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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Georgian wine featured at RAW Artisan Wine Fair in London

by Nino Edilashvili

19.05.2013. Homemade wine lovers in the UK have an opportunity to taste wine produced in qvevri - traditional Georgian wine making tool. The testing is arranged at the RAW Artisan Wine Fair on May 19-20 in London.

The Georgian stand at the RAW displays over 150 growers and is sponsored by the Georgian National Wine Agency, a state funded organization responsible for assisting the development of the wine sector and organizing promotional events to increase international awareness.

Irakli Cholobargia, Director of the Marketing Department of National Wine Agency,  thinks that the interest towards Georgian wine is increasing each year. “The first RAW exhibition was held last year, and our companies participated in it; so this year, the organizers sent invitations again,” he told Georgia Today. “It is a homemade wine exhibition, which means that only small companies can participate; in total we sent 15 varieties of wines from verious wineries including Jakeli wines, Shavnabada Monastry products, Nika’s Wine and Pheasant’s Tears,” he added.

While describing the London market, Cholobargia said that the market in London is segmented and there Georgian wine is sold in boutique shops and restaurants. In total, Georgia exports 30,000 - 50,000 bottles of wine annually to the UK with the average price of 15-20 GBP.

“London is like a trend-setter, which means that what’s important in London is important for the other parts of the world,” commented Mako Abashidze, Director of the British-Georgian Chamber of Commerce (BGCC), who organizes Georgia-art in Wine and Wine in Art, a grand festival of Georgian culture from May 6 - 21 in London (see London to host Georgian festival)

According to the National Wine Agency, exports of Georgian wine to the UK grew by 71% last year. This year 15,000 liters of wine have already been exported.

Georgian wine exports at a glance

Assessing the general situation on the international markets, Cholobargia noted that opportunities are increasing year-on-year. “This year, including figures for April, the total exports increased by 32% compared with last year, We have already exported around 7, 700, 000 liters of wine, “ he told Georgia Today. In 2012, exports equaled 17,500,000 liters of wine and was worth around $55 million, representing a growth of 23% from 2011.

Ukraine tops the list of the key export destinations comprising 43% of total wine exports. Kazakhstan and Belarus come next, while Poland, Latvia and China are fourth, the fifth and the sixth places, respectively.

Cholobargia explains that the reason why post-Soviet countries are dominant is that in these countries the awareness of Georgian wine and the awareness of the country remains high. “In Europe or Asia we need to conduct extensive marketing activities to introduce our country and our product,” Cholobargia said.

However, NWA plans to concentrate on specific markets too and arrange special promotional campaigns in 2014. “For instance, we think about the markets of Britain, the US, Poland and China. This year we will organize events in the US and will observe the outcome,” Cholobargia added.

Commenting on the potential and interest of Georgian wine in Poland and China, Cholobargia noted that there is a big demand for wine in China. “For instance, in 2011 we exported 582,000 bottles of wine, while the numbers doubled in 2012 and reached 1,200,000 bottles. So we have seen 107% growth in China, which wanted mostly semi-sweet Kindzmarauli wine,” he explained.

Asked what kind of wines are most in demand among foreign consumers, Cholobargia said that it depends on the region and country. “For instance, post- Soviet countries like semi-sweet wines, while European and Asian consumers prefers dry wine,” he said.

As he overviewed the Russian market, Cholobargia said that there is preparation work underway. “Not a single wine company has requested export permission for the Russian market; so officially we have not sent any liters of Georgian wine to Russia. However, we expect that in Russia around 10 million bottles will be sold this year,” he added.

Regarding the local market, Cholobargia said that Georgian people have a different culture of wine drinking. “They prefer to drink home-made wine rather than bottled ones, so local wine companies find it difficult to sell their products here. According to research conducted by the National Wine Agency, approximately 65 million liters of wine are consumed in Georgia annually. “And only 3-4 million of them are bottled wines,” Cholobargia noted.

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