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New Wine Festival 2014 – Progress and Variety

Levan Sepiskveradze

‘Progress’ and ‘variety’ are the two words mostly used to describe the annual New Wine Festival by its amateurs and visitors who have showed devotion and developed loyalty to the event in the space of 5 years.

While it’s pleasing to notice that there is an increasing appeal of wine gatherings in Georgia recently, wine lovers still agree that the New Wine Festival is the most popular of all wine-related events. The festival is a creation of the Wine Club. It was first held in 2010 and ever since it has been taking place at Tbilis Open Air Museum of Ethnography located further up the Kus Tba (Turtle Lake) road.

On May 24, thousands of visitors tasted a cornucopia of wine from boutique cellars, family-owned wineries and large companies for free. Once again, the museum’s beautiful grounds provided the perfect setting for the celebration and festivity of the visitors while they were enjoying and quaffing the wines of different varietals.

There were many surprises for the guests as well brought by the Wine Club as the festival featured various entertaining contests and shows. The lucky winners have received a fine selections of Georgian wine from the club members. Indeed, there was no room for disappointment even for “non-winners” since everyone  was experiencing the delights of various wines for themselves.

The New Wine Festival 2014 was sponsored by The National Wine Agency, Tbilisi City Hall (Tbilisi Meria), Tbilisi City Assembly (Tbilisi Sakrebulo), Georgian National Tourism Administration and National Intellectual Property Center (Sakpatenti). Like most festivals of the world’s famous wine producing countries, Georgia’s New Wine Festival hosted an international audience of wine amateurs and connoisseurs along with the domestic visitors. In 5 years, it has certainly established itself as a celebration of winemaking that is held annually, specifically, in May.

John Okruashvili, winemaker: “The main value of the festival is that it focuses on natural wines. There are more and more people visiting the festival every year and this is very important. I have participated in all of the five New Wine Festivals and I’m happy that things are progressing. The quality of the wines are especially improving.”

There were 50 wines from family-owned wineries at Tbilis Open Air Museum of Ethnography. In addition to this, there were special boots for the large wine companies, where their representatives were offering free tasting samples of their wines to the festival crowd members.  There were 400 different wines in total showcased at the New Wine Festival, which is the highest number of wines the festival has ever offered.

This year, Georgia’s Parliament Speaker, David Usupashvili, was given the special honor to participate in the qvevri opening ceremony. The wine blend of Goruli Mtsvane and Chinuri varietals made by the winemaker, Gigo Dvalishvili, Kartli region, was specially poured in qvevri. The wine was greatly favored by the Parliament Speaker as well as other guests of the festival.

Gogi Dvalishvili, a winemaker: “How can I not be happy when I see so many people tasting and even liking my wine. You should see how excited I get as the festival day approaches, because this is the day when one is able to meet real wine lovers and wine professionals. I’m also excited about the fact that the Parliament Speaker freally liked my wine, however, all festival wines are equally decent. There are artisans from all wine producing regions of Georgia here and there are so many wonderful wines I don’t even know which wine to taste first.”

Nukri Kvelashvili, annual visitor of the festival: “Georgia is the cradle of wine and qvevri winemaking is now recognized by UNESCO as a significant intangible cultural heritage. Hopefully we will be recognized as the homeland of wine as well. We would be undignified [as a nation] if there were no wine festivals and even a[wine] museum in the country with such a rich history. This is the fifth time the festival is being held and I’m happy that it is expanding and becoming more and more popular every year. I want to give thanks to its founders and organizers. I’m happy there has been a full array of qvevri and artisan wines showcased this year. For me, personally, the New Wine Festival that is held at Tbilis Open Air Museum of Ethnography is the junction of Georgia’s past and present.

All these five years, I haven’t seen anyone getting overly drunk here. This festival shows the Georgian spirit which we are all proud of. Finally, I’d say that it would be great if the representatives of Tbilisi City Hall designate yellow buses next year to provide the festival comers with transportation and not allow car drivers park at the museum. [That’s because] there has been a traffic jam on my way here and I’ve seen many drivers turning their cars and going back to their homes. May your life be filled with joyful experiences of many festivals. God bless you!”

Iago Bitarishvili, winemaker and director of the New Wine Festival: “The most important thing is that the interest in wine is constantly increasing and this kind of events make a great deal of contribution to this. It really is a paradox that there have been no [wine-related] festivals held in Georgia (in the homeland of wine) until recently, while in the new world wine countries (including New Zealand, Australia, Chile, etc.), the wine festivals continue to have decades-long traditions. Certainly, the reason for this is the fact that Georgia was not an independent country, and in the Soviet Union, no one was interested in such events.

Clearly, the development of Georgian wine does not depend solely on festivals, however, they play an important role in this industry. Our festival proved that there is a huge interest in wine in Georgia. There is, in fact, no other large-scale wine event in our country. There are wines from big companies, boutique and family-owned cellars and even from individuals who literally have made their wines in the garages of their city homes; and there is only one requirement: they must be the quality wines. Hopefully, such events will become popular in our country.”

Levan Ujmajuridze, the head of Research Center of Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia, has also visited the festival. He tasted the wines of different varietals and talked to the wine producers as well. As he stated, Ministry of Agriculture will take steps to bolster the reputation of Georgian wine and to enhance the wine quality. The Research Center of the Ministry will provide the infrastructure for regenerating and grafting various vine species and people will be given the opportunity to purchase quality vine plants.

Traditionally, there were many international visitors at the festival, including the representatives of Diplomatic Mission accredited in Georgia. There was an occasion when a group of young festival guests took it cheerfully and in a joking spirit when a German tourist, who got to quaff a little too much of Georgian wine, asked the security guard to “take him outside” as he said he “was drunk and couldn’t find his way out.”

The experiences of recent years suggest there is an increased interest in the festival. Because of the ever growing numbers of visitors, the organizers might have to search for a bigger space than the grounds of Tbilis Open Air Museum of Ethnography provide, since the space of the current setting might not be sufficient to hold the event in the future.

Translated by Tea Kokhreidze

Photo by Nino Alavidze

© Georgian Wine Club/vinoge.com


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December 2020