Posted: 4 years ago

Vintage, Gastronomy and the Gurjaani Wine Festival

In his interview with BusinessPartner, the majority MP from Gurjaani,  David Songhulashvili, discussed problems related to vintage and grape growing and winemaking.

On October 12, Gurjaani hosted a major wine festival, where more than 200 winemaking companies were represented from various regions of Georgia, and the number of visitors exceeded 10,000 individuals. In the future, and Gurjaani will grow into a winemaking municipality. The wine festival was held for the third time in Gurjaani. The festival was launched in 2017 with the registration of 27 winemakers, and numerous visitors, Songhulashvili said. 

“About 1,000 visitors attended the festival. About 100 wine varieties were registered last year, and the number of visitors grew to 1,000 persons. This year, more than 200 winemakers were represented. This festival enables small winemakers to introduce their products to visitors. This is one of the best platforms in the winemaking sector. This year more than 10,000 guests visited the festival, and this is a very important event for winemakers and the whole region because winemakers are represented from the whole of the Kakheti Region and Georgia: Baghdati, Gori, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Adjara. In practice, this is a platform where winemakers are able to introduce their wines to both Georgian and foreign visitors. In 2018, several important agreements were signed at the Festival on entering major distribution networks or export markets. One of the winemakers sold his entire harvest at the Festival”, Songhulashvili explained. 

Gurjaani is expected to become a winemaking municipality, and this district is positioned as a winemaking municipality, thanks to several factors. First, the majority of wines were indications of the origin is registered in Gurjaani – 33% of all wine is from Georgia. Secondly, the majority of vineyards are registered in Gurjaani.  The majority of wine cellars and wineries are registered in Gurjaani, Songhulashvili noted. 

“We Gurjaani residents have the ambition to become a winemaking municipality, and we have been providing work in this field”, Songhulashvili noted. 

The 2019 vintage will be finished soon. Winegrowers complain about the prices of grapes. The 2019 vintage’s problems  are related to bad weather and the deterioration of relations with Russia, Songhulashvili noted. 

“The vintage will be finished soon. We have picked about 230,000 tons of grapes in Kakheti. Consequently, winegrowers were paid more than 240 million GEL. The majority of winegrowers are unhappy with grape prices. The problem is related to bad weather in autumn, when rainy periods started during the grape’s maturation process. As a result, the picking process was protracted, and winegrowers could not pick grapes in a timely manner. As a result, sugar content in grapes declined.  

There are many factors that have influenced both the price and grape quality, and the quality was not favorable. Winegrowers had to sell products from a so-called self-defence position, and this factor is related to the summer’s developments, because grape exports declined, because our grape exports mostly depends on neighboring countries. Therefore, winegrowers moved to a posture of self-defense, and this factor influenced grape prices, too.  Demand and supply regulate the market, and this year we had huge harvest. On the whole, all these factors have affected  grape prices”, David Songhulashvili said. 

We cannot compete with the world’s leading wine making countries in terms of the production of industrial wines. Our niche is Qvevri wine, and small wine cellars. Therefore, we have been actively discussing the wine cellar support state program with the Ministry of Agriculture. This program brought very positive results in 2018, and this program will run in 2020 as well, he noted. 

Georgia should reduce risks related to winegrowing/winemaking, and find its own niche in the global market through developing small wine cellars and cooperatives, Songhulashvili said. 

“There is a lot of experience in traditional winemaking countries such as France, Italy and Spain. I know their models very well, and the small wine cellar support program is one of  the most interesting state programs. In the end, shaping the whole economic chain is of crucial importance, because the final price should be reflected in the wine, and winegrowers should be able to store their harvest in their own wine cellars, or establish cooperatives to coordinate the winemaking process. In this case, we will have convenient and favorable prices, as well. For example, in Kvareli, 20 winegrowers were united in one cooperative, and now they sell one bottle for 35 GEL. This process will ease the storage of the whole harvest, and prices will become adequate too”, Songhulashvili explained. 

At the same time, several fundamental factors should be resolved in order to enable Georgia’s winemaking field to work in a cooperative format, and develop small wine cellars, he noted. 

“There are several problems in this respect, that should be definitively resolved. First, the global market registers a growing demand for red wine rather than for white. Regretfully, in Georgia, we have more white grapes than red grapes. Consequently, we have to correct this. By the way, the same problem existed in Spain, where the government intervened, and provided subsidies on this. Based on global market trends, they implemented a special program for replacing grape varieties. Moreover, the field of vineyards, grape varieties were precisely determined. This is an experience that should not be completely repeated , but we should take into account many of its components, and adapt them to our reality. Another factor is that the higher quality of vineyards ensures the production of better wines. Therefore, the centuries-old wine cellars that many winegrowers keep closed at home  should function not only as wine pressure and fermentation vessels, but we should also develop a wine route that historically existed in Georgia (and does not exist any more), because Georgia is a winemaking country. Our guests and visitors should be able to taste various family wines on this wine route”, Songhulashvili noted. 

Georgia should focus on developing Qvevri wines,  boutique wines, and small wine cellars support state programs serve this objective, he said. 

“We cannot reach volumes where we could compete with industrial wine manufactures, starting with China and ending with Australia. Our niche is Qvevri wine, which adds a unique character to Georgian winemaking. Consequently, we should develop Georgian winemaking in this direction – Qvevri red and white wines, naturally, from Saperavi and other unique varieties, and small winemakers should engage in this process. They should be boutique-style manufacturers, and winegrowers should  lay the groundwork for expanding in this direction. Winegrowers should press their own harvest in their own wine cellars, bottle wines and determine product prices themselves. Today, there are several problems in this respect. Major wine cellars started arranging vineyards, and shortly after that small winegrowers may face certain problems in terms of the sales of grapes. Therefore, together with the Ministry of Agriculture, we are actively discussing small wine cellar support programs that were prepared, jointly, in 2018. The program was approved, and brought very good results. The 2020 state budget may allocate serious funds for this program. The point is that this is an interesting mechanisms for improving the quality of Georgian wine and resolving this problem”, David Songhulashvili noted.