Georgia's wine exports (the country - the birthplace of wine - not the US state - the birthplace of Coca Cola) have surged in recent years, which is both well deserved and timely. Georgia deserves increased recognition for its wine industry both because it is truly the birthplace of wine, with literally thousands of years of history, and because the wine industry and government have invested heavily in these years to raise standards and promote products in key markets.
Check all the boxes
The success of Georgia wine in 2020 is particularly timely as travel and tourism - another important Georgian industry - have been hit hard by the global coronavirus pandemic. Ideally, the wine and tourism industries work together to generate the necessary income, especially in rural areas. Georgia is sort of running on a single cylinder this year, so the wine boost is particularly appreciated.
Sue and me visited Georgia in 2016 and we were impressed with the friendly people. beautiful scenery, striking crafts and culture, delicious food and excellent wine. We recently immersed ourselves in virtual Georgia experiences through the third annual edition Ghvino Forum and a “Georgian Wines 101” commercial tasting of six Georgian wines, expertly led by Taylor Parsons with special guest winemaker Iago Bitarishvili of Iago's iconic wines.
My particular focus for the Ghvino Forum was a presentation of Tornike Korerzaia, head of research at TBC Capital on the economics of Georgian wine. Wine is culturally important in Georgia (a fact that a recent film Our blood is wine is very clear), but it is also a key part of the economy.
A complicated situation
KBrerzaia presented data showing that the Georgian wine sector is a complex mosaic. A survey of large and medium-sized wineries, for example, found high financial returns - about twice the average for Georgian businesses in general, he said. It's incredible. It would be interesting to dig deeper here, to see if the same is true for small vineyards and if the yields for growers are also positive.
Georgian wine is not a unique thing, so it is important to understand its components. Domestic production was very high in Soviet times and is still significant, especially compared to other countries we visited. The basis for the high per capita wine consumption in Georgia is wine made at home or by friends or family, although Korerzaia noted that sales of commercial wines have increased in the domestic market.
Georgians prefer white wine - and it's easy to see why if you taste a good Chinuri, for example. But traditional export markets prefer red wine, so it is a production target. Russia and the CIS markets demand semi-sweet red wines, which Georgia produces in abundance. Uncertain political relations, however, are behind a movement to diversify export markets and reduce dependence on Russia.
China has become an important market for Georgian wines, but the Chinese prefer dry red wines to semi-sweet products. Chinese consumers are drawn to the history of Georgian wine - its long history and the Silk Road associations - as well as its quality. Many Georgian wine houses opened in Chinese cities to tell cultural history and promote wines.
Rising tide in the US market
The United States export market is growing rapidly from a small base, with above-average prices. Over 800,000 bottles were exported to the United States until October 2020, for example, a substantial increase from 678,000 in 2019 and less than 200,000 in 2014, when the current outbreak began. The average ex-cellar price of exports to the United States was 5.11 dollars, according to Georgian statistics, more than double the export price of China and the CIS countries. So you can understand why the US market is the focus.
Georgian wine is exceptionally diverse, so it will be interesting to see which of its many facets shines the most in the US market. Natural wine is a growing market niche and many Georgian products can proudly display this flag. But a lot of traditional producers are quite small, so critical mass is an issue. Iago Bitarishvili is an extremely important producer, for example, but only 5,000 bottles of his Chinuri amber were made in 2019 according to the data we received.
Georgia is home to literally hundreds of native grape varieties, creating a kaleidoscope of interesting choices for some consumers and a confusing blur for others. (Sue suggests focusing on the red Saperavi first and maybe also the white Chinuri - great wines that buyers won't be afraid to try to pronounce.) However, a lot of wines are sold. by hand, resulting in the closure of restaurants and wine bars by Covid. many areas an additional challenge. The six wines included in the Georgian Wine 101 tasting were made from these grape varieties: Tsitska-Tsolikouri, Kisi, Chinuri, Tsolikouri-Otskhanuri, Tavkveri and Saperavi.
But Georgia, Georgians and Georgian wine have survived these thousands of years thanks to their determination, commitment and resilience, so they are unlikely to be overcome by these temporary challenges. We look forward to learning more about Georgia and its wines and witnessing the continued growth of their exports.
The Lost Eden of Georgia
Just as I was putting the finishing touches on this column, a friend wrote to me telling me about a new Georgian wine that he tasted on Thanksgiving and really enjoyed. The project is called Lost Eden Red Mix and that ticks many of the boxes necessary to break into the crowded market. It's a 100% blend of Saperavi from multiple wineries - I guess the marketers thought the “red blend” would be more accessible than Saperavi. The wine is produced by an 11th generation (!) Winemaker. The packaging is unique, don't you think? You will remember this wine if you try it and love it.
The wine is “semi-dry” with 15.4 g / l of residual sugar and 13% alcohol. 4,500 crates manufactured. Suggested retail price $ 18.99. It is a type of wine that we have tasted and enjoyed in Georgia and is popular here in the United States, where many consumers speak dry and drink sweeter. The wine is modern in style, according to the online documents, but pays homage to tradition by blending a serving of wine made using the traditional qvevri method from clay vessels buried in the ground.
Some of my friends will be disappointed that a wine like Lost Eden gets attention. They would like Georgia to be known in the United States exclusively for its traditional qvervi wines. But Georgia is a small country that exceeds its weight in the wine world by taking advantage of all of its many benefits, including some high-quality, sweeter red wines.
We didn't taste the wine, but we did taste the story told on the website, which is based on the people and the country, their culture and history, and of course the food too, including the emblematic supra party. Georgian wine is complicated, as noted above. This is just one aspect of Georgian wine, but one that seems likely to generate more interest in the wine and the country in general.
Georgian wine is on the move. Let's see where it goes next!
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We would recommend either Wineworks Premium or Wineworks Superior as your first 30 Bottle Kit Wine. Both of these ranges are designed to produce a good quality wine that is ready to drink within 2-4 weeks but will benefit if left up to 6-8 weeks. Furthermore, they also have a great selection of wines to choose from.
If you’ve never made wine before or you simply don’t have any of the equipment or ingredients any longer then you could purchase one of our bundles. These bundles combine all the required equipment along with your prefered wine pack so that you can have everything delivered to your door and just get started. The Wineworks Superior Starter Bundles are a great choice if you want to keep the equipment budget down but still choose the quality of wine you’d like to go for. Whereas, the Wineworks Luxury Starter Bundles offer a better quality equipment pack and still let you choose from a great choice of wine packs.
The two most important aspects of making wine are Cleanliness and Temperature. Firstly remember everything that comes into contact with the wine should be cleaned and sterilised ( see below ). Secondly maintain a constant temperature between 21-26°C ( 69-79°F ). It is much better to be on the cool side and constant than hot one minute and cold the next. Airing cupboards are definitely no, no’s. ( See below )
Clean and sterilise all equipment. Here’s a selection of Sterilisers you can use and if you not quite sure which steriliser to go for then you can take a look at our Beginners Wine Making Part 1 - Cleaning, Sterlising
Wineworks Superior wines : These usually take 10-15 days to ferment, and a further week to clear. Again the wine can be drunk immediately but we recommend ageing it 4 weeks but you can leave it up to 12 months. The time you will leave it will depend very much on your stocks. So get plenty built up. The reds benefit more than the whites with ageing. Certain kits ( see the list below ) are suited more to the experienced wine maker and take around 4 weeks to ferment and then left for a further 2 weeks. These products does really benefit from ageing. All the packs we list in this section require little ageing.
As it’s new to you it will probably take in all 2 hours for your first batch. However, once you are used to it 1 hour is about the maximum amount of time needed. We would also point out bar the bottling side; it takes just as long to make 6 bottles as it does to make 30 bottles, so we strongly recommend you make the larger quantity. After all 6 bottles doesn’t go very far as we said before !
From our experience it is much better to maintain a constant temperature than a fluctuating one. We suggest 21-26°C ( 69-79°F ), although if it is cooler than this, it is not a problem, it just takes slightly longer to ferment. If you can’t maintain this then we supply three different forms of heating equipment : Brew Belt / Heat BeltThis is a simple insulated electric cable that wraps round your conteneur and provides a gentle heat. It is very flexible and extremely easy to use. Heat Tray ( 4 demi/5 Gallon Fermenter ) This is like a flat tray that provides a gentle continuous heat that goes under the fermenter. Immersion HeaterThis drops into the container, through the bung and can be thermostatically controlled to maintain the exact temperature. Similar to a fish tank heater. All these can be added to our starter coffret packages. See our video showing the genres of heating equipment available for your fermentation.
It is important to clean
If you’ve made it this far, hopefully understanding a bit of what we’ve said, then you’ll want to know how much it will cost to get started ! As you may have noticed, we’ve put together a couple of equipment kits which include everything you need, and take the confusion out of buying. You can make your first 30 bottles of Wine for approximately £65. 00. That’s all in ( Equipment