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Navigating Challenges and Seizing Opportunities: Insights from Georgian Wine Industry expert Natia Metreveli Drawing from her seasoned leadership in this sector, Natia not only sheds light on the captivating essence of Georgian wine but also explores the challenges and promising opportunities in international markets.

By Aleksandre Siradze

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We have the privilege of engaging in a quick and dynamic conversation with Natia Metreveli, a distinguished figure renowned for her extensive expertise and leadership in the Georgian wine industry. We explore her remarkable track record, which provides us with a unique perspective on the distinct challenges and promising opportunities that await Georgian wine on the global stage. Drawing from her seasoned leadership in this sector, Natia not only sheds light on the captivating essence of Georgian wine but also explores the challenges and promising opportunities in international markets. Her keen insights and optimistic perspective provide valuable glimpses into the promising future of Georgian wine on the global stage.

Natia as we all know Georgian wine is gaining recognition globally, but it still faces challenges. What are some of the key challenges that Georgian wine producers encounter when trying to expand internationally?

Absolutely, Georgian wine has made quite a journey, but it faces its fair share of challenges. One significant hurdle is the need to make more people aware of Georgian wine and educate them about it. Even though our wine has a rich history and unique winemaking methods, I meet many folks outside of Georgia that aren't very familiar with it. Also, some see Georgian wine as a niche or exotic choice, which can be a barrier.

Another significant challenge is meeting the stringent quality standards and non-tariff measures required by international markets, particularly the European Union. To succeed in these markets, we must continue to invest in improving the quality of Georgian wines and aligning with international regulations.

Addressing these challenges necessitates concerted endeavors in the realms of marketing, education, and the cultivation of a robust brand identity. While we are currently taking steps in this direction, it's important to acknowledge that in the vast and competitive world market, these efforts may seem somewhat modest. To make a significant impact and foster widespread awareness of Georgian wine, we require larger-scale projects and substantial funding in global marketing and branding.

On the flip side, what are the unique opportunities that Georgian wine offers in the global market, and how can Georgian wine producers leverage them?

Georgian wine offers a unique proposition in the global market due to its ancient winemaking techniques, diverse grape varieties, and distinctive flavors. These elements can be leveraged to capture the growing demand for authentic and diverse wine experiences. Georgian wine has the potential to appeal to adventurous consumers looking for something different. Producers can capitalize on this by emphasizing the unique qualities of Georgian wine, promoting its rich history, and investing in sustainable winemaking practices, which are increasingly important to today's environmentally-conscious consumers.

You've mentioned the importance of education and marketing. Can you elaborate on how these aspects can play a pivotal role in expanding the presence of Georgian wine globally?

Education and marketing are fundamental to success in the international wine market. First, education helps wine professionals and consumers understand Georgian wine's distinctiveness, history, and craftsmanship. This are achieved through master classes, wine tastings, and educational materials. Second, marketing efforts should focus on telling the compelling story of Georgian wine, emphasizing its unique characteristics and the culture behind it. Building a strong brand identity and creating engaging content for digital platforms can also help raise awareness and drive demand.

Diversifying markets is often mentioned as a strategy for Georgian wine. Can you share your insights on the opportunities and benefits of exploring new markets, such as the EU, US, Japan and China?

Diversifying into markets like the EU, Japan, US, and China holds immense promise for the Georgian wine industry. Each of these markets presents unique opportunities and benefits.

Starting with the EU, it's a vast and well-established wine market with discerning consumers who appreciate quality and authenticity. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU has created favorable conditions for Georgian wine exports by reducing tariffs and facilitating market access. This opened up significant opportunities for Georgian wine producers to reach a wide and sophisticated consumer base.

Japan is an exciting market known for its appreciation of premium wines and the cultural aspect of wine. Georgian wines, with their unique history and winemaking methods, align perfectly with Japanese preferences. Our company Vaziani successes on this market, marked by multiple top awards, has helped raise awareness of quality Georgian wine. These kind of activities positions Georgian wine producers for long-term success in Japan.

The US wine market, while highly competitive, offers substantial rewards. American consumers are increasingly curious about wines from lesser-known regions, seeking unique experiences. Georgian wine's distinct characteristics and ancient winemaking traditions can capture their attention. The diversity of Georgian grape varieties also allows for a range of wines to cater to different tastes.

China is perhaps one of the most promising markets due to its sheer size and rapidly expanding middle class. The Chinese market has shown a growing interest in international wines, and Georgian wine has the potential to stand out. However, it's essential to navigate this market with a deep understanding of local preferences and a well-executed marketing strategy.

In all these markets, cultural exchange is a significant benefit. Georgian wine is not just a product; it's a piece of our heritage. Sharing this heritage fosters connections with consumers and builds brand loyalty. Moreover, diversification minimizes risk. By not relying solely on one market, we spread our exposure to geopolitical and economic fluctuations, ensuring more stability for our industry ensure long-term growth and stability in a competitive global industry.

Russia has historically been a significant buyer of Georgian wines. How has the relationship between Georgia and Russia affected the Georgian wine industry, and how has it evolved over the years?

We all know that following Georgia's independence in 1991, the transition from a centrally planned to a market economy was incredibly challenging. The wine industry heavily relied on exports, especially to Russia, accounting for over 96% of overall wine exports. This heavy dependence on the Russian market, while profitable, posed a vulnerability that became evident in 2006 when Russia imposed an embargo on Georgian wines. Georgia suffered a significant setback during this period.

These challenges prompted a significant shift in the Georgian wine industry's approach. Efforts to diversify and explore new international markets became a top priority. While Russia remains a significant customer today, the experience underscored the importance of a balanced and diverse export portfolio. Unfortunately, still dependence is high exceedingly more than 65% of overall wine export.

This journey has highlighted the significance of diversification and the need to strengthen relationships with alternative markets. Today, Georgian wine continues to expand its presence globally, reducing its reliance on any single market and ensuring long-term sustainability.

Quality improvement is a recurring theme in the industry. How is Georgia addressing the need to enhance the quality of its wines to meet international standards, and what role does regulation play in this process?

Quality improvement is a top priority. Georgia is actively aligning its regulations with international standards, especially those of the EU. Our "Law of Georgia on Vines and Wine" plays a crucial role in setting standards for production, certification, and labeling. It emphasizes the importance of adhering to EU standards and protecting the quality and reputation of Georgian wine

Looking ahead, what do you see as the future prospects for the Georgian wine industry, especially in terms of market expansion and quality enhancement?

I'm optimistic about the future of Georgian wine since the industry is promising. Market expansion into diverse regions, including the EU, US and China, provides significant growth potential.

With concerted efforts in marketing, education, and sustainability, Georgian wine can continue to gain recognition and appreciation on the global stage. My advice to Georgian wine producers would be to focus on quality, consistency, and building strong relationships with distributors and importers in target markets. Embrace the unique selling points of Georgian wine, invest in storytelling and branding, and collaborate with industry experts and organizations to further its reach. The potential is there, and with dedication and strategic planning, Georgian wine can secure a prominent place in the international wine market.

Aleksandre Siradze

Entrepreneur Staff

Journalist & Executive Director

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