News / Europe

Georgia Looks Toward End of Russia's Wine Embargo

Georgia Looks Toward End of Russia's Wine Embargoi
|| 0:00:00
X
James Brooke
October 12, 2012 9:37 PM
Six years ago, Russia hit Georgia with a wine embargo. Suddenly, a market that had taken 80 percent of Georgia’s wine exports was closed. VOA's James Brooke reports that now, in the days after Georgians elected a Moscow-trained prime minister, there is serious talk of lifting the embargo.

Georgia Looks Toward End of Russia's Wine Embargo

James Brooke
— Six years ago, Russia hit Georgia with a wine embargo. Suddenly, a market that had taken 80 percent of Georgia’s wine exports was closed.
 
Now, in the days after Georgians elected a Moscow-trained prime minister, there is serious talk of lifting the embargo.

In Sighnaghi, a 120-kilometer drive east of Tbilisi, some winemakers say they have adjusted to business without the massive Russian market.

Here in the eastern hills of Georgia, archeologists say they have found the earliest evidence of grape cultivation and winemaking in the world. Eight-thousand years ago, wine was made in kvevri - massive clay jars lined with beeswax and buried in the ground.

In hills and valleys like these, near Sighnaghi, archeologists have found evidence of grape cultivation and wine fermentation dating back to 7,000 BC, making eastern Georgia the site of the earliest known evidence of wine production, Georgia, October 2012In hills and valleys like these, near Sighnaghi, archeologists have found evidence of grape cultivation and wine fermentation dating back to 7,000 BC, making eastern Georgia the site of the earliest known evidence of wine production, Georgia, October 2012
x
In hills and valleys like these, near Sighnaghi, archeologists have found evidence of grape cultivation and wine fermentation dating back to 7,000 BC, making eastern Georgia the site of the earliest known evidence of wine production, Georgia, October 2012
In hills and valleys like these, near Sighnaghi, archeologists have found evidence of grape cultivation and wine fermentation dating back to 7,000 BC, making eastern Georgia the site of the earliest known evidence of wine production, Georgia, October 2012
A Renaissance is Born

John Wurdeman, an American, is following the old ways making his Pheasant's Tears wines.

“We are at the beginning of this renaissance,” Wurdeman said after showing visitors his vineyards and kvevri pots. “There’s a lot of work left to be done, and much of it’s education. It’s teaching people that you can work naturally and spend a little bit more time in the vines and a little bit less time fussing around in the cellar, that if you have really healthy grapes, the grapes don’t need much help.”

He has test-planted 340 varietals in one vineyard. He promotes Pheasant’s Tears with tours, wine tastings and sales through his bilingual English-Georgian website.
Georgia’s surge in quality is drawing European and American buyers, like Lisa Costa, owner of a wine bar and shop near San Francisco.

“We find a lot of character, a lot of uniqueness,” she said after a wine-tasting. “People like John are trying to save the tradition, and these ancient varietals and ancient methods. The wine speaks for itself.”

From this small Black Sea nation, Georgian wine is now sold to 50 countries around the world. That is because Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2006 abruptly banned all wine imports from pro-Western Georgia. Wurdeman recalled that Georgia had depended on Russia to buy 80 percent of its exports.

Lisa Costa, owner of the The Punchdown wine bar and bottle shop in Oakland, California, traveled around the world to taste the amber wines of Pheasant's Tears, Sighnaghi, Georgia, October 2012. (VOA - J. Brooke)Lisa Costa, owner of the The Punchdown wine bar and bottle shop in Oakland, California, traveled around the world to taste the amber wines of Pheasant's Tears, Sighnaghi, Georgia, October 2012. (VOA - J. Brooke)
x
Lisa Costa, owner of the The Punchdown wine bar and bottle shop in Oakland, California, traveled around the world to taste the amber wines of Pheasant's Tears, Sighnaghi, Georgia, October 2012. (VOA - J. Brooke)
Lisa Costa, owner of the The Punchdown wine bar and bottle shop in Oakland, California, traveled around the world to taste the amber wines of Pheasant's Tears, Sighnaghi, Georgia, October 2012. (VOA - J. Brooke)
“Five years ago, it was almost impossible, or six years ago, to find a traditionally made Georgian wine outside of Georgia,” he said. Now, he added, “There’s wines showing up on the shelves in Paris, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, and part of the exploration is this living, ancient method. Part of it is just the sheer flavor that they taste very different.”

Ancient Tradition Thrives

Quality has improved so sharply that Georgia now exports one-third of the volume of bottles as before the embargo -- but earns the same amount of money.

Next week, in a political change, Georgia is to have a new prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire. He made his fortune in Russia, and Russian wine importers are betting the embargo will be dropped. They are calling Wurdeman to make deals.
“The danger of the Russian market reopening is it will be an invitation to people to just want huge amounts of lesser quality wine,” Wurdeman warned. He said wine has been an integral part of Georgian culture for thousands of years. Russia is only starting to evolve from a hard-drinking vodka culture.

“The whole wine culture needs some time in Russia to develop,” he continued. “If it was up to me, I would keep the boycott on, and in five to 10 years, there’s going to be so many good little producers in Georgia that have a really secure place in the real wine market. Then Georgia wouldn’t have to always be blackmailed.”

Jacques Fleury is a French winemaker who directs Chateau Mukhrani, another Georgian boutique winery. Speaking in a Tbilisi wine shop, he said the Russian embargo “has brought back the Georgian industry to a high-level of quality, because we have to expand in the Western world, and there was more concern about the quality.”

Officially, Russia bans Georgian wines for health reasons. But Fleury said that Russian wine-drinkers do not share that concern. “From what I see, people taking the ferry boat from St. Petersburg, going to Estonia buying our wines, or to Finland buying our wines, and bringing back boxes of Georgian wines into Russia, I would think that there is still a great interest,” said the winemaker.

Now it is up to Russia’s Federal Consumer Protection Service to rediscover what Georgians have known for thousands of years - that a glass of wine from these ancient hills can be good for your health.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
October 15, 2012 6:49 AM
An article about Georgian wine producers which quotes two Americans and one Frenchman (and no Georgians)...?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid