The messenger logo

Georgian wine still not good enough for Russia, official says

By Anna Kamushadze

Tuesday, March 18
Russia’s chief consumer products official said last week that Moscow would not be lifting the ban on Georgian wine soon, but that Abkhazian-produced vintages could increasingly make their way north.

Gennady Onischenko, head of Russia’s sanitary inspection service Rospotrebnadzor, said his agency has been meeting with officials from Georgia’s separatist region of Abkhazia to discuss exporting their wine to Russia.

Abkhazia presented ten wines and one cognac for testing, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant. The newspaper says 120 000 bottles of Abkhazian-made wine were exported to Russia in January, citing the director general of the Wines and Waters of Abkhazia company.

Onischenko said at a March 13 press conference that Abkhazia could export 500 000 liters of wine to Russia each year.

But it is still too early to speak of the return of Georgian wine to Russia, Onischenko said.

“I can’t say that Georgian wine will return on Russian market soon,” the official told reporters.

Russia banned Georgian wines and mineral waters, ostensibly over falsification and health concerns, in March 2006.

The agency chief said that while the Georgian government and winemakers have requested the ban be lifted, they haven’t taken “significant steps” to improve wine quality.

A spokesperson for the Georgian Foreign Affairs Ministry said talks on the trade ban are ongoing.

“We are holding meetings with wine producers within the ministry,” the spokesperson said on March 13. “We are working on how can we improve wine quality and take it to Russian market.”

“The Georgian side is ready for constructive dialogue, and I hope that 2008 will be the year Georgian wine returns to the Russian market,” head of the Georgian Wine Producers’ Union Levan Koberidze told the newspaper.

According to the Statistics Department, in 2005, before the embargo, Georgia exported more than USD 60 million worth of wine to Russia.