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Turning an 8000 Year Wine Tradition into Success in Georgia

New opportunities are opening for Georgian winemakers and wine lovers through the EU funded programme East Invest 2.

The regional investment and trade facilitation programme, East Invest 2, is working to improve the SME sector across the countries of the Eastern Partnership. East Invest 2, through one of its actions, has set out to revitalize the Georgian wine industry, by transferring knowledge from Bulgaria in the areas of wine marketing and standardisation.

The project is twinning the Georgian Wine Association (GWA), an independent non-state organization, with the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI). Through the project, an online platform is being developed that will promote Georgian wine producers and act as a one-stop-shop for key information and guidance to the wine industry, helping to spur growth and exports to the EU market. The BCCI will be bringing its experience in supporting the Bulgarian wine industry. This story shines a light on one woman entrepreneur who is benefitting from the project.

Baia Abuladze (22) is a young Georgian woman from the region of Imereti in West Georgia, who produces wine under the brand name ‘Baias Wine’. Traditionally wine making is a male dominated business and Baia is one of only a few women winemakers in Georgia.

‘Georgia has 8 000 years of history in wine making. With more than 500 grapevine varieties, Georgia was always known for its unique tradition in winemaking’, explains Baia. ‘My family also has a long tradition of vinery and my passion towards wine making takes its roots from my childhood, when my Grandfather told me a story of how centuries ago, Georgian crusaders carried grapes in their armor, so if they fell in battle, the grapevine would grow. I decided to contribute to this rich Georgian winemaking tradition’.

Baia is currently producing 5 000 bottles of wine per year under her own name. ‘Gender barriers are no longer a problem for me’, says Baia smiling. ‘Now I face another obstacle – the lack of knowledge of how to acquire quality standards and market my wine not only in Georgia but also to European countries. One of the biggest challenges is a lack of up-to-date information about innovation in agriculture, standards and marketing’.

With the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union in June 2014, new opportunities for Georgian SMEs opened as the DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement) brought benefits and duty-free trade with the EU.

In light of these new prospects, the Georgian Wine Association conducted an assessment of the wine and grape sector and found that Georgian wine producers, like Baia, and people involved in the wine tourism sector lack the knowledge and support for innovative product development, access to finance and have few opportunities to exchange practices with their European counterparts. Also there is no professional, business and information platform about wine and grape products.

This is why East Invest 2 is ‘Twinning’ the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Georgian Wine Association to implement: “Competence Center for Wine, wine marketing and grape products”.

The online platform being developed, in addition to providing key information and guidance on wine producers, will promote local vineyards. 100 companies mainly from Kakheti and Kartli regions have been selected and interviewed and will be featured on the site with information on their production, pricing and availability for export.

In order to make the platform more sustainable, the Georgian Wine Association plans to link the site with the popular tourism portal http://georgianwine.travel/. This will generate more traffic and offer new cooperation and partnership opportunities between the wine, grape and wine tourism fields.

‘Georgian small and medium entrepreneurs are facing serious challenges in learning the DCFTA requirements’, says Baia. ‘We expect that once the platform will be launched, which is expected in December, all producers will be able to access the information packages and through better knowledge of safe and quality wine production, more producers will export their products to Europe. I hope that Baia’s wine will be brought to a wider international consumer network thanks to the project and Georgia can turn its 800 year wine tradition into a success.’

QUOTE

Gender barriers are no longer a problem for me. Now I face another obstacle, which is the lack of knowledge on how to acquire quality standards and market my wine not only in Georgia but also to European countries.

And  I hope that Baia’s wine will be brought to a wider international consumer network thanks to the project and Georgia can turn its 800 year wine tradition into a success

Baia Abuladze, young Georgian wine producer.

FACTBOX

  • East Invest 2 is financed by the EU and is working to stimulate economic development of Georgia and the rest of the Eastern Partnership.
  • Georgia has 8 000 years of history in wine making and more than 500 grapevine varieties;
  • Georgia signed an Association Agreement with the European Union in June 2014;
  • The Georgian Wine Association and Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry are the implementing partners;
  • More than 100 Georgian winemakers will be registered on the online platform;
  • 52% of people working in agriculture in Georgia are women.