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The Wine Club

The Wine Club brings together people from different professions – journalists, archaeologists, writers, wine-makers, farmers, students, etc. – who share a passion for wine and food. The Club was established in August 2009, and immediately began to attempt to solve problems in the Georgian wine-making industry.

The Club's main goals are to improve Georgian customers' knowledge of wine, to popularize high-quality wines, to revive Georgian wine-making and viticultural traditions, to encourage and support innovation, to provide as much accurate information as possible about Georgian and foreign wines available in Georgia, to refine Georgian cuisine, to support restaurant criticism and food critics, and to support the development of wine tourism.

Since October 2009, the Wine Club has regularly organised lectures and seminars during which wine-makers, vineyard owners, historians, philologists, sommeliers, journalists and foreign specialists discuss issues concerning wine making and cuisine. Initially, these meetings were held in the Caucasian House, but when the number of participants increased and a larger room was needed, the meetings were moved to the Georgian Geographical Society. Besides weekly meetings, members of the Wine Club also communicate online every day to discuss various issues. Online meetings are held on the forum of Vinoge.com (http://forum.vinoge.com) – a blog on wine and wine tasting. The Club also has a page on Facebook and an official website at Wineclub.ge.

Before the Club was established, the 24-page monthly  supplement of the 24 saati newspaper called Marani ("wine cellar") was the first example of modern Western wine journalism in Georgia. The August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia temporarily prevented the two-year-old Marani from being published. No longer published in print, Marani moved online and was merged with the Vinoge.com blog. The Club's future members mostly met on the blog's forum; they became acquainted with each other, and from their friendship the idea of the Club was born.

Since the spring of 2010, the 24 saati newspaper – in association with the Club – has resumed its publication of Marani, which is now part of the newspaper's weekly supplement Weekend. Nowadays, one can read many interesting articles mostly based upon the Club's interesting activities.

Lectures and seminars on viticulture, wine-making, history, archaeology, etc. are regularly held in the Wine Club. Wine tastings are also sometimes organised, but themed wine tastings are one of the Club's main activities; roughly once a month, Club members taste different Georgian wines and their reviews are published in Marani. The first wine tasting session – which was dedicated to the king of Georgian wines, Saperavi – took place in the Puris sakhli restaurant. Another wine tasting session focused on rare wines and was held in the Institute for Horticulture, Viticulture and Wine-making, where the potential of wines made from rare varieties of grape was evaluated by experienced wine-makers and scientists. Subsequent wine tasting sessions were held in the Dining room restaurant. Until recently, wine tasting sessions did not exist in Georgia. The goal of the Club's wine tasting events is to inform customers; for that reason, the Club does not bring samples of wine to be tasted directly from the producer, and always chooses wines freely available in shops. Since the autumn of 2011, wine tasting sessions are open to non-members, and are from now on being held on the premises of the "Schall wine bar" at 16 Machabeli St.

One of the Club's main activities is organising expeditions to different regions of Georgia in order to identify problems which wine-makers may face. Members have already travelled to Guria, Mingrelia, Meskheti and Achara (not to mention constant visits to Kartli, Kakheti and Imereti). The main objective of these visits is the identification of rare grape varieties and finding out more about the situation of family wine cellars where the ancient traditions of Georgian wine-making have been more or less preserved.

From time to time, the Wine Club organises educational events. On 5 March 2011, the Club organised – in association with the Georgian Association of Fishermen – an event during which people were taught how to pair wine with fish. Some politicians and journalists were invited. In 2010, the Club took part in the Tbilisoba festival and organised an event called "Autumn with the Wine Club". The main purpose of this event was to promote wines made from rare varieties of grape, and the Club also gave the audience some tips on how to pair Georgian wines with Georgian dishes. The Club later repeated the latter activity – albeit in a completely different way – during the 2011 WinExpo international wine exhibition held in Tbilisi.

The Wine Club's members' most important initiative to date has been the creation of a vineyard of rare Georgian grape varieties in the village of Bakurtsikhe near Gurjaani in 2010. The Club's members and other enthusiasts later established the Georgian Vine Foundation – a twin brother for the Wine Club. The Foundation's main aim is to find funding for the preservation of rare Georgian grape varieties and for the cultivation and upkeep of a nursery vineyard as well as a vineyard for the collection of previously-acquired varieties.

Levan Ujmajuridze – an enthusiastic scientist and a member of the Wine Club – has been supporting the identification and cultivation of unjustly forgotten varieties of grape for many years. A few years ago, Mr. Ujmajuridze took unique varieties of grape preserved in the Institute for Horticulture, Viticulture and Wine-making and planted them in the private vineyards of the Kindzmarauli marani wine company. He later founded Georgia's "National Centre of Production Planting Material", which – with the help of benefactors – built up a unique collection of Georgian vines and fruit trees spread out over several dozen hectares of land near Saguramo. This collection is vitally important, for without it many Georgian varieties of grape would have simply disappeared.

The Wine Club co-operates actively with this Centre. It was the Centre which gave the Club the unique varieties of grape its members planted near Bakurtsikhe, and in 2010 the Centre and the Club harvested around 25 Georgian varieties of grape from the Centre's collection near Saguramo. Small amounts of the rarest wine were produced from these grapes. The Wine Club plans to present these wines – the taste of some of which has been completely forgotten – to specialists.

One of the Club's main initiatives was the creation of a festival of new wines, which is now one of the most important events the year – a holiday which takes place on the second Saturday of May in Tbilisi's open-air ethnographic museum and is attended by thousands of people. This festival is held in association with Tbilisi's City Hall and the Georgian National Museum.

2011 saw the second edition of this festival, whose main condition is that exhibitors present wines made from grapes harvested the previous autumn. Family wine makers also take part alongside large or medium wine companies and small wine cellars. These family wines are selected by the members of the Wine Club during various tasting sessions. During this festival, people can try new wines from almost every wine-making region of Georgia.

In addition to all these activities, the Wine Club is also committed to educational programmes and has already published several brochures and books such as Georgia – The Cradle of Wine (2010, in English) and Pairing Georgian Wines and Georgian Dishes (2011, in Georgian). This Georgian Wine Guide 2012 is a further publication.

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May 2023