Georgia has been given the green light to sell its wine in Russia from May, ending a seven-year hiatus.
Russia banned the import of Georgian wines and mineral waters in early 2006, citing concerns over quality, counterfeiting, and the use of hazardous pesticides in vineyards.
It was a huge blow for the Georgian wine industry, with around 80 percent of the republic's wine production destined for Russia. In 2005, 52 million bottles of wine, worth $80 million, had been shipped to the Russian market.
However, Georgia’s National Wine Agency announced last week that 36 wineries had passed recent inspections by Russia’s consumer watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, and exports to Russia would be resumed.
The head of Georgia’s National Wine Agency, Levan Davitashvili, said that subject to paperwork, “we will be able to begin [the] export process in May.”
The re-opening of the Russian market will give the Georgian wine industry a much-needed boost.
The National Agency hopes that Georgia will sell 8 to 10 million bottles of wine to Russia each year – a significant reduction compared with the totals achieved before the ban was imposed. Yet the 2006 ban has forced the Georgian wine industry look for new export markets and it is wary of relying so heavily on Russia for sales in the future.
“Georgian wine and alcoholic beverages companies will not be concentrated on the Russian market anymore. It is very important that now their export market is diversified,” said Davitashvili.
In 2011, Georgian wine exports reached 16.9 million liters worth $54.4 million – their highest level since the Russian embargo was imposed. Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan were the country’s biggest export markets.
A second round of inspections in late March is likely to see a rise in the number of wineries that are permitted to export to Russia.