30.06.2013. As hundreds of bottles hummed past him along a conveyor belt towards the packing bay, winemaker Levan Garchechiladze says the return of Georgia's iconic wines to their crucial Russian market was long overdue. Earlier in June -- over seven years after Moscow slapped a ban on Georgian wines amid spiralling tensions that erupted into a brief war in 2008 -- the first batch of wine from the tiny former Soviet state was allowed back across the border into Russia.
"Now, thankfully, the politics seems to be out of the way and we can go back to doing our business," Garchechiladze, head winemaker at firm Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking (KTW), told AFP. Several days earlier Garchelchiladze loaded two trucks with some 30,000 bottles of wine bound -- for the first time in years -- for restaurant tables and supermarket shelves in Georgia's giant northern neighbour. "The Russians always used to love our wine -- sweet, dry, red, white -- so we are thinking why shouldn't they still be crazy for it even after all this time," he said.