcoholic drinks were found to be unsafe for consumption and another 11 did not meet taste and quality standards. Out of eight Chinese products, five did not meet the watchdog's standards, although it was not clear whether they were a danger to health or just poor quality.

Ukraine exports mainly sweet and sparkling Crimean wines. Some 14.5 million bottles of Ukrainian wine were imported into Russia in 2005. The country is the fifth-largest alcohol exporter to Russia and accounts for 14 percent of sparkling wine imports, said Andrei Yegorov, spokesman for Wine World, one of Russia's largest wine importers.

Chinese wine imports, by contrast, are relatively small, and consist mainly of fruit wine, like Chinese plum wine. Only about 1 million bottles of Chinese wine were imported last year, Yegorov said, adding that even if the authorities were to ban Chinese wine, the impact would be insignificant.

So far, however, Onishchenko has given no clear indication that Ukrainian and Chinese wines could be banned.

Late last week, Onishchenko also said his service would be checking wines from Belarus, Latin America, Europe and South Africa.

Industry insiders said that the scrutiny of imports from Belarus could be prompted by a desire to block imports of raw materials from Moldova included in Belarussian wine.