Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ojaleshi, the Rolls-Royce of Georgian black grapes

by Terry Sullivan

28.07.2015. Perhaps a divine intervention or fate led to events that make me wonder. Kathy and I were visiting Dadiani Old Cellar in the Shmegrelo region of the country Georgia. Monks own the property, church, mansion and winery. The grounds are beautifully landscaped. We enjoyed a tour of the entire property and settled in the cellar of the winery to taste what the monks call the Rolls Royce of Georgian wine – Ojaleshi. We throughly enjoyed the setting. A long table had a hole cut out in the center. Affixed to that hole was a qvevri filled with the almost black colored Ojaleshi wine. We could have spent hours there enjoying the camaraderie.

On our return to our vehicle, the monk that led our tour tracked us down and gave Kathy and me a bottle of Ojaleshi. It made it home to Maryland just fine, securely packed in my suitcase. For the past year, I pondered when to open the bottle. I was looking for the right time to seize the moment. This was not an ordinary wine, after all it was the Rolls Royce of Georgian black wines.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Prof. Stephan von CRAMON-TAUBADEL: "Georgian wine tradition is a two-edged sword"

special guest

27.07.2015 (Hvino News). The special guest of Hvino News today is Professor Stephan von Cramon-Taubadel from University of Göttingen.  Recently he and his colleague David Saha of Berlin Economics presented the results of their research project entitled “Short-run risks and long-run challenges for wine production in Georgia”, done under the auspices of GET (German Economic Team Georgia) and ISET Policy Institute of Tbilisi State University. He kindly greed to answer our questions.

Hvino News: Thank you for this opportunity to learn more about your research. Would you mind starting the interview with some background information about GET Georgia, and about yourself? What is German Economic Team Georgia, its scope and mission, how did the project start? 

Stephan von Cramon-Taubadel: Thank you for the invitation to this interview. The German Economic Team Georgia “GET Georgia” is a project of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy. It was launched in September 2014 with the aim of helping the Government of Georgia to implement economic reforms. Our consulting activities focus on Georgia’s integration into the world market, strengthening its independent institutions, and a socially responsible market economy. In dialogue with the Georgian Government, we identify existing economic problems and make recommendations to overcome them. Our work is based on independent analysis and impartial recommendations. We cover a broad range of macroeconomic and sectoral policies. I am responsible for agricultural policy issues in GET Georgia. I am a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at the Georg-August University of Göttingen in Germany, and have held the chair for Agricultural Policy there since 1999.

Hvino News: What’s the role of wine economics in the GET Georgia’s general agenda?

Stephan von Cramon-Taubadel: Since wine is so important for rural areas and the overall economy in Georgia, it was inevitable that we would turn our attention to wine sooner than later. Late last year we analyzed Georgia’s export structure in general and saw that the Georgian wine industry is highly dependent on the Russian market. When we were later asked by counterparts in the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia to analyze the short- and long-run prospects for the wine industry in Georgia, we were happy to comply.

Hvino News: How long have you been involved in Georgian economic studies and in the wine sector studies in particular?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

New wine bar and shop in Tbilisi's artistic old town

26.07.2015. (Hvino News). "Tsangala's" is the name of a new wine bar and shop opened yesterday in Tbilisi. The bar/shop is located in the heart of old Tbilisi, close from the famous Rezo Gabriadze Theater with its quirky clock tower and artistic atmosphere. As the owner Otar Tabatadze explained, that the name Tsangala comes from Georgian traditional song  "Tsangala da Gogona". The shop was inaugurated with an elegant reception accompanied by live jazz.

The shop has a professional wine expert on board and is targeted not only at general public but at wine connoisseurs as well. The bar/shop offers a broad selection of Georgian wines from leading winemakers, including selected qvevri wines.

Sommellier Gaga Maisauradze (on photo) explained to Hvino News the advantages of wine bars like Tsangala's: the wines are stored professionally and taken good care of, wines are served by glass and may be tasted prior to purchase, clients receive professional advise on wine-food pairing. Regarding pricing, the wines at wine bars are not necessarily more expensive than at ordinary shops, and may be even cheaper. "So there is no reason at all to shop for wines at supermarkets", - concludes the sommelier.

Otar - the shop's owner - is also a wine business professional. As he noted, the next step will be production of his own wine. This will not take too long, as his vine is already planted.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Winemakers predict a difficult year for winegrowers

25.07.2015. Representatives of wineries believe that the current year will be very difficult for winegrowers.

As stated by CEO of Schuchmann Wines Nutsa Abramishvili, due to lower sales, wine companies have large stocks of unsold wine.

"In addition, all companies have their own vineyards, respectively, this year the demand for grapes will be significantly lower than last year when there was a real boom. The price of grapes was very high, and in recent years has reached a maximum due to the opening of the Russian market. On the one hand, it is certainly good, since wine-growing regions have received tens of millions. But on the other hand, the price of the product has risen , the cost has increased that is very bad for the competitiveness of Georgian wine. So we have both positive and negative result, "- she said.

A similar opinion is shared by the founder of Telavi Wine Cellar Zurab Ramazashvili. According to him, his company this year is not going to buy grapes from farmers in large numbers.

"A situation with export remains unfavorable, although in recent months a dramatic deterioration has not been observed. Export of our company in this year decreased by 30%. In order to balance the situation we are entering new markets, such as South Korea and Mongolia.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A taste of Georgia in Hullett House, Hong Kong

by Simone Madden-Grey

23.07.2015. Last week I attended an event showcasing wines from Georgia (read also Hong Kongers embrace Georgian wine trend) hosted by Debra Meiburg M.W and her team from Meiburg Wine Media. In the interests of transparency I should mention that I have worked for Debra previously and that my inner wine geek is rather partial to a glass or two of Georgian white wine.

On her recent trip to Georgia, Debra travelled to a number of different regions throughout the country to see first hand how the different styles of wine are made. As a result, the tasting seminar was interspersed with pictures of the trip and many a useful map for this relatively unfamiliar wine region.

This year’s tasting was at the historic Hullett House, a colonial style building dating back to 1881, making it the perfect venue for showcasing Georgian wines given the historical significance of both.

There were two parts to the event; a tutored tasting of seven wines, one sparkling, three white and three reds, followed by a walk-around tasting showcasing seven different portfolios. All seven tasting seminar wines showed well but it was the Marani Satrapezo 10 Qvevri 2013 that caught my attention.

Hong Kongers embrace Georgian wine trend

23.07.2015. Around 150 wine professionals, wine lovers and trade gathered on Friday, 17 July at Hong Kong’s historic Hullett House for a historic tasting – the largest collection of Georgian wines on offer at once – hosted by Master of Wine, Debra Meiburg and Meiburg Wine Media, along with several visiting Georgian winery representatives.

Divided into a walk around-style tasting, a trade-focused seminar and an exclusive “dine with the winemakers” dinner, the event saw 40 different Georgian wines on offer to attendees, who ranged from the city’s top importers, to food and beverage professionals, interested collectors and wine commentators (read also: A taste of Georgia in Hullett House, Hong Kong).

Debra Meiburg, Master of Wine and director of Meiburg Wine Media said, “We were thrilled at the enthusiasm to try Georgian wines and the positive feedback from the Hong Kong wine community. It really demonstrates the level of maturity of this market, which just over 10 years ago had a “Bordeaux or bust” attitude towards wine.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

World Bank to enhance Georgia’s unique qvevri wine-making method

21.07.2015.The World Bank has spent 2.3 million GEL ($1, 017,700) to enhance Georgia’s ancient Qvevri wine-making methods by establishing a Qvevri House (also called sometimes as Qvevri Workshop) in the eastern part of the country.

The Qvevri House facilities are being set up in the small village of Ikalto, about 110 km from the capital Tbilisi, with 5,500 m2 allocated to house a museum, an internet cafe, a cultural center equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, and a workshop where visitors can learn ancient wine-making methods.

The initiative, which is supported by the World Bank’s Regional Development Project for Georgia, fosters development of a tourism-based economy and cultural heritage circuits of the Kakheti region.

"Apart from restoring the country’s ancient wine-making tradition, the Qvevri House sub-project will further develop the region’s historic, cultural, educational, recreational and touristic potential. The facility will also aid the local economy and offer employment opportunities to local residents,"  Ahmed Eiweida, the World Bank Program Leader for the South Caucasus, said.

The construction of the Qvevri House building began a month ago (read more at Qvevri House will revitalise Kakheti and save ancient winemaking methods. Several senior local government officials and World Bank representatives attended the official laying of the foundation. Construction of the entire site is expected to be completed by September 2016.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Minister: Georgia will export more wine to China

18.07.2015. (Hvino News). Georgia is planning to increase wine export to China, according to recent statement made by minister of agriculture Otari Danelia, as he commented on results of his visit to China.

"In May of this year, the Chinese minister of agriculture Han Changfu  paid a visit to Georgia ... Now I have paid a return visit. We have discussed with our Chinese colleagues the possibility of expanding of cooperation between two countries in the field of agriculture, including issues of increasing Georgian wine export  to China,’’ - Russian news agency TASS quoted Mr. Danelia.

"During the recent years China's demand for Georgian wine has grown up. Development of cooperation with China is of strategic importance for the export of Georgian wine, for the cooperation between the two countries", " the minister said.

Russia takes first place, followed by Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Poland. According to the ministry, "in August 2015 in Georgia delegation will arrive major Chinese businessmen interested in increasing exports of wine from Georgia to China, and in cooperation with the Georgian wine companies."

As of 6 months of 2015, China ranks fifth among Georgian wine importers. Russia takes first place, followed by Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Poland. According to the ministry, in August Georgia will host a high-level delegation of Chinese businessmen interested in increasing import of wine from Georgia to China, to discuss cooperation with Georgian wine companies.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Tim Atkin MW on Georgian wine

17.07.2015. (Hvino News). Harpers Wine & Spirit - the Britain's leading publication on wine and spirits trade - today published the article on Georgian wine. Article entitled "The quality and diversity of Georgia" is authored by Tim Atkin, Master of Wine.

Mr. Atkin chaired the jury of the recent international wine competition during Winexpo fair in Tbilisi (read more here: Results of 7th International Wine Competition in Tbilisi announced).

Mr. Atkin opens his article with question: "How many countries have you visited where the man who stamps your passport smiles and gives you a bottle of wine?".

"Wine is part of Georgia’s DNA...Wine is the national drink, consumed with gusto in a series of toasts and salutations at official meals, but also in countless bars and restaurants. Tbilisi is a wine city that’s every bit as vibrant as Bordeaux, Mendoza, Logroño or Florence. In terms of plantings, Georgia is not what it once was, however. At their peak, the country’s vineyards covered 160,000 ha, compared with 45,000 ha today", - the article reads.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Georgian wine invades Chinese market

16.07.2015. Georgia’s Agriculture Ministry is stepping up its promotion of the country’s wine and winemaking culture in China; with the unveiling of a promotional centre and winemaking house during an official visit of the Agriculture Ministry to China.

The opening event for the centre, located in capital Beijing’s Nutrition and Alcohol Research Institute, was led by Minister Otar Danelia and included a presentation and tasting of Georgian products. The event was attended by China’s deputy agriculture minister, wine importers and industry representatives.

Danelia said the centre aimed to promote Georgian culture and winemaking and contribute Georgia’s efforts to export its products to "strategic” markets. The centre will be led by vice president of the Institute, with a special coordinator contributing from Georgia.

In a separate ceremony in China’s Zhagang province, Minister Danelia opened a Georgian wine house where 30 varieties of dry, semi-dry and semi-sweet wines will be represented.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

First half of 2015 wine stats: Georgia exports to 33 countries

12.07.2015. Export figures released by Georgia’s National Wine Agency revealed more than 13.7 million bottles of wine was exported to 33 countries across the globe in the first half of 2015. The total income received from wine export was about $39.5 million USD in the six months period.

The figures also revealed wine export increased to the following countries:

Hong Kong – by 230 percent;
Canada – by 159 percent;
USA – by 61 percent;
Great Britain – by 33 percent;
China – by 23 percent;
Japan – by 21 percent;
Latvia – by 20 percent;
Estonia – by 16 percent;
Kazakhstan – by 6 percent;
Germany – by 5 percent.

Meanwhile the Georgian wine export significantly decreased to the important markets of Russia (by 63 percent) and Ukraine (by 60 percent). "This was due to unstable political and economic situation,” the National Wine Agency said.

Friday, July 10, 2015

In once Soviet Georgia, an 8,000-year-old tradition returns (with video)

by Daniella Cheslow

10.07.2015. In the ancient wine country of eastern Georgia, Remi Kbilashvili spends three months painstakingly stacking coils of clay to create a massive red, egg-shaped vat, just as his ancestors did thousands of years ago.

The vessel, known as a qvevri, will hold 500 gallons of wine once it is fired in a wood-burning brick kiln for a week, then coated in beeswax. It will be used to will be used to ferment the same grape varietals that made Georgia a wine juggernaut, chronicled by the ancient Greek poet Homer.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Corsican fan of Georgian wine

by Eka Salaghaia

04.07.2015. In the French city of Juan-les-Pins, Georgian rugby player Ilia Kakhoidze and his Corsican friend Jermaine Gerard decided to set up a Georgian vineyard. This spring, they planted 200 grapevines of Mujuretuli variety and started construction of a marani (underground tunnel used to store and age wine). Four Georgian kvevri (giant clay jugs for storing wine) have already been filled. Very soon the marani will also be outfitted with a wine press and a toné (an oven similar to a tandoor). Before the first rtveli (harvest) is complete, a wine tasting room is also expected to be added.

“What we ended up creating was a tiny model of Georgia. We already have a vineyard and a marani, and soon we will squeeze the grapes out and store it to age in Georgian kvevri. Any wine enthusiast will be able to come here, see how things are going, taste the wine and satisfy his curiosity in general.”

Mr. Gerard, a Corsican man hopelessly in love with Georgian wine is a lawyer by profession; despite being a wine enthusiast in general, he never owned a vineyard before. Neither was he ever interested in the winemaking business, including that of France, but after getting acquainted with Georgians, he changed his mind and now tries to do everything to popularize Georgian wine in France.

Ilia Kakhoidze and Jermaine Gerard both think that if this popularity is achieved, Georgian wine will proceed to conquer the world. We are going to wait eagerly for that prognosis to come true, and in the meanwhile, interview the rugby-player-turned-winemaker Kakhoidze himself:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Tbilvino benefits from wise export strategy

03.07.2015. Tbilvino, the leading Georgian winemaker, exported 5 million bottles in 2014. This year the company expects a 5 to 10% decrease due to the Russian and Ukrainian crisis. Contrary to the majority of other winemakers however, Tbilvino will easily compensate for the loss of the Russian and Ukrainian countries, with the rest of its 28 markets. Not to rely on risky markets is the main principle of Tbilvino, and one which the industry is still failing to meet.

Tbilvino expects to sell more than 4.5 million bottles in 2015. The company forecasts growth on each of the 30 markets in which it is present, excluding Russia and Ukraine. Significant growth is predicted in the Baltic States, Poland and China.

“Total wine export in the first quarter of 2015 is significant steps behind the same period of the prior year. The results of Tbilvino are much better considering the overall situation of the industry. However, if we compare January-May of 2014 to the same period of the current year, we will see a reduction in export. The Ukraine crisis and economic condition in Russia has contributed to this reduction,” Giorgi Margvelashvili, President at JSC Tbilvino, told Georgian newspaper The Financial.

Tbilvino expects to have a 5 to 10% reduction in export in 2015, in comparison with 2014. “Maintaining the predicted figure will be quite a successful result for us. The whole industry is lagging behind by 55% this year,” Margvelashvili said.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Mashable" on Georgian wine: This former Soviet republic is the next big food and wine destination

by Susan Shain

02.07.2015. When you arrive at the airport in Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, the passport control agent hands you a bottle of wine to welcome you.

I’ve traveled to many countries, and have never once received a gift upon arrival — especially none so delicious or storied as Georgian wine.

I took it as a sign I would enjoy traveling in Georgia. And I was right.

The Republic of Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union, straddles the divide between Europe and Asia and has a population of almost 4 million. Its borders are created by the Caucasus Mountains and Russia to the north, the Black Sea to the west, Armenia and Turkey to the south, and Azerbaijan to the east.

For a country roughly the size of West Virginia, Georgia is home to an astonishing number of indigenous grapes Georgia is home to an astonishing number of indigenous grapes, with more than 500. (To put that into perspective, there are only 2,000 grape varieties in the whole world.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Qvevri House will revitalise Kakheti and save ancient winemaking methods

01.07.2015. A new multi-million GEL facility is being built in Georgia’s Kakheti region to restore the country’s ancient winemaking tradition and develop the region’s historic, cultural, educational, recreational and touristic potential.

The multi-functional facility, called Qvevri House, will include a cultural/tourist centre, workshop and museum where visitors can learn the ancient qvevri winemaking methods. The facility will also aid the local economy and offer employment opportunities to local residents.

Construction of the new Qvevri House started yesterday in Ikalto village, Kakheti.

An area of land measuring 5,407.55 sq. m, earlier allocated to the Qvevri House project, had all the preconditions to create a learning-manufacturing (workshop) and cultural centre that will be equipped with high-class modern technologies, read the project brief.

The project, valued at almost 2.3 million GEL, was initiated by the Municipal Development Fund of Georgia’s Regional Development and Infrastructure Ministry and was being financed by the World Bank Group.