In Vino Veritas

The Washington Times reports:

When Russia boycotted Georgian wine in 2006, Georgia lost 80 percent of its export market for wine overnight. Now, Georgian winemakers look back at the ban as a blessing in disguise.

Wine is a central element in Georgian culture, and for hundreds of years, Georgia was the primary supplier of wine to the Russian and Soviet empires. Owing to massive demand and Soviet production quotas, the volume of Georgian wine production soared while quality plummeted.

But, according to Shota Kobelia, commercial director of Georgian wine producer Teliani Valley, when relations between the Kremlin and Georgia’s pro-Western government soured to the point of an embargo, many winemakers saw an opportunity.

“Sure, the ban hurt us because we lost our biggest customer. But during this time there was no competition. Now we have an opportunity to sell to more-profitable markets, and we have been pushed to create a much better product,” Mr. Kobelia said.

Russia abruptly imposed the ban in March 2006, claiming that Georgian wines were contaminated with pesticides and impurities, and the Kremlin later extended the embargo to other Georgian products, such as bottled water. Experts and commentators roundly dismissed the move as a pretext for Russia to punish the pro-Western Georgian government, which came to power in the bloodless “Rose Revolution” in 2003.

Three years later, Teliani Valley wine is sold in 23 countries, and the company is Georgia’s No. 1 wine exporter. As it has upgraded its winemaking equipment and techniques, the company has seen its revenue from exports grow by 13 percent to 17 percent annually, Mr. Kobelia said.

In the United States, Mamuka Tsereteli founded Georgian Wine House, a Maryland-based import company. Mr. Tsereteli was born in Soviet Georgia and originally came to the United States in 1994 as a diplomat. He now teaches international relations at American and George Washington universities.

Since its founding in 2006, Georgian Wine House has put Georgian wine – including Teliani Valley and Pheasant’s Tears – on the shelves of more than 50 stores and restaurants in the Washington metropolitan area, and in five other states as well. Calling himself a “cultural promoter” rather than a wine merchant, Mr. Tsereteli holds lectures and wine tastings on weekends at various stores and at area Whole Foods supermarkets, which sell Georgian wines.

“I wanted to promote Georgia and wine in general. And, you know, I wanted to have good wine for myself,” Mr. Tsereteli said with a laugh. “It’s a good business: If you can’t sell it, you can always drink it.”
Although growth has been steady, Georgian wine companies still face difficulties being competitive on the open market.

First, while Georgia has an ideal climate for winemaking, the small country lacks sufficient land to produce the sheer volume of wine that can be squeezed out of regions, such as California’s Napa Valley.

Second, Georgia does not produce the peripheral products needed to package wine. Teliani Valley imports bottles from Italy, corks and wax caps from Portugal and boxes from Turkey – all of which drive up costs.

Furthermore, Georgia – aside from being commonly confused with the U.S. state – is more associated with war than wine in the West since its brief conflict with Russia in August of 2008.

Mr. Kobelia said his priority is making Georgia into a brand and marketing a type of wine comparable to what Western consumers currently buy. However, he said Georgian wine’s future eventually will lie in producing “boutique wine” – premium wine made in limited quantities for niche consumers.

While Georgia’s larger producers are focusing on branding first, some small Georgian vineyards have already begun to develop premium artisanal wine for export.

John Wurdeman, originally of Richmond, has lived in Georgia for 12 years. He established Pheasant’s Tears winery in 2007 with partners David Waldman and Gela Patalishvili. Pheasant’s Tears is one of the only wineries in the world that produces wine in complete accordance with techniques used in Georgia as far back as 6,000 B.C.

Pheasant’s Tears currently produces about 40,000 bottles annually, one-third of which is exported to the United States. Unlike most wines produced by modern methods – including Teliani Valley’s – Pheasant’s Tears wines are organic and go through the entire fermentation process in amphora – large clay vessels buried underground.

Mr. Wurdeman said he believes strongly that Georgian winemakers should go back to their roots, rather than attempting to compete in the general wine market.

If “we could start making wines that could sell in the $200 price bracket and that were put out in limited quantities, then it would really change and develop Georgian wine in a positive way,” he said. “I think that it’s like a bird trying to fly through glass right now. The Georgians are saying, ‘We’ve taken out a $3 million loan from the bank, and we want to make a mass wine that’s going to be superpopular in California.’ Well, it’s not going to work. They have their own inexpensive jug wine, and they don’t need it to be sent from the Black Sea,” he said.

Mr. Wurdeman said he was first attracted to Georgia in 1990, when, at age 15, he bought a cassette of traditional Georgian folk music and was enthralled.

Now raising a family with his wife, Ketevan, in the picturesque town of Sighnaghi in Georgian wine country, he has continued to devote his life to promoting and preserving traditional Georgian culture, all of which centers on wine, he said.

“The more you dig into Georgian traditions, the more you see how it goes together: the folk music, the religion, the wine and the art – all fingers of the same hand,” he said.

42 responses to “In Vino Veritas

  1. Georgians still using Soviet accounting methods.
    But they never talk about $6 billion in taxpayer subsidies from US and EU. That is $6 billion that Russia doesn’t spend to support this soviet and backward republic.

  2. Larry the Jerk doesn’t understand that Georgia has a real Democracy.

  3. Larry the Jerk doesn’t understand that Georgia has based its economy on free market principles. Not on Obama Maoist principles. Are you a Maoist, Larry?

  4. You sound like a Maoist, Larry the Jerk. Are a a Putin and Medvedev Lover, Larry? Are you dreaming about a menage a trois? I think you are larry? Are you goose stepping down the hall, Larry. What size are those jackboots, Larry. Did you get them on special Larry? How dare you call Georgia a Backward soviet republic? Its not Armenia or Azerbaijan, Larry. You don’t like Georgia because Saakashvili doesn’t kiss Putin’s rear. Is that right, Larry? How long have you been on the KGB take, Larry.

  5. Kolchak, are you stinky geogian?

    • Oh well, being a stinky Georgian is much better than being a slimey Russian like you Leonid.


    • Please, Leonid, not sink to their level

    • Ah, as our friends the French (and that isn’t as sarcastic as you might think) would say, stickiness is within he nose of the beholder and the sacred nostril of God.

      What that means, I have no idea, but to my knowledge, there has been no uniform measurement for stinkiness, so the issue is moot without any empirical way of measuring it.

      But this is irrelevant, because the issue is whether Leonid has any PROOF to back up his dissertations and disprove the article. Which it appears that he does not.

  6. Viktor SHM // October 27, 2009 at 11:10 am | Reply

    Please, Leonid, not sink to their level


    • Don’t worry. Unless you plan on “negative sinking”, or sinking upwards, I think there is no risk of you sinking to our level.

  7. Kolchak,
    Half of Georgian GDP comes from Georgians working in Russia other half comes from EU and US taxpayers. Seems like soviet times when hard-working Russians subsidized less then hard working Georgians.

    • Hard working Russians is a contradiction in terms.

    • Yes,

      Even the EU report admits so:

      “In Russian views, however, Georgia had been given much-needed protection against ravaging neighbours. The installation of a system of modern administration ranging from road building to an efficient education system was another achievement brought to Georgia by Russia. While Russia was treated by parts of the Georgian historical narrative almost as a threat to the existence of the Georgian nation, and while there were indeed attempts to subdue Georgian cultural heritage, Georgians were to some extent even a
      privileged nation within the Russian Empire.”

  8. This is a racist statement.

  9. This is great news. Georgian wine used to be excelent. Its varieties are unique. Let’s hope that soon we’ll be able to buy great Georgian wine again.

    • Any suggestions on what to go with just the few noted in the article. Or maybe you have some you can suggest or remember. Wine and cheese, wine and food; I’m always interested to hear. Thanks in advance.

    • Actually I can highly reccomend Georgian wine, especially with Roast Chicken in a satsivi sauce (cold roast chicken cuts in a black walnut sauce).

      Shashlik is also good.

      Georgian cheeses are excellent, especially a cheese called suguni.

      I generally prefer Georgian white wines, but the reds are excellent too.

      However a truly delicious “dessert” wine is Saperavi wine, I think it is made from blueberries.

      • I’ve never tried a Georgian wine or was even heard of any. This discussion, however, made me aware that Georgia makes wines, and so I’ll try to get some

      • > a cheese called suguni.

        That’s “suluguni”. Suluguni varies very much. Almost any string cheese is calle dsuch. But the best authentic suluguni in Moscow can be baught at the Stolichni supermarket (used to be called Gastronom Nr. 1) on Smolenskaya Square, right next to Arbat St and the Rusisan Foreign Ministry.

        The best soudjuk and basturma sausages can be bought at the Armenia supermarket on Pushkin Square.

        As far as Georgian cuisine goes – there are hundreds of Georgian restaurants all over Moscow.

        • It’s pronounced suguni in western Georgia dumbass, its a dialect thing.

          These Georgian restaraunts in Moscow are the same ones that keep on getting raided by Russian tax police in an ongoing campaign of racist harrassment.

  10. Грузинское вино, особенно то что гонят в штаты -полный отстой. Сладкая гадость в идиотских керамических бутылках с жутким осадком, как будто делают из порошка. Три раза на такое нарывался, больше не хочу. Дейстительно, как сказал грызун Окруашвили – фекальные массы.

    • russian potato vodka is much better in comparison

      • Of course better!

      • Russian vodka is traditionally made out of wheat. Potato vodka is a Polish tradition, and ot a lesser degree Ukrainian.


        The exact production methods were described in 1768 by Jan Paweł Biretowski and in 1774 by Jan Chryzostom Simon. The beginning of the 19th century inaugurated the production of potato vodka, which immediately revolutionized the market.


        Encyclopedia Britannica writes that the name “vodka” is a diminutive of the Russian voda (“water”).[1] It was not originally called vodka — instead, the term bread wine (хлебное вино; khlebnoye vino) was used.

        • Oh ok well you are the food experert on here, lately you’ve posted at least 20 differentr posts about different kinds of foods so yeah .

  11. Kate, Russians usually make high-grade grain vodka. Friends of Mr.Saakashvili in Poland make potato vodka. Not bad, by the way, though pales in comparison to Russian stuff.

  12. And all this silly discussion about Georgian wines is senseless – while villagers there make outstanding family wines, the stuff they produce for sale does not have a chance in the US or European markets. It’s just a clumsy PR attempt on Tbilisi’s part.

  13. А Колчак точно грузинский пидор. пусть уже ему Сака засадит:)

  14. George wrote:
    > Roast Chicken in a satsivi sauce (cold roast chicken cuts in a black walnut sauce).

    I have never seen a black satsivi sauce. The one I always see is yellowish:

    Satsivi (Georgian: საცივი) is a Georgian sauce made of walnuts and served cold either as a dipping sauce for bread, or sauce for boiled or fried game or fish. Traditionally, satsivi is made of walnuts, water, garlic, combination of dried herbs, vinegar, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste. Boiled turkey or chicken pieces submerged in satsivi is one of staples of winter holiday feasts.

    > Georgian cheeses are excellent, especially a cheese called suguni.

    That’s “suluguni”

    > I generally prefer Georgian white wines, but the reds are excellent too.

    I personally prefer French and California whites over Georgian ones.

    But uathentic semi-sweet Georgian reds are superb, like Akhasheni , Khvanchkara and Kinzmarauli. Here is the Wiki reference:

    The problem is that since the break-up of USSR, the quality control mechanism was abandoned in Georgia, so most Georgian wines, sold in Russia and USA, are forgeries and taste terrible. Let’s hope that the new eforts will return authentic Georgian wine to the export market.

    > However a truly delicious “dessert” wine is Saperavi wine, I think it is made from blueberries.

    Of course not. Saperavi is a grape wine:

    “Saperavi is a red wine made from the Saperavi grape variety grown in some areas of Kakheti. It is an extractive wine with a characteristic bouquet, a harmonious taste and pleasant astringency. Its strength is 10.5-12.5% and titrated acidity 5-7%. At the international wine competitions this wine received one gold and one silver medal. It has been produced since 1886. “


      Suluguni (Georgian: სულუგუნი; Mingrelian: სელეგინ; Abkhaz: ашәлаган) is a pickled Georgian cheese from the Samegrelo region. It has a sour, moderately salty flavor, a dimpled texture, and an elastic consistency; these attributes are the result of the process used, as is the source of its moniker “pickle cheese”. Its color ranges from white to pale yellow. While the smell is not universally appealing, the flavor is rewarding. Suluguni is often deep-fried, which helps mask the odor. It is often served in wedges.

      The word may have a turkic origin. According to the encyclopaedia of Brockhaus and Ephron, “Sulug” (tatar language) – a type of cheese in Transcaucasia prepared from foremilk. For the preparation an afterbirth of a sheep is taken, which is then filled with foremilk or viscous milk. Then the afterbirth is tied up and digged into hot ashes. In consequence the foremilk curdles and turns into a sweety cheese that is called “sulug”. The backward word adoption is also possible.

      According to another explanation, in the Ossetic language the first part “sulu” means “whey (brine)”, the second part “gun” is a qualitative character forming adjectives, for example “toldzgun” – made from oak, “fidgun” – meat pie, “amondgun” – happy. The ending “i” could appear under georgian influence, in total giving meaning “whey like” to “suluguni”.

    • Another similar great cheese is smoked “Adyghean”, sold in good Moscow supermarkets.

      Great with the black imperial muscat Massandra Южнобережный wines from Crymea, favourites of the Russian Czars.

    • You retard, the sauce is white, but it is made from black walnuts.

  15. Hmmmm…..may La Russophobe needs to start a recipe section!!!!!

    • But how can she make it hate-filled though?

    • Coulibiac
      From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      The coulibiac (koo-leeb-yahk), in French cuisine, is a fish pie made with salmon or sturgeon combined with buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, scallions, wine, herbs, and spices, and served in a brioche or puff pastry, and served as a first or main course. It can be large or small, and is classically oval in shape[1]. In the United Kingdom it is known as Salmon én Croute

      Origin in Russian cuisine
      The Russian kulebyáka (an oblong loaf of fish, meat, or vegetables, baked in a pastry shell; origin uncertain[2]) from which the French dish is derived made its way into French haute cuisine in the 19th century (around 1895 – 1900). In Russia, it is effectively a sort of grand pirog, while a French cook of the era of the Second Empire might have recognized it as a variant of salmon en croûte. An example of the Russian use prior to this is an 1851 letter from Gogol’ to Aksakov suggesting the two friends enjoyed eating the dish together, and further that it was Aksakov’s favorite birthday dish[3].


      Kulebiaka (Flaky Pie) With A Meat Filling

      1 kg meat
      300 g onion
      1 kg yeast dough
      ¼ tea spoon ground black pepper
      salt to taste
      1 egg yolk
      ¼ glass milk
      1 teaspoon granulated sugar

      Kulebiaka is a big pie more than 1 kg weight with the edges completely pressed up. It is a traditional Russian pie made with yeast dough with different fillings. The dough may be enriched with various flavors, like, for instance, carrot juice.

      Peel the onion, finely chop it and saute in vegetable oil. Rinse and chop the meat. Fry it in a heavy skillet and grind the meat in a meat grinder. Blend it with the sauteed onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix well. Roll out the dough into 2 equal flat rectangular layers 1 cm thick wide enough to cover the cookie sheet. Put one layer on the cookie sheet coated with vegetable oil and place the filling evenly all over it. Then cover it with the other layer and firmly press the edges of the layers with your fingers. Let the kulebiaka rest for 15-20 minutes at room’s temperature, then top it with the egg yolk, milk and sugar mixture. Pierce some parts of the kulebiaka with a fork and bake in an oven at 190-210 degrees C for 30-40 minutes.

  16. GUYS, do not make me laugh!!!!!

    1. Ossetian words in ancient Georgian cheese name – this is only KGB-FSB’s propagande could invent!

    Suluguni contains two Georgian words: “Suli” – SOUL and “Guli” – HEART. And this is really Georgian Soul&Heart. And Georgians wrote its name in Georgian alphabetical since 1 century Before Christ. But Ossetians still do not have their alphabetical… (By the way – Abkhaz also use cyrillic, AND CYRILLIC ITSELF is NOTHING ELSE THAN “STOLEN” GREEK ALPHABETICAL)


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