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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"The Drinks Business": Russia lifts ban on Georgian wine

by Lucy Shaw

Russia has lifted a seven-year ban on Georgian wine imports via a decision to allow 36 Georgian wineries to register their products in the country.

The wines from the former Soviet republic will go on sale in Russia in May.

The decision was made after Russian inspectors carried out the first round of sanitation checks in Georgia, according to Russia’s public health chief Gennady Onishchenko.

“Georgian wineries and factories successfully passed their checks in order to appear on the Russian market, and we expect further checks on March 25,” Levan Davitashvili, head of Georgia’s National Wine Agency, told reporters.

In 2006, Russia’s health and sanitary agency banned all imports of Georgian wine as it was found to not live up to health safety standards, depriving Georgia of its biggest export market.

Before the embargo was enforced, 75% of Georgia’s wine exports went to Russia.

Georgian Prime Minister, zebra-rearing billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, has promised to improve political and economic ties with the country’s northern neighbour following his election victory in October.

“The process of entering the Russian market begins, but it’s too early to say how much increase we expect in sales,” said George Margvelashvili, president of Tbilisi-based wine maker Tbilvino.

Georgian wine exports increased to US$54.1 million in 2011, up 37.7% on 2010 to 16.9 million liters.

Georgia currently exports wine to around 50 different countries, with Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan currently its three most important export markets.

Georgia’s National Wine Agency hopes the lifting of the ban will lead to sales of 8-10 million bottles of Georgian wine to Russia a year.

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