In terms of wines, Georgia has become Russia’s number one supplier this year.
Photo: Evgenia GUSEVA
The girls and I paid for the first student scholarship with the Georgian Tsinandali. The guys, of course, drank something else, but there was no other “decent” wine in the nearest cafe.
Georgian wine remained my favorite almost until the late 90s, when its taste in some strange way began to change. In any case, what was offered in stores and kiosks in the capital. It is not surprising, it seems, that they joked that not so much wine is produced throughout Georgia as it is sold in Moscow under the guise of “Georgian”.
Since then, a lot has changed. But recently I go to the wine department of the supermarket and see: there are almost more Georgian names than Russian! And this is after for many years Georgian drinks were almost invisible on our shelves, in comparison with Chilean, Spanish, Italian and even Abkhazian ones. And from 2006 to 2013 they were generally prohibited from importing. What happened?
SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK
According to Russian customs, Georgia has become the number one supplier of wine this year. Squeezing Italy, Spain and France, from which it fell behind in previous years.
It’s hard to blame everything on sanctions. Deliveries of still wine (which is not champagne or sparkling) from Italy in the first five months of this year increased by a third, from Spain and France by a quarter. But the Georgian comes to us much more actively – over the same period its deliveries increased by more than 60%.
Experts immediately explain this for several reasons. Georgian providers, unlike most, have no problems with either payments (banks accept money from Russia) or logistics (a common border where everything passes smoothly). In addition, for Georgian wines, there is also a zero import duty, while for the rest it is 12.5%.
But not everything is determined by economic reasons. Russians still like wines that say “Georgia,” especially semi-sweet ones. And the confidence that “Khvanchkara” and “Kindzmarauli” is a real quality.
Shall we rejoice and raise a toast to Georgian winemakers? But the experience of the 1990s still forces us to ask some questions, to which we asked Georgian and Russian specialists to answer.
VIEW FROM THE CAUCASUS: “WE HAVE CHANGED FOR THE BETTER”
Owner of wine production in Georgia David Sopromadze:
– Where did so much Georgian wine come from in Russia? The increase in supplies is a logical continuation of a series of events. Over the past 30 years, Georgia has made a breakthrough in the development of the wine industry, old factories have been re-equipped and new ultra-modern enterprises have been built. Forgotten grape varieties in the USSR were restored, which led to an increase in the assortment line of wines, and this, in turn, attracts more consumers.
And it is not only those who are nostalgic for the “old” Georgian wines, but also those who have tried the renewed varieties. During the last decade many Russians have visited Georgia, mostly the younger generation. Having tried all the variety of our wines, upon returning to their homeland, they began to show increased demand for Georgian wines.
Do you have Rkatsiteli and Saperavi for 300-400 rubles? This is not a Georgian wine. This is probably a Russian production. The cheapest ordinary wine in Georgian factories costs 7 lari per 0.75 liter, which is equivalent to 250 rubles today. And also packaging, label, excise, delivery, customs, wholesale margin, retail margin… Judge for yourself!
Photo: Dmitry POLUKHIN
VIEW FROM RUSSIA: DRINK BECAUSE IT’S CHEAP
The owner of the wine bar and wine cellar “Vinoder” Alexandra Fomenko:
– The popularity of Georgia today, in my opinion, is partly due to the presence of autochthonous grape varieties (original from some locality – ed.) and the current trend of orange wine, or qvevri wine (a traditional technology for the region Georgian Kakheti – ed.). In addition, in the segment where imports grew first, the consumer more often began to reject foreign wine that he did not understand, preferring an understandable country with which we have a lot in common.
The portrait of a Georgian wine consumer is quite extensive: from young men to adult women of various incomes. But! Basically, the Georgian wine they drink is cheap wine. And they drink Georgia because:
b) culturally it happened in the mind that Georgia = “good wine”.
But there has always been a problem with Georgia, which persists: a quality product from there either does not reach the Russian Federation, or it is too expensive for our ordinary consumer, so we have to look for pearls among the “mass”.
FROM “KINDZMARAULI” FOR 400 RUBLES
The question of the quality and taste of Georgian wine is one of the most confusing. Sometimes it seems that we are talking about a completely different wine, which exists in parallel under the same names and labels.
“I didn’t understand something,” says a colleague who recently visited Georgia. – In Moscow, “Kindzmarauli” is sold twice cheaper than at home. How can it be?
And in Moscow I found two “Kindzmarauli” with completely different tastes. Both are “natural semi-sweet wines” (for this natural semi-sweetness, with no added sugars, classic Georgian wines such as “Khvanchkara” and “Kindzmarauli” are prized). Both are “from grapes grown in the Kindzmarauli microzone, Kakheti region” (the area where the grapes from which said wine is obtained are grown). Only the price of one bottle exceeds a thousand rubles, the other is around 450 rubles.
For Georgians themselves, Kindzmarauli, one of the most expensive Georgian wines, at a price of 450 rubles, causes something similar to tetanus. And not only that.
Here is the version of the domestic Roskachestvo. Although the Georgian side claims that all Georgian wine is made only from local grapes, statistics, for example, from Moldova, show that 17.8 million liters of winemaking material was shipped from there to Georgia in 2020 alone (it is used for reduce the cost of wine production). And also, according to analysts have calculated, to produce such a quantity of wine as the one that was shipped from Georgia for export in 2020 with the protected geographical designation Kindzmarauli, it takes three to four years of grape stocks from this entire area. For those who don’t understand, a protected geographical designation just means that the wine is made exclusively from grapes from a particular area, famous for some special properties. And inconsistencies in statistics may mean that some of the legendary wines are not produced according to the legendary and glorified Georgia, but according to simplified technology.
As they assure in Roskachestvo, this is also wine, and there is nothing forbidden and harmful in it. But this is not wine. And therefore cheaper.
WINE EXPERT COMMENT
“There are wines that glorified Georgia, but there are consumer goods”
Igor Serdyuk, director of the top100wines.ru wine rating:
– Georgian wines in Russia are popular not because they are better or worse than some analogues, but because we have a long history of trust. Trust, maybe a little nostalgic, romantic. With a mix of Georgian hospitality and Georgian cuisine memorabilia.
Georgia is really interesting for some of its original winemaking styles, which are almost non-existent in Europe or have been poorly represented there until now.
This is, for example, the style that this country has now spread to most of the world: orange wines. In fact, this is a Kakhetian way of producing white wines, with an insistence on the pulp (skins and seeds – ed.), and sometimes the honeycomb (vine branches to which the grapes are attached – ed.) . Such wines are enriched with a large amount of very useful phenolic compounds, which increases their value. But this style is quite difficult to manufacture.
Like the other, which glorified Georgia, there are such natural semi-sweet wines as Khvanchkara and Kindzmarauli. It is very difficult to guess when the grape will be in the right conditions, there are many other problems that require great discipline on the part of viticulturists and oenologists.
Unfortunately, now winemakers have learned to make similar semi-sweet wines in a much easier way – concentrated sweetening wort is added to dry wine. But you have to understand that natural sugar and added sugar are two different things. Both are semi-sweet and savory, but have nuances. The mass consumer does not feel this. Sweet and sweet. basically fragrant. OK.
There has been some change. These are not poisonous substitutes. But those primordial styles of production that garner great respect for Georgian wine in general are being superseded. And we, unfortunately, cannot control this moment. This is definitely not capable of doing the average consumer. And this, unfortunately, cannot be guaranteed by Georgian law.
But here the main problem is the low purchasing power of our population, which does not allow us to drink a lot of good wine. In this sense, we are provided with “mass”. There are companies that represent Georgian wines very well on the Russian market. But there are also consumer goods, which are only disguised as something “original”.
As for Georgia, I sincerely wish the realization as soon as possible of the true value of her original winemaking styles and their protection. So that this treasure remains for centuries and is not blown away by the wind for the sake of “mass character”.