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Monday, April 21, 2014

Theo Jansen: Need for better pricing policy for Georgian wines

Theo and Elly Jansen
20.04.2014. A better pricing and logistic policy is required to raise competitiveness of Georgian wines on the international market. High grape prices and a monopoly in the Georgian logistic sector are two crucial factors that jack up the prices, said Theo Jansen, wine expert of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, who promotes Georgian wines in Netherlands. While attending Prowein 2014 on 23-25 March, one of the major wine fairs in the wine industry held every year in Dusseldorf, Mr. Jansen elaborated his opinion about Georgian wines and its marketing strategy in his exclusive interview with Georgian Journal.

Q: Georgian wines have been attending Prowein for 14 years already. Could you tell us what development you see for Georgian wines and where it is going to?

A: I was attracted to Georgian wines since 1992-93 because Georgia is the cradle of wine and it has unique wines, great varieties. These days there are so many good wines at cheaper prices that the main difficulty for Georgia is to find its niche. They can only find it by keeping its uniqueness, its unique varietals, and by making the wines a little bit softer, easier to drink but they should never leave and lose the identity of grape varietals - that’s why the consumer will buy Georgian wines, because they are a different new taste. And there is also still a market for more advanced wine drinkers who pay more and are looking for something new. These are target groups for Georgian wines. This really provides an opportunity especially in advanced countries. Qvevri wines nowadays have created a lot of interest with wine writers but they are more expensive.

Q: How much more expensive are they?

A: Double to five-six times more expensive than a good normal wine, but the reach is limited in volumes. However that [Qvevri] might be a way to communicate with the market, that Georgia is the country with a unique wine history. For that purpose I loved the Qvevri story, but there is a need to regulate it more. Nowadays you can have Qvevri wines that have only been in the Qvevri for one month and wines that have been in the Qvevri for a year. [Therefore] people do not know what to expect of Qvevri, while prices are higher and nobody knows why. That is really a relevant factor for Georgia to take into account. They should realize that, in spite of all these positive factors of being different and the oldest country of wine-making, there are so many good wines in the world and they cannot keep increasing their prices. [Georgian wine companies] pay 3-4 times more than everyone else for grapes. It is already a problem. And if you want to sell to the world you have to be realistic. Another issue is lowering the costs by lowering transport costs. It is more expensive to ship from Georgia to the EU than from China or South Africa. For China you pay one-third of the container while for Georgia it is 3-4 times more, because supply from Georgia is less and there is a problem on inland transportation: it is more expensive to transport from Kakheti to Poti than a full container from South Africa to Holland.

Q: What’s your explanation for this problem?

A: I think there a kind of monopoly was created by shipping companies in Georgia. And that is very bad for the sale of Georgian wine.

Q: Where do you see target markets for Georgian wines?

A: I think the focus should be on the EU, on Poland, because it is still a growing market and has big sympathy for Georgia. They even have a TV station that says “please buy Georgian wine, help them.” The actual political situation is a desire to help you.

Q: Which one of the Georgian wines is the most popular?

A: The most popular and the one that has the biggest potential is Saperavi. It can make for a very high quality wine. I promote Kisi very much because its taste is easy and acceptable, and its name is easy to pronounce. I say “a kiss from Georgia.” But you need more varieties, especially in red wines. With white wines I have no problem, I show a lot of varieties but with reds I have some problems. That’s why I push to have new varieties especially in the red sector. Imagine, if I had a tasting, and in the end I would have to say that all these red wines are Saperavi while I talk of 500 red wine options [which make up the Georgian pool of varieties]; how foolish would I look then?

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