Putting Georgia on Wine Map
22 September, 2011
Putting Georgia on Wine Map

The first ever symposium of Qvevri wine, a unique Georgian wine making technology  in fermenting wine in clay jars, held in Georgia starting September 15 to September 18, aroused great interest of  wine connoisseurs and is expected to place Georgia on the world wine map.  

The event intends to promote Georgian Qvevri wine that is frequently mistaken for amphora wine at the global wine market, to seek undisputed identity of Qvevri through raising awareness of Georgian wine heritage among the

representatives of wine industry.

Once it secures its unrivaled image, Qvevri is expected to become a flagman of Georgian wine industry and boost wine tourism. Discourse on Georgian wine origination and producing technologies,  as well as its cultural role and  feast traditions, wine tasting, and visits to traditional and modern wine cellars  took place during the three-day symposium. About 120 participants including 60 foreign guests [from the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Ukraine, Turkey, Chile, Poland and Czechia] and about 60 Georgian experts attended the event that exceeded all expectations, organizers say.

According to the USAID-supported Economic Prosperity Initiative (EPI) project that upheld the event along with Georgian Wine Association as well as the Qvevri Fund and the state investment agency, after this symposium Georgia is supposed “to be highlighted for being responsible for one of mankind’s greatest pleasures, and being a hospitable place to travel to”.

The world’s top ten tourism destinations include France, the USA, Spain, Italy and Germany. Thanks to wine South Africa is the second most visited country in Africa, Argentina and Chile are first and fifth in terms of tourist arrivals to South America while Georgia that has something that none of these countries has – the World’s Oldest and Continuing Wine Tradition-is absent on this map.

Evidence strongly points to Georgia as the legitimate title-holder of the home of wine-making. Wine residues found on the inner surfaces of 8000 year-old ceramic storage jars discovered in Shulaveri, South Georgia, showed that even at this early point in human history wine was made in Georgia that still makes wine using the same traditions as those early years without any halt or changes.

Yet, Georgia needed to tell this unique story and the Symposium was a successful attempt to tell it.

“The key message of the symposium was to tell international community that Georgia has unique history and tradition of winemaking and this tradition is still alive, observed in everyday life of country’s winemaking,” EPI source told Georgian Journal.

According to Giorgi Barisashvili, a Qvevri wine expert, this here Symposium by importance overshadowed even the world wine congress held in Georgia last year as far as Georgian reporters succeeded to explain foreign guests that Qvevri jar and wine are ancient original Georgian phenomena.

Qvevri wine became quite popular lately due to three key reasons: it is ancient and new at the same time to the global wine market and it is bio.

The thing is that wine made in clay jar imbedded in the earth in cellar is completely hand-made and chemical-free, unlike the wine made in tanks and barrels. Moreover, it tastes differently that is of no less importance for wine geeks. That’s why Qvevri wine is believed to be a great chance to shrinking Georgian wine export to get a foothold at new markets.

But on early stage of adopting Qvevri wine at western market wine-producers both foreigners and Georgians alike  neglect its importance  and write Amphora on bottles with Qvevri-wine content instead of Qvevri under the pretext that Amphora, been also a clay jar, is more understandable to  the western consumer.

Meantime Amphora was used just for transportation purpose in Greece, Rome and other countries, no wine was made in Amphora and this kind of rude confusion misleads consumer and poses perils that Georgian intellectual property be embezzled ultimately.

“There is a radical difference between Qvevri and Amphora created by different people and civilizations and one should not trample own traditions in order to please foreign consumer by providing a label that is easier to understand [but not true in fact],” Barisashvili said.

Now Georgian side asks all producers especially foreigners to indicate Qvevri on all Qvevri-wine products, Tina Kezeli, President of Georgian Wine Association, said. Most of them agree but some foreign producers persistently write Amphora on their bottles and the only way-out to protect Qvevri wine may be its registration at Sakpatent, Georgian official Intellectual Property Right protection body.

But as far as it is not something “new” Qvevri is not patentable in compliance with the Georgian law. Besides, different countries have different requirements and protection must be obtained in each country where protection is desired, Tim Trainer, an intellectual property expert with the EPI explained to GJ.

“There is no “automatic” protection globally,” he said.

But the requirement of Georgian wine-makers is not to make Qvevri wine processing secret through patenting, they just want foreign producers to indicate on the labels that the wine in the bottle is made on Georgian Qvevri  not Amphora technology.

Irakli Gvaladze, Head of Sakpatent, does not rule out possibility of patenting Qvevri wine just like French cognac is patented. To this end a group of Georgian wine-experts and involved scientists [including ethnographies, archeologists, linguists, as well as clergymen etc] are supposed to work out due documentation and submit the paper-work at Sakpatent for legal procedures.

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