Michael Karam’s latest article for Harpers Wine and Spirit is a deep dive into the UK wine market’s perception and reception of Georgian wines over the past decade. He explains how Georgian wines have intrigued UK consumers with their “sense of ‘otherness’,” with traditional practices such as skin-contact ‘orange’ wines produced in large qvevri (amphorae) and grape varieties rooted in the country’s rich history.
Doug Wregg, wine buyer for Les Caves de Pyrene, describes the early exposure of UK to Georgian wines as a revelation, coinciding with the burgeoning natural wine movement in places like New York and Scandinavia. This timing proved to be opportune as Georgia’s winemakers were already looking to diversify their market in anticipation of potential Russian embargoes, thus shifting their focus to international markets with government support.
High-profile introductions of Georgian wines to UK consumers, such as through Marks & Spencer by Emma Dawson MW, demonstrated the market’s willingness to embrace these wines, evidenced by quick sales and subsequent significant growth in the UK market.
The on-trade has found Georgian wines to be gastronomically diverse, and sommelier Merlin Ramos notes the successful blend of tradition with modernity, with certain native white grapes competing strongly on aromatics, structure, and acidity. There’s an acknowledgement of the need for Georgian wine to use its unique characteristics as a stepping stone to broader commercial success, focusing on quality and variety to maintain a competitive edge.
Critics note that while Georgian wines initially garnered glory, the UK market requires wines to deliver on quality without faults, which can be challenging for the natural wine segment. Moreover, there is a push for Georgian winemakers to consider competitive pricing and to manage the complexity of their wine names to be more consumer-friendly.
The article concludes that despite some barriers, Georgian wines offer excellent food pairings and if recommended with trust, consumers will not be disappointed.