- Georgian wine sells over 1m bottles in US
- Success driven by enthusiasm of key opinion leaders
- Georgian wines benefited from the popularity of natural wines
- Consolidated shipment facilitated the sale of small batches of wine
In 2002, the former Soviet republic of Georgia shipped 247,256 bottles of wine to the US. Three years later, that figure had barely moved, but then the acceleration began. Benefitting from, and helping to drive, the natural wine movement, wines produced in amphora – qvevri – that are buried underground caught the attention of sommeliers, specialist wine retailers and top critics like Eric Asimov of the New York Times. Over the last six years sales have grown annually at a rate of 29%, allowing them to break through the million-bottle threshold last year. Just as importantly, Georgian wines now have some of the highest prices in the US and elsewhere.
While fashion and the efforts of a number of top Georgian producers have been instrumental in the country’s success in the US, it certainly owes much to the efforts of the Georgian National Wine Agency which has worked with respected professionals such as Lisa Grank MW, author of The Wines of Georgia, and marketer Julie Peterson, founder of Marq Wine Group. Irakli Cholobargia who, as Head of Marketing & PR of the Georgian National Wine Agency contracted Peterson, credits Marq for “removing market barriers for Georgian wine producers and created a systematic pathway for growth.”
In particular, apart from hosting tastings and ensuring that the sommelier fraternity were as aware as possible of Georgia’s very individual wines, Peterson also worked hard to create a consolidated shipping programme that facilitated the sale and listing of small batches of wine that would otherwise struggle to make their way onto the US market.
Logistical efforts like these may attract a lot less attention than tastings and events for the media, and may actually go unnoticed, but they can be crucially valuable for countries and regions that are trying to break into new markets.