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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Zurab Chkhaidze: "God bless the wine maker!" Exclusive interview of Hvino News with General Director of Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking

30.01.2014 (Hvino News). Today Hvino News continues to publish its series of  exclusive interviews with leaders of Georgia’s winemaking industry. Our guest today is Mr. Zurab Chkhaidze, General Director of Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking. He kindly agreed to answer our questions.

We suggest starting the interview with your company’s brief outline.  How a person becomes a leader in wine industry? Please tell us about yourself, your background. 

Georgia is considered to be a cradle of wine and this fact is a great honor for every Georgian and my family as well. My father comes from the most beautiful village in Guria (Western part of Georgia), Askana. His great grandfather, Antimoz Chkhaidze, was a famous wine maker; one of the first qvevri in his famous wine cellar was dated back in 1880s. He was mainly known for his perfect Chkhaveri and Tsolikouri wines that were famous not only in Georgia, but abroad, shipping from Poti to faraway destinations.  My mother is from Eastern Georgia, she was born and brought up in the centre of wine making, village Velistsikhe, that is situated in Alazani Valley and was mentioned in manuscripts more than 1500 years ago. Though the surname is Mepurishvili and the family was known for the best bread makers in the village, they also became famous for their wine cellar and qvevri wines. I was brought up with special love and gratitude to wine and vine and it was not a surprise I decided to become professional in this field and connected my future studies with wine.

I graduated from Tbilisi State University, major in Economics and made my Masters degree in “Perspectives of Wine industry development”. In 1998, together with my brothers I founded Askaneli Brothers and finally, in 2001 I founded my own company Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking. It should be mentioned, that it was a very hard period for starting business in Georgia. At this time the market was full of wine, both high quality wine and falsified ones. The market needed something new, a know-how, this served as a basis of starting producing wine in clay jars, and I would like to stress the fact, that our company was innovator in clay wine producing. After some time we started producing wine in glass bottles, that was followed by brandy production, chacha and sparkling wine.

Are you creator of your brand?

It is believed that everything new is a well-forgotten old. There are more than 500 grape varieties that are still cultivated in Georgia. There are some endangered species and some of them are forgotten and the recovery works are started to bring life to the ancient varieties. Past several years, our company streams to recover the lost treasure. Together with the Board of Elders existing in the company we choose the grape varieties, that were famous in past, and step by step we try our best to create a brand new wine from them.  The example of above-mentioned is our premium quality collection from rare Georgian grape varieties that is already very popular among the consumers. This brand is still at the stage of formation. Naming, packaging, advertising and promotion is directed to turn this wines into the strongest brand on Market.

Our second direction is rising awareness about the ancient traditional methods of Georgian wine making, Promotion of qvevri wines outside the country, world wide. We are proud to be the producer of wines that already exist in UNESCO intangible heritage list.

While talking about the brand creation, I have to mention my team, they are always by my side and without them I cannot even imagine any success of my company. Thanks to them and their hard work, the company’s income is doubled every year. Also, a special gratitude to all our partners world wide.

An insight into future- goals, possible threats…  

We have already overcome the period of difficulties, now we are ready for future challenges. The last year was very successful for our company.  “Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking” was one of those first companies who successfully passed all the required steps, entered the Russian market and maintains a well-deserved place in the premium segment.

2013 was an important year in terms of investment. We have established three new units. We are very proud of our new factory, near the village Patardzeuli, which is equipped with the latest Italian technology and has capacity of 12 million bottles per year.

In July 2013, the company opened "Georgian Chamber of Wine“, with a wine tasting salon, wine shop, King Mirian Wine Cellar enriched with wines made by unique traditional methods, restaurant that offers both Georgian and European dishes and terrace with amazing views of old city. And finally, in October the third unit - the wine shop and tasting hall - was opened in Rabati Fortess, situated in Akhaltsikhe Region.

“Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking” will continue the similar projects in future. In 2014 we are planning to establish four more units. We have already bought the new factory in Qeda region, Ajara.  The building of new wine cellar is planned in village Askana, Ozurgeti region, which is designed for traditional Western grape varieties. Also, the building works of new factory in Velistsikhe have started, and the wine cellar of St. Ilia the Righteous in Saguramo, that is believed to be one of the most important tourist units in Georgia. I want to mention here, the assistance of Saguramo Sapling that made a great job, by saving more than 420 local grape varieties.

It is worth mentioning, that 2014 will be the year of establishment the holding, as we already own different units in different regions of Georgia and we already have two directions - wine making and oenotourism.
Any personal touches you would like to add to the interview  - for instance family, your hobbies, pets, or your favourite sports…

What about personal life and interests… I have a wife and three children. My wife is supporting in my job as well, she is managing the social programs of our company.

My hobby is Georgian music. I am a member of Georgian legendary folk band “Georgian Voices”, and when my job gives me an opportunity I actively participate in concerts. Besides this, the best way for me to relax is horse riding and skiing.

Do you wish to send a personal message to global professional wine community?

Traditional Georgian toast is the best match for Georgian wine, so I would say – God bless the wine maker, the one who drinks this wine and ones who will appreciate it!

Thank you very much, Mr. Zurab Chkhaidze!

To read  other exclusive interviews with leaders of Georgia’s winemaking industry, click here and here.

© Hvino News       |  DRINK GEORGIAN!

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