Sunday, 18 December 2011
Watch out the New Kid from the Old World
Georgia Beverages Tradeshow in Tbilisi. The Asian delegates were joined by visitors from the US and the Middle East to sample wines from over 30 wineries and other beverages at the exhibition.
The 3-day trip, although short, was action-packed. Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW was the guest of honour at the opening forum and she presented the Challenges and Opportunities of Asia’s wine markets to the Georgian producers, who hope to export their wines to this part of the world. Mr Zhu Sixu, deputy director general of the Guangdong Provincial Alcohol Monopoly Bureau, meanwhile, talked about the potential wine and spirits market in booming China.
Georgia has the longest wine making history, over 8,000 years, of any country in the world. Most wines are made from indigenous varieties, the most common being Rkatsiteli, Mtsvane (whites) and the red Saperavi, although some producers are experimenting with international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Wine styles are diverse, ranging from dry to semi sweet, and sparkling to fortified. Georgia adopts an appellation system similar to that in Bordeaux or Burgundy where wine can be named after the region or district.
WIth the spread of the natural wine movement and non-intervention winemaking practices, some producers in Italy, Germany, Austria and even the US are buying kvevri from Georgia to make their own ‘kvevri’ wine. According to Tina Kezeli, the Executive Director of the Georgian Wine Association, kvevri are exported to Europe at a price of €2/litre of capacity. Making kvevri is a highly skilled craft. The inside is lined with beeswax while the outside is coated with lime. However, it is a dying art and the priority of the industry is to establish a kvevri school to make sure this traditional craft is taught and preserved.
To understand Georgian wine, you need to know their history. Their wines were highly prized in Russia which imported over 90% of the production. One day in 2006, Russia turned its back on Georgia and put an embargo on its wine, citing counterfeiting. The Georgian wine industry suffered as a consequence but managed to attract foreign investment in around 2008, just before the war with Russia broke that drove potential investors away and caused a major setback to the industry and the country. Now Georgia is ready again and it is determined to step into the international arena.
I believe the combination of traditional craft and modern technique, the indigenous grapes, the history and story behind the country, and the determination of the Georgians will be a recipe for success for Georgian wine. I truly wish them all the best.
Importers interested in some unique wines can check out the Beverages Tadeshow website for wineries information or email Invest in Georgia.