Georgian wine starts flowing across Russian border

By bne IntelliNews June 17, 2013

bne -

A Georgian vintner exported its first shipment of wine to Russia in seven years on June 14, as the lifting of Moscow's ban on wine imports from its small southern neighbour is finally sealed.

The Dugladze winery announced that it had delivered an initial shipment of 30 bottles, which will be followed by another 150,000 bottles to distributors across Russia in mid June, RIA Novosti reports. Two other companies, Alaverdi and Teliani Veli, have also received licences allowing them to start exports, according to the head of Georgia's National Wine Agency, Levan Davitashvii.

The companies are among 36 Georgian winemakers and four mineral water producers that were given the all clear from Russian consumer rights watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor to start exports to Russia in March. Russian officials announced that the ban on imports of the famous hangover "cure" Borjomi mineral water, as well as and several other brands, had been lifted on April 11

Hugely popular for decades, Georgian wine and mineral water stopped being sold in Russia in 2006. The move to halt imports, supposedly on the grounds of health concerns, was announced by Moscow as relations between the two former Soviet states soured.

As President Mikheil Saakashvili boosted his efforts to establish Georgia as the top supporter of the US in the region, he raised the ire of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is intensely sensitive to Western "meddling" in Russia's "near abroad". Relations between Tbilisi and Moscow reached their nadir during the short war centred on the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia in August 2008.

However, since the Georgian Dream coalition defeated Saakashvili's United National Movement in October parliamentary elections, relations have started to improve. New Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili - who is in the midst of a power struggle with the president - has made significant efforts to mend fences with Russia.

A delegation from Rospotrebnadzor visited Georgia earlier this year to inspect wineries and producers of brandy and mineral water, and the lifting of the ban was immediately announced. However, it has taken several months for the trade to start flowing across the border.

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