Friday, February 15, 2013

All's fair in wine and war: drinking to the end of Russia-Georgia tensions

by Anna Vasileva, Yekaterina Drankina (Kommersant-Dengi)

15.02.2013. Russia’s Surgeon General,  Gennady Onishchenko  is a well-known teetotaler who recommends not drinking for everyone, even on New Year’s Eve. So it came as a surprise last week when he spoke out enthusiastically about wines from neighboring Georgia.

“How long has it been since Georgian wine has been sold here?” Onishchenko complained to a group of visiting Georgian winemakers, whose visit, incidentally, had been delayed because they could not get visas for several months. “If politics doesn’t get in the way, Georgian wine will be back in Russian stores.”

The Surgeon General was the one who banned the sale of Georgian wine back in 2006. Of course, that was not for political, or economic reasons, but rather due to unsanitary conditions.

There were some small squabbles during the meeting. The Georgians said that there was no way to comply with all of the procedures for the restoration of trade before the summer, while Onishchenko  shook their hands and said that it needs to be done sooner, in the spring.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Russia's wine experts depart to Georgia next week

14.02.2013 (Hvino News). Experts of the Russian consumer rights watchdog will travel to Georgia next week to inspect enterprises that plan to export wine and mineral water to the Russian market, Rospotrebnadzor's Gennady Onishchenko told Russian news agency Interfax on Thursday.

 "I think they will go there next week," he said. A date for the Russian delegation's departure will be set after Rospotrebnadzor finishes studying Tbilisi's list of Georgian companies willing to accept Russian inspectors, he said. Russian experts' visit to Georgia, initially set for this week, was rescheduled because Georgia belatedly sent this list of enterprises to Rospotrebnadzor, Onishchenko said.

The Russian watchdog informed Georgia on February 7 that it was ready to inspect 30 companies that plan to deliver wine and mineral water to the Russian market.

Georgian wine and mineral water exports to Russia were suspended in 2006 amid tensions in Russian-Georgian relations. There are no diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia today.

© Hvino News

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

69 Georgian wine, mineral water firms apply for exports to Russia

13.02.2013 (Hvino News) According to Russian consumer safety agency Rospotrebnadzor, total of 69 Georgian wine and mineral water producers have applied to export product to Russia, Russian news agency Interfax reported.

"All of the documents received have been forwarded to Rospotrebnadzor experts for study. Priority will be given to those 31 organizations that have submitted information for the documentary check in full. The checks of the other 38 will be carried out after they submit the required documents," Rospotrebnadzor said on its website. The schedule for inspections by three teams of Rospotrebnadzor experts will be determined once the list of exporting firms is finalized.

Georgia's National Wine Agency provided Rospotrebnadzor on February 11 with a general list of Georgian alcoholic beverage and mineral water producers interested in exporting to Russia, as well as documents laying out the system for monitoring the quality and safety of products meant for human consumption.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Georgian wine captures Paris

Photo alicefeiring.com
12.02.2013. Two weeks ago, I landed in Paris full of snot and groggy from the Ambien and made my way over to my friends in the old lady 7th Arr, just under the Tour Eiffel. I blew my nose, dropped my bag and when in my right mind, hopped on line 8, traveled to chef Inaki Aizpitarte’s Chateaubriand in the Oberkampf to a special tasting that winemaker (and local distributor of his friend's wines) Thierry Puzelat was putting on.

Outside of the restaurant, in the mist, Tuscan winemaker, Francesca Padovani was among those  taking a smoke. Parting my way though the fog, I pushed into the crowd. And there was a crowd. Among the wine bar owners, sommeliers and cavistes were also Eric Texier & Marie Lapierre, Francois Morel (of Rouge et Blanc) Bert Celce. They came to see if  the five Georgians (and one lovely Italian, Francesco) showing off their stuff, and to see if the wines were talking frogs or just merely beautiful salamanders.

Not only had they landed but they conquered.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Onishchenko: Russian experts are not going with inspection to Georgia

Photo: News Georgia
11.02.2013 (Hvino News). The arrival by Russian inspections in Georgia to inspect Georgian enterprises has been delayed,  as Gennady Onishchenko, head of Rospotrebnadzor and chief sanitary doctor  told the Russian news agency Interfax on Monday.

"The departure of three teams of experts was postponed on indefinite term", he said. On February 4, at a meeting with the Georgian delegation in Moscow at Rospotrebnadzor they have agreed on the mechanism of granting access of wine and mineral water from Georgia to Russia. In particular, it was decided that this week, three teams of experts from Rospotrebnadzor were to visit Georgia to inspect production.

"We have agreed that during a week the Georgian side would develop and provide us their suggestions regarding the enterprises to be visited by our experts, and we would depart on Monday. But we have not received such information, so the departure was delayed", said Gennady Onishchenko. Earlier, Levan Davitashvili, head of  National Wine Agency of Georgia, said that the lists of enterprises for inspection were to be provided to the Russian side by Monday.

© Hvino News

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Georgian wine tasting party scheduled in Tokyo for Valentine's Day

09.02.2013 (Hvino News). Georgian Wine Tasting is scheduled for Saturday 16th February 2013 at Engawa Inn in Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, Japan (18:00-20:30). The organizers say: "We will hold the next Wine Tasting Party. At the event you will be able to enjoy drinking a variety of white and red unique kvevri natural organic wines from Georgia (Europe) not available anywhere else in Japan.

Georgia has the oldest tradition of wine making, as much as 8,000 years old, with over 500 unique grape varieties found nowhere else. These varietals have not been cross-bred and retain their natural power and structure. The wines are made with all of the grape (skin and seed, as well as flesh) in a unique style in clay jars and fermented underground at natural earth temperature. The wines are organic with only naturally occurring sulphites, giving a clean product rich in polyphenols and antioxidants with great health benefits.

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Decanter": Kremlin 'most likely' to lift Georgia ban

by James Lawrence

08.02.2013. An end to the Russian ban on Georgian wine imports is looking increasingly probable in 2013, according to industry professionals.

Pavel Titov, chairman of Russia’s oldest sparkling wine producer, Abrau-Durso, told Decanter.com sources in the Kremlin had confirmed that after initial discussions, Russia would ‘most likely’ start importing Georgian wine before the end of the year.

‘We must remember that the ban was not solely political, Georgian wine quality has improved immensely since the initial enactment of the ban. Russia had to protect itself from being flooded with cheap, low quality wine,’ Titov said.

Onishchenko comments on return of Georgian wine to Russian market

08.02.2013 (Hvino News) Russia's chief sanitarian Genady Onishchenko says the return of Georgian wine to the Russian market is not an important issue for Russia.

"May be it is important for them, i.e. for Georgia, but for us it is a very insignificant fact," Onishchenko said, adding Georgian wine product might occupy only 4% of the total of the Russian market, which in fact meant nothing.

Onishchenko commented on his recent meeting with Georgian agriculture ministry delegation, who discussed the process of return of Georgian wine and mineral waters to Russia. He confirmed that several groups of experts would arrive in Georgia soon to inspect the wine factories and give licenses to the company for importing their product to Russia.

© Hvino News

Thursday, February 7, 2013

"The Drinks Business": Russia poised to lift Georgian wine ban

by Rupert Millar

07.02.2013. Russian and Georgian officials met earlier this week on the possibility of reopening the market for wine and mineral water. The announcement is the first since November last year when Russia announced it was considering lifting the ban as the drinks business reported at the time.

Georgia is in the process of drawing up a list of producers who wish to export to Russia who will then be subject to an inspection by the Russian consumer rights protection agency, Rospotrebnadzor. Russia banned Georgian wine products in 2006 citing poor quality and health fears.

In Vino Veritas – Russian market prepares for Georgian products

07.02.2013. Those who remember the Russian Ambassador Vyacheslav Kovalenko leaving Georgia after the 2008 August War will also recall the toast he made with a glass of water at Tbilisi Airport. The ambassador drank the toast to the century-long friendship of the Russian and Georgian people with water, thus, putting a full stop to the historical era that Russian and Georgian diplomats started two centuries ago with bowls full of wine.

Many observers evaluated the water toast of the Russian ambassador as a symbolic gesture: according to the experts, due to the embargo on Georgian wines and other products introduced in Russia in 2006, Kovalenko had to replace a glass of wine with a glass of water in front of the media gathered at the airport that day.

After the August War of 2008 the water toast of the Russian Ambassador took on a totally different context but the fact remains a vivid example of how Georgian wine became a political hostage in the Russian-Georgian confrontation.

Georgian wine back to Russian market

by Keti Arjevanidze

06.02.2013. “It is possible that Georgian wine will return to the Russian market in spring of this year,” Levan Davitashvili, head of the National Wine Agency, said after the negotiations with the Russian side concluded on February 4. However, Davitashvili admitted that currently it is hard to make exact forecast.

Genadi Onishenko, head of the Russian State Consumer Protection Agency, said as reply to Davitashvili’s statement, that “it is realistic” only if the politics do not interfere.

“Georgian entrepreneurs have taken significant steps toward improving the situation during the last years,” Onishenko said, after a meeting with the Georgian delegation in Russia on Monday. He also expressed the readiness to come to Georgia and resolve various issues related to the return of Georgian products to the Russian market.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Onishchenko: Georgian wine could control some 4% of Russian alcohol market

06.02.2013 (Hvino News) Georgian wine imports will account for an insignificant part of the Russian market for alcoholic beverages after these deliveries are resumed, Gennady Onishchenko, head of the consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor and Russia's chief epidemiologist, told Russian agency Interfax on Tuesday.

"This step could be crucial for them [Georgia], but it is not the most important thing for us. [Georgian wine imports] will account for around 4% of the market. They used to control 4% of our market at the most. But these 4% do not mean that much to us," he said.

Onishchenko and Georgian officials agreed upon a mechanism for re-opening access to the Russian market for Georgian wine and mineral water at a meeting in Moscow on Monday.

Onishchenko said that imports of Georgian wine and mineral water to Russia could be resumed in spring if Georgia agreed to meet all conditions.

© Hvino News

"New York Times" on Ivanishvili and Georgian wine: Georgia sees closer ties with Russia

06.02.2013. As Russia took steps to resume imports of Georgian-produced wine and mineral water, Georgia’s new prime minister, the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, said Tuesday that he was making progress on one of his campaign promises — to repair the country’s badly frayed relationship with its huge neighbor.

Mr. Ivanishvili has struggled to meet the expectations that swept him to power in October, ending the nine-year political dominance of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his party. Many voters expected his election to be followed by immediate financial relief and a turnaround in relations with Russia.

"Financial Times": Georgian wine to flow as Russia lifts ban

by Neil Buckley

06.02.2013. Georgian wine and mineral water are poised to return to Russian shops and restaurants after a seven-year absence, marking the first breakthrough in relations since the 2008 war between the ex-Soviet neighbours.

The end of Moscow’s 2006 trade ban – agreed in principle on Monday – highlights the shift since businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili became Georgia’s premier in October pledging to rebuild ties with Russia, where he made his estimated $6.4bn fortune.

Mr Ivanishvili’s government insists Georgia’s priority remains closer integration with Nato and the European Union. But it says this can only be achieved by also restoring trust with Moscow.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Georgian wines to return to Russia by spring

Photo AP/ Shakh Aivazov
05.02.2013. Georgian wine, which was banned by Russia in 2006, may return to the Russian market in spring, Georgian and Russian officials said on Monday after talks in Moscow, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports.

“Perhaps, by the end of spring, Georgian products will enter the Russian market,” said Georgian National Wine Agency head Levan Davitashvili, after talks between a Georgian delegation and Russian consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor on reopening the Russian market.

“In my opinion, this is realistic, or sooner,” Rospotrebnadzor head Gennady Onishchenko said. Rospotrebnadzor specialists will go “in about a week” to inspect those Georgian enterprises that have provided documents for the resumption of Georgian supplies to Russia, he said. The next step will be the registration of Georgian products in Russia, he said. “This will be followed by admission to the Russian market. Admission will be granted through customs,” he said.

"Hvino News" to become official information partner of Georgia's National Wine Agency

05.02.2013 (Hvino News) Hvino News is honoured to become the official information partner of National Wine Agency of Georgia (NWA). This was decided during a working meeting between Levan Davitashvili, director of NWA, and Alexander Kaffka, publisher of Hvino.com, last week in Tbilisi.

"You have showed that you can work efficiently to promote Georgian wine", said Mr. Davitashvili about the Hvino News project, launched less than a year ago. "We have worked hard, and we are thankful to National Wine Agency for appreciation of our efforts. I am sure now will be able to make much more useful contribution, in cooperation with Georgia's main wine authority", commented Hvino.com's Mr. Kaffka.

Hvino News will soon start to distribute official NWA's information, in addition to its usual news. Currently, content of Hvino News consists of its own news, and reposts from English-language sources in about 50-50 proportion. Plans for further extension of information and media services for NWA have also been discussed.

© Hvino News

Associated Press: Russia mulls resumption of Georgian wine imports

Photo AP/ Shakh Aivazov
by Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili and Max Seddon

05.02.2013. A Russian official said Monday that Moscow may soon resume imports of Georgian wine, mineral water and fruit after a seven-year ban, the first tentative step toward repairing the ruptured ties between the two ex-Soviet neighbors.

Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's top sanitation official, said a first round of talks between delegations from both countries was successful Monday, and that a Russian delegation will visit Georgia this month to discuss issues related to restarting the import of wine and mineral water. He said that could happen by this spring and that fruit imports may follow.

Russia banned such trade in 2006 amid rising political tensions in the run up to a brief war with Georgia in 2008. An election in October made tycoon and philanthropist Bidzina Ivanishvili Georgia's new prime minister, and he pledged to normalize relations with Russia, where he had made his fortune.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Reuters: Russia set to resume imports of Georgian wine and water

04.02.2013. Russia agreed in principle on Monday to lift an embargo on imports of wine and mineral water from Georgia, a first step towards rebuilding relations shattered by their 2008 war.

Water and wine trade could resume in months, seven years after Russia banned two of its small southern neighbour's main exports as tension mounted before the five-day war.

Prospects of a thaw in relations between the former Soviet republics have improved since Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune doing business in Russia, became Georgia's prime minister after a parliamentary election last October.

Georgian delegation heads to Moscow to discuss wine exports

04.02.2013 (Hvino News) A seven-member Georgian delegation left here on Sunday for Moscow to start the country's first official visit to Russian Federation since August 2008. Levan Davitashvili, head of the delegation, told the press at the Tbilisi International Airport that the delegation would present Georgian wines in Moscow.

"We'll hold presentations about the (quality) control mechanism of the food and wines in Georgia ... how the product is controlled in Georgia; how the export is certified ... and then it will be discussed what further steps should be taken to return Georgian products to the Russian market," said Davitashvili. "Apart from wines, mineral water exports will also be discussed and on the next step -- fruits and vegetables," Davitashvili added.

Tengiz Kalandadze, deputy chief of the Georgian state food agency, told the press that the Georgians would be ready to talk with Russia's chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko. Members of the Moscow-bound Georgian delegation also include Davit Grigolia, chief adviser for the Georgian state wine agency, deputy head of the national food agency Tengiz Kalandadze, head of the phytosanitary department of the national food agency Zurab Lipartia, Executive director of the association Georgian Wine Tinatin Kezeli, chairperson of Georgian Wine Giorgi Ramishvili, Director of Fruit and Vegetable Company Giorgi Jakhutashvili.

© Hvino News

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Georgian wines in Paris

Iago Bitarishvili. Photo:  wineterroirs.com
02.02.2013. I had been emailed about this tasting a few weeks prior to the event, and I decided to attend, given that the weather wouldn't be too tough and allow me to ride there on motorbike from work. I must confess that I occasionally give up on a few tastings because either torrential rains or snowy/icy conditions. I arrived at the place at around 4:30pm, the day had been bright and almost warm, especially compared with the freezing temperatures of a week before. Very good for the tasting, tastings in freezing temperatures are always hard on the wines.

Thierry Puzelat who manages to make and organize so many things beyond his own winery and his négoce, had put up this tasting centered on Georgia wines, with the help of the people of Le Chateaubriand, a restaurant of the 11th arrondissement known for its food and wine list. The emailing of Puzelat about the event highlighted the fact that these artisan winegrowers worked organically and vinified the kvevri way, using buried amphorae as fermenters. Most of these vintners had never traveled to France and that was an opportunity to meet them as well as to taste their wines. They came from several regions of Georgia, from Kakhetia near Azerbaidjan (a hot and dry region), from Imeretia (in the west, a more humid area near the black sea) and from near Tbilisi at the border with breakaway-region Ossetia. There would be also wine from a monastery, the leading monk/cellar master not coming alas in person.

Georgian Wine Guide 2013

by Malkhaz Kharbedia

This is the second (2013) edition of the Georgian Wine Guide. Georgian wine culture has changed a lot since the publication of the first edition last year. Many important steps have been taken towards self-identification, and our wine-makers have realized that the traditional methods of wine-making in qvevri which were developed over thousands of years count among the country’s most important values. It is this wine which must become the image of wine in Georgia. Last year’s Guide featured only 21 traditional wines, but their number has increased significantly this year and they now have pride of place in our Guide.

One could also say that we are currently experiencing a revival of Georgian qvevri wines. If, two or three years ago, only a handful of traditional Kakhetian wines existed on the market, nowadays people can choose qvevri wine from almost every region of Georgia. 2012 was a very important year in this respect: several amateur or experienced wine-makers decided to begin to work with qvevri, and next year’s Guide will hopefully include the results of their work.

The number of quality rosé wines in Georgia has also increased quite significantly. This variety of wine re-emerged on the Georgian market several years ago, and this year’s Guide includes up to ten rosé wines. This wine has become fashionable, and every Georgian wine-maker now feels obliged to make pink wine—either from Saperavi or Tavkveri grapes, or from foreign varieties such as Cabernet or Muscat. The expression “a new broom sweeps clean” could be used for rosé wine, and I hope that the quality and diversity of these wines will be improved over time.

Water, wine to lubricate Russian talks with war foe Georgia

by Margarita Antidze

02.02.2013. If there's a way to dilute the bitterness in relations between Russia and Georgia after a 2008 war, it may lie in a lush valley south of the Caucasus Mountain border between the feuding former Soviet republics.

Here flows Borjomi, a naturally carbonated mineral water of volcanic origin that had been popular in Russia since the 19th century until it was swept off the shelves when Moscow banned Georgian beverages and other products in 2006 as tensions built toward the five-day war.

Borjomi, a resort town with a mix of grand Soviet-era sanatoriums and drab apartment blocks, sent 60 percent of its production to Russia before the ban, and output plunged 43 percent to 63 million litres in 2006.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Head of National Wine Agency: Georgian companies will return to Russian market on equal terms

01.02.2013 (Hvino News) National Wine Agency denies  the information that  at the first stage companies based on Russian capital will enter the  Russian market. Levan Davitashvili, head of the agency, speaking to Georgian radio Commersant, noted that Moscow did not divide companies or defined stages of return to Russian market.

Davitashvili said that when Georgian wine returns to the Russian market, this will affect everyone equally.

Information on the return of the companies based on the Russian capital at the first phase appeared in the Russian media. Among the companies were named Tbilisi Wine Cellar, founded by Dionis Club distributing company, as well as  GWS whose vineyards and a winery belonged to Pernod Ricard until 2011, and now are under ownership of  Marussia Beverages BV, which works in Russian distribution.

© Hvino News

Georgia's new government looks to press "reset" in Russia relations

by Molly Corso

01.02.2012. In power for just three months, the government of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili appears to have struck gold in economic relations with Russia: officials in Moscow have tentatively given the green light to resuming Georgian wine and mineral water imports, reopening a major market for Georgian farmers and businesses.

While critics in Tbilisi have slammed the overture as striking a deal with an occupying power, the true test of PM Ivanishvili's Russian gambit will be his ability to balance the country's economic need for its northern neighbour with Moscow's penchant for undermining Georgian sovereignty and its stated goal of moving closer to the EU and NATO.

On February 4, a Georgian delegation is scheduled to meet with Russia's de facto wine tsar, Gennady Onishchenko, head of the Russian state consumer protection agency. Onishchenko famously banned Georgian wine, mineral water and other goods on alleged health concerns in 2006, though it was almost certainly politically motivated, given the deep hatred and mistrust between Vladimir Putin's Kremlin and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Georgian and Russian sommeliers agreed on information exchange

01.02.2013. Georgian and Russian sommeliers agreed to exchange information on Georgian wine to avoid any possible misinformation and misunderstanding like recently spread information on alleged change of Georgian wine sorts and technologies, as the Head of the Guild of Russian Sommeliers said on the eve of a breakthrough visit of Georgian delegation to Moscow.

Georgian wine looks forward to reappearing on Russian market. To this end, Georgian official delegation will visit Moscow on February 4, 2013 to meet Genadi Onishchenko, the Head of Rospotrebnadzor [sanitary body of Russian Federation], who banned Georgian agriculture product including wine and mineral water in 2006 under alleged quality security reasons.