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Wine Village - Wine Club’s New Educational Project for Small Cellars and Regional Wine Tourism Development

The Wine Club, with the financial support of the USAID Economic Security Program, has launched a new educational project for the development of small wineries and regional wine tourism. The one-year project covers Imereti, Racha and Lechkhumi regions. The project involves finding and advising winemakers and small and medium-sized wineries in villages with great potential in terms of wine and food tourism. The consultations will help small and medium-sized wineries to turn their farms into desired tourist spots, create attractive products/services for wine and food tourism enthusiasts, and engage in wine routes in these regions.

A mobile working group (experts in viticulture, winemaking, marketing, tourism) has been set up and is already working in about 20 villages in these three regions. This is a qualifying stage; in a few days it will become known which cellars will continue to cooperate with the project. Training and research, field work, trainings, etc. will be conducted on the spot. The main goal of the project is to promote the development of wine and food tourism in the regions - to create a natural product by identifying small and medium-sized wineries and transforming them into tourist farms, connecting the wineries with various tour operators and involving them in wine routes. All the operations to be carried out in the vineyard will be managed under the direct supervision of experts – pruning, spraying, green operations, wine fermentation and primary aging.

At the same time, the project will later involve the owners of already famous wineries, successful viticulturists and winemakers with several years of experience, who will help the wineries involved in the program to transform their activities into wine farms of interest to tourists.

The project also includes marketing and sales consulting, market research, PR campaigns, small fairs, participation in the New Wine Festival, involvement in wine routes, etc.

The Wine Village project is the result of 11 years of experience of the Wine Club and it will be attended by wineries whose activities are already well known to the club.

The project will be led by: Malkhaz Kharbedia (Founder of the Wine Club), Giorgi Barisashvili (Researcher of Viticulture and Enology), Vano Shiukashvili (Winemaker), Natia Gachechiladze (Project Manager), Nikoloz Grdzelishvili (Cameraman), Mamuka Maisuradze (Founder of GVino), Iago Bitarishvili (Viticulturist and winemaker), Tamuna Kurtanidze (Tourism Expert), Mamuka Tkeshelashvili (Artist, Designer) and others.

Malkhaz Kharbedia: "The New Wine Festival, a popular wine celebration, has seen dozens of new wineries appear on the big stage every year, but many still remain in the shadow. Every year, several hundred wineries apply to participate in the festival, bringing their wines to the competition. Last year, for instance, up to 700 wines were presented in the qualifying round of the New Wine Festival. In other words, the potential is significant, and it definitely needs to be closely studied and promoted. The idea of ​​our project came from the necessity of such studies.

It must be said that too many of such small producers were unable to get out of the beaten track and failed to achieve real development. Many of them lack the access to education; but most importantly, their product does not reach consumers, and the consumers (including tourists) do not have any information about them.

We believe that there is a very important chain for the development of small wineries. The chain primarily comprising education - media - events, will make it easier for beginner viticulturists wishing to enter the market, whose products deserve the attention of the media and, above all, consumers or tourists. To achieve this, it is necessary to create a quality product, for which not only the novice entrepreneur, but also a group of experienced people will be responsible, who will then convey their knowledge in viticulture, winemaking, wine tourism, marketing, etc., to the novice entrepreneurs, helping them to move forward on the arena (through media, events)."

The first stage of the Wine Village will last until May 2021; it aims to cover all wine regions of Georgia in the future.

The views expressed in this article may not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Government.

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May 2023