EU External Investment Plan

A toast to innovative Moldovan wine producers

Diana Danila in the wine tasting room at the Technical University of Moldova

By Laura Mellado

Diana Danila is promoting Moldovan wine. Local wineries are searching for experts with knowledge and practical experience who can innovate in one of the main economic sectors in the country.

The Technical University of Moldova (TUM) has been training students since 1965. Limited investment in this institution has led to students seeking education abroad.

The EU has helped TUM to learn best practices from universities in the EU and to increase the quality of the education of future winemakers in the country.

Now a new EU initiative called the External Investment Plan will allow us to support many more people like Diana in countries neighbouring the EU and in Africa.

Keeping expertise local

Diana Danila, 24, works for the tourism department of Asconi, one of the 23 Moldovan wineries open to visitors. She helps amateurs to understand how to turn grapes into wines.

Moldovan wine, gaining in international popularity, is attracting tourists and creating the need for professionals like Diana. “Visitors are curious, they want to understand every single aspect of winemaking,” Diana adds, “to have a theoretical and practical knowledge of the process helps to explain why one product is better than another.”

Diana is one of the recent graduates from the Department of the Oenology and Chemistry at the Technical University of Moldova (TUM). This prestigious institution, founded in 1965, has been losing students due to a lack of investment. “Five years ago young people preferred to leave Moldova to study oenology,” Diana continues, “in Western universities, they had the modern laboratories and the technologies that the private sector uses.”

Rodica Sturza in the renovated wine tasting room at TUM

Rodica Sturza, head of this department, explains, “the private sector needs more experts than those available. Moldovan wineries are hiring and offering internships, but our oenologists are often abroad.”

Investing in education

Wine, one of the economic drivers of the country, has been produced by Moldovan families for centuries. The 140 wineries in the country employ over 250,000 people which accounts for 3.2% of the GDP.

Companies are modernising and investing in new technologies. Universities in Moldova, having not been upgraded since the sixties, need to follow suit. In this way, education and the private sector will work hand in hand to boost the Moldovan wine industry, thus creating jobs.

Overview of one of the restored laboratories at TUM

That’s where an EU-backed project called Filiere du Vin came in. The project helps small-scale businesses and educational institutions, such as TUM, to improve the quality of the wine produced in the country.

The EU has provided:

  • €55 million in loans through the European Investment Bank (EIB).
  • €2 million in grants to fund technical assistance to design the project.

TUM is leading the way with twelve new laboratories and innovative equipment to produce wine. The programme has also helped the university staff gain expertise from EU universities.  

The best tasting room in the country is at TUM. “After visiting one of the most advanced oenological centres in Austria, we came back and replicated that here,” Rodica explains, “the Moldovan Government and wine producers use this room to test the quality of the wine by analysing factors such as smell, colour and taste.”

Diana recalls when she joined Asconi winery, “it was easy to get familiar with the technology because it was the same as we’d had at university,” she continues, “it’s awesome, young people don’t need to study abroad anymore.”

On top of this, more and more researchers who had left the country to work in the wine industry have decided to come back home. “Some of the best minds in Europe are joining TUM to do scientific research with public and private institutions creating jobs and using their skills for local production,” Rodica says.

Who we're working with

In figures

€57 million

total EU investment in Filiere du Vin

€55 million

loans provided by the EU through the European Investment Bank (EIB)

€2 million technical assistance funded by the EU to design the project
70 projects funded
12 laboratories renovated at the Technical University of Moldova

Learning to succeed

Until now, Moldovan wines have been exported to countries such as Belarus and Russia. Local producers have recently been applying European standards with a view of expanding into new markets.  

Rodica believes the future for small-scale producers is bright. “Big corporations never change how they think and are too slow to adapt,” she continues, “the recent economic and political events have changed their mindset. Companies that are not willing to innovate won’t survive. The market is full of opportunities for those who are brave.”

Diana is part of this new wave of ambitious young professionals who are not afraid to take a risk. “Older generations are scared of us,” laughs Diana, “We came out of university better prepared: we are confident, we speak languages and we are tech-savvy.” 

In TUM, we have the experts and labs to train the wine professionals of the future.