Melania Battiston: As an empty cup, the way I would like to engage is by dropping my expectation and listen, learn, and grow my knowledge. My desire is to ask them how the Georgian wine future looks like

Melania, with your rich experience and unique palate, you’ve championed wines that blend both traditional and adventurous elements. What are you particularly looking forward to discovering or experiencing in the wines from IWSC Wine Judging in Georgia?

With Georgia, I would like to find its own sense of place. I am looking forward to understanding where they are at and what is the direction they would like to undertake. The natural wine movement and its history gave them status, however, I am wondering if they will keep their authenticity in winemaking and indigenous heritage or if at the crossroad, they will move away to their unique features, to satisfy the commercial demand.


 Your journey from marketing to pursuing your passion for wine is truly inspiring. How do your marketing insights play into your role as Head Sommelier, Wine Buyer, and now as a judge for the IWSC Wine Judging?

I am slowly re-discovering Marketing and I am trying to apply it to wines, brands and winemaking regions.  Communication has and will always have the biggest influence when try to make an impact on a brand or on a region. The head-line ‘Georgia is the birthplace of wine’ has a semantic satiation effect. It lost its ‘coolness’. I am coming to Georgia to find the new front-page.


2022 was a significant year for you with the Young Sommelier Competition win and being named as one of Harper’s Top 25 Sommeliers in the UK. How do accolades like these shape your approach to wine judging, and what advice would you give to budding sommeliers who aspire to gain such honors?

I believe titles do not necessarily make someone a better sommelier or a more prepared professional, also when it comes to wine judging. Competitions and exams are the tip of the Iceberg, what people can see and professionals can be recognised for. The hard work is beneath the surface. To become a skilled wine judge, of course you need to be familiar with wine styles grapes and origins, which means you have to spend your time reading about them and discussing with peers and be informed. However, you also need to be a mediator, a natural communicator, and a bit of a writer. You need to be willing to embrace what the regional experts have to say and apply it into your judging process, you need to be honest and critical when needed, and don’t be afraid to stand up for your opinion or going against someone’s else’s. First and foremost be objective and integrate a helpful feedback when necessary.


With the IWSC Wine Judging in Georgia on the horizon, what are your expectations from the wines of the Caucasus region? And how do you envision the feedback from this event impacting the wine industry in these countries?

Being the climate being so diverse from desert like-arid East to cooler and more humid West, being the landscape so vary, from the Caucasus mountains and the lowlands, and the tons of river, I expect many different wine styles. I don’t expect the classic Western European winemaking, I expect rusticity (not being a negative attribute, but being authentic in their own way), perhaps high alcohol and a pungent first-nose.


Melania, considering Georgia’s rich 8000-year history in wine production, what are you most looking forward to experiencing firsthand in this storied wine-producing nation?

I found fascinating the melange between history and wine.

Being Italian and having so many indigenous grape variety in my country, I am incredibly curious to taste and get to know some of the 500 native Georgian varieties and others originally from the Caucasus regions.

I would love to experience the historical kvevri winemaking and also I am also looking forward to discovery some elegant examples from the region, and prove myself wrong.


Georgia takes great pride in its wine heritage, with local experts and aficionados deeply cherishing and recommending their wines. As you prepare for this journey, how are you gearing up to engage with Georgian winemakers and immerse yourself in their wines?

As an empty cup, the way I would like to engage is by dropping my expectation and listen, learn, and grow my knowledge. My desire is to ask them how the Georgian wine future looks like. If a sense of place exists nowadays and if it is reflected in their wines. I would listen to how people left the traditional kvevri to satisfy a more international market and commercial demand.


Given your extensive knowledge and experience in the wine industry, how do you anticipate Georgian wines might stand out or differ from others you’ve tasted around the world?

Georgian wines are not as obscure as it used to be, however, it is still not popular enough to have a clear idea on the general style offered by the region. I know small scale family wineries are doing an impressive job, modernising winemaking and machinery techniques and gaining more insights about their land. Perhaps those are the wines who will blow our mind as judges, the tiny producers we are not able to reach yet.

Georgia wine dates back to the earliest ever wines and it’s techniques are historic, so there’s a rich tradition to embrace but Georgia also has indigenous grape varieties that are absolutely on trend with the fashion for lighter, brighter wines, which is exciting, – David Kermode.

David, having transitioned from mainstream journalism to wine writing, how has your media background influenced your unique approach to wine journalism and communication?

I spent the first two decades of my career in the cut and thrust of a busy newsroom, before heading into wine and undertaking my WSET Diploma, so that background helps in all sorts of ways, from speed (TV and radio journalists work to daily news broadcast deadlines), to an understanding of what makes a good story and the importance of a connection of some kind with a wine. Above all, the end user, the consumer, must always be front of mind: we cannot just talk to ourselves – because we are interested already! – we must share our passion in a way that’s inclusive, to reach out to others, which means avoiding making assumptions and being careful to keep the language relatable.  As an example, it you’re sure it is really relevant, then it’s ok to mention ‘malolactic fermentation, but only if you explain what it is, in basic terms, and why it is relevant or important in relation to a particular wine.  The consumer always comes first.


As a judge for the IWSC Wine Judging in Georgia, what distinct qualities are you anticipating from Georgian wines, and where do you see them positioned in the global wine narrative?

Everyone loves a story and Georgia is rich in  those stories, as the cradle of wine civilisation. Georgia’s traditions are rich and fascinating, but the wines are also innovative and different, both of which are vital hooks for a modern consumer.  The wines are also enmeshed in a beguiling food culture that begs to be shared with the world.

As you delve deeper into the world of wine, have there been any particular techniques or innovations in wine production that have caught your eye or that you believe are game-changers for the industry?

The wine world is amazing and it is constantly innovating to improve. I think the revolution in rosé production in Provence is compelling with its focus on harvest conditions, temperature control and techniques such as stabulation, for example.

So, technology can also be applied brilliantly to heritage methods and techniques which is what I anticipate will be the case in Georgia.


Georgia boasts a rich 8,000-year wine-producing history. As someone who has extensively studied wine and spirits, how do you perceive the significance of Georgian wines within the global wine narrative?

Georgia wine dates back to the earliest ever wines and it’s techniques are historic, so there’s a rich tradition to embrace but Georgia also has indigenous grape varieties that are absolutely on trend with the fashion for lighter, brighter wines, which is exciting.


You’ve had the privilege to taste wines from across the world. In your opinion, how do Georgian wines, with their traditional ‘qvevri’ winemaking methods, stand apart from contemporary wine-producing techniques?

Qvevri wines are so distinctive and yet there are often misunderstood, with consumers associating qvevri wines with orange wines, assuming them to be somewhat challenging and tannic. The reality is, of course, that qvevri wines can offer a wide range of different, throughly modern, styles whilst embracing traditional culture.


As a consultant for several wine producers, do you see potential collaboration or learning opportunities between Georgian winemakers and other wine regions globally?

Yes, absolutely. Though the wine market in the UK is a crowded one, Georgian wines stand apart for their heritage and also their suitability for a curious, modern consumer. It’s anll a bout telling the story and getting the wines before buyers – and medals are pivotal to that. Every portfolio should offer a carefully curated selection of Georgian wines.


Lastly, as you prepare to be a judge at the IWSC in Georgia, what advice or insights would you offer Georgian winemakers who are eager to make their mark on the international stage?

I would say learn what works for international consumers, travel to make wine, then be proud of your culture and think about how to elevate Georgia’s traditions and grape varieties whilst celebrating the story of Georgia’s food and wine culture.  And always, always work together as you’ll achieve so much more.


Unveiling the Essence of Georgian Wines: An Interview with Christelle Guibert, CEO of IWSC

Interview with Christelle Guibert, CEO of International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC).

Reflecting on last year’s competition, could you share your insights on the overall experience, and how, in your perspective, it has impacted the participants and the industry?

Reflecting on last year’s competition, our judging experience in Georgia was exceptional. It transcended the boundaries of a typical wine competition, becoming a transformative event for both participants and the industry as a whole. The collaboration created a unique platform, allowing Georgian producers to exhibit their wines, the breathtaking landscapes, the rich culture, and the warm-hearted people to an international audience of wine experts.

The event seamlessly blended the rigorous judging process, where our esteemed panel evaluated over 500 wines from Georgia, with immersive visits to local producers and wineries. This distinctive approach exceeded the confines of a traditional tasting room in London, offering an unparalleled experience. The judges had the opportunity to delve deep into what makes Georgia truly unique – from its indigenous grape varieties to the traditional winemaking techniques using ‘quevri’ and the exquisite local cuisine.

What set this experience apart was its ability to turn our international experts into genuine ambassadors for Georgian wines. The judges not only relished the wines but also discovered the essence of Georgian viticulture and the passion that goes into every bottle. This newfound knowledge and enthusiasm were carried back to their workplaces, where they shared their discoveries with the wider wine industry. The impact sparked genuine interest and curiosity about Georgian wines among professionals and enthusiasts alike.

Last year, our venture in Georgia celebrated the diversity and excellence of Georgian wines, fostered international connections, deepened cultural understanding, and elevated the global perception of Georgia as a prominent wine-producing region. It was a true celebration of wine, culture, and camaraderie, leaving an indelible mark on both the participants and the industry.

Given the learnings from the last competition, are there aspects you anticipate being enhanced or modified in this year’s contest to elevate the overall experience?

Building upon the remarkable success of last year’s event, we find ourselves in a unique position where the foundation laid was so strong that we wouldn’t alter a thing about the past experience. It served as an outstanding introduction to the captivating country of Georgia, serving as a launchpad for deeper exploration and understanding of its diverse wine culture.

This year, we are excited to bring both new and returning judges into this enriching experience. The enthusiasm of those judges who had the privilege of attending last year lies in delving even deeper into the intricacies of Georgia’s indigenous grape varieties and forging connections with new industry peers. This eagerness to expand their knowledge reflects the enduring impact of our previous venture, fostering a continuous learning environment among our esteemed panel.

What adds an extra layer of excitement to this year’s event is the inclusion of Armenia. We firmly believe in the exceptional promise of Armenian wines, foreseeing their potential in the UK market and on the global stage. As the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC), we are committed to championing emerging wine markets, and extending an invitation to Armenia aligns perfectly with our mission.

We are immensely grateful to Georgia for its gracious hospitality and commitment to supporting countries with a rich wine heritage. Their generosity in hosting this event and their dedication to fostering collaboration among nations serve as a testament to the unity and camaraderie that the world of wine can inspire. This year’s competition promises to be a celebration of exceptional wines and a testament to the enduring spirit of collaboration and exploration within the global wine community.

What are your expectations and aspirations for this year’s competition, and how do you foresee it contributing to the advancement and evolution of the field?

Our expectations for this year’s competition come with anticipation and excitement. Building on the vibrant connections we forged during our previous visit, we eagerly look forward to immersing ourselves even further into the rich tapestry of the Georgian wine industry. The prospect of meeting bright and engaging individuals within the Georgian wine community fills us with enthusiasm. These interactions serve as invaluable opportunities to impart our knowledge and, more importantly, to learn and exchange ideas.

In the grander scheme, our vision for this year’s competition is to contribute significantly to the advancement and evolution of Georgian wines. By fostering these connections and deepening our knowledge, we are not just judging wines but catalysing a cultural exchange, sharing wisdom, and celebrating diversity within the wine industry. Through this synergy, we anticipate that this year’s competition will leave an indelible mark, inspiring further collaboration, innovation, and a deeper appreciation of the wines and the country.

Levan Mekhuzla on IWSC: A Platform for Winemakers to Elevate Their Brand

In 2022, the “Gurjaani Wine Festival” with the backing of the National Wine Agency partnered with IWSC, one of the most significant international wine and spirits competitions. This collaboration led to the inaugural IWSC Wine Judging event in Georgia, where Georgian wines garnered international acclaim. This year, the “Gurjaani Wine Festival” has secured a three-year license to organize the competition.

We talked with Levan Mehuzla, Chairman of the National Wine Agency, on the pivotal role of the IWSC competition. In our interview he reflected on the prior year’s success and underscored that the contest offers winemakers a golden opportunity. Not only does it increase the visibility and appeal of their products, but it also fosters new relationships and provides insights into global wine market trends.

Mr. Levan, could you provide your assessment of last year’s IWSC? What significance does this competition hold for wine enterprises, wineries, and the broader industry?

Last year marked the inaugural IWSC held on Georgian soil. This event is globally renowned, being among the most respected wine and spirits competitions since its inception in 1969. Only twice in its storied history, and for the first time in Europe, did the IWSC’s leadership decide to host a standalone competition dedicated exclusively to a country’s winemakers. The first was in South Africa, and Georgia was the second. This distinction underscored the recognition and opportunity presented to Georgian winemakers. The competition’s esteemed jury was headed by Sarah Abbott, a Master of Wine and the National Wine Agency’s contractor, which speaks volumes about its gravitas. The competition witnessed participation from an overwhelming 487 samples, out of which 16 gold, 63 silver, and 209 bronze accolades were awarded. Such international recognition boosts brand visibility for Georgian producers and drives them towards enhancing their product quality, thereby catalyzing sales and fostering growth.

Could you discuss the regional participation? What are your projections, especially concerning the potential of small to medium-sized regional wineries this year?

We saw enthusiastic participation from all of Georgia’s wine-producing regions. However, Kakheti, Georgia’s primary wine region, had a stronger presence. Our nation boasts a rich tapestry of unique grape varieties. As such, it’s imperative that small and mid-sized wineries from all over Georgia continue to make their mark in future competitions.

What advice do you offer to Georgian winemakers regarding this competition?

Prestigious competitions like this are instrumental in portraying a country’s wine industry in a favorable light. Given Georgia’s storied heritage as the cradle of wine and its robust export-driven wine sector, participation in this event is invaluable. It offers winemakers a platform to enhance brand recognition, understand global wine trends, and obtain expert feedback. To illustrate, let’s reflect on the insights from last year’s jury chair, British Master of Wine Sarah Abbott. She aptly conveyed, “During the event, it became evident that Georgia’s ambition to shine in the premium wine market is within reach. Our goal is to acquaint the global wine fraternity with Georgian wine. The diversity and caliber of Georgian wines showcased were on par with renowned wine regions like Italy, Britain, and Spain. Georgia’s strength lies in its unity and diversity.”

Note: The International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC), established in 1969, stands as one of the world’s premier platforms for appraising and celebrating the best wines and spirits. This international event, held annually in London, sees thousands of alcoholic beverages being assessed by globally-acclaimed professional judges.

Last year, the IWSC Wine Judging in Georgia took place in October. Boasting 152 producers who presented 487 wines, it set a participation record for competitions hosted in Georgia. Historically, IWSC in London received a mere 56 entries from Georgia. However, ever since the competition was publicized locally, submissions surged by a staggering 750%.

Mariam Gujabidze on IWSC Wine Judging in Georgia

Mariam Gujabidze, the brand ambassador for IWSC Wine Judging in Georgia, discusses the significance of the previous competition and the avenues it opens for Georgian winemakers.

What stood out for you in last year’s competition?

From the outset, when the competition was announced, to its conclusion, several moments stood out. The most striking was undoubtedly the realization that such a distinguished international wine and spirits competition was taking place in Georgia. The International Wine & Spirit Competition, with its rich history spanning over fifty years, is among the most respected globally. Hosting it in Georgia was a monumental achievement for our wine industry.

It was particularly commendable to witness the rigorous standards upheld throughout by the IWSC team in Georgia. And one can’t overlook the staggering participation – 152 producers showcased 487 wines. This level of interest and engagement emphasized the competition’s relevance.

How does securing a medal at the IWSC bolster Georgian wine’s global standing?

With the competition being held in Georgia, our wines were thrust into the global limelight. Esteemed wine publications reported on the competition outcomes. Noted jury members from the international community shared their discoveries of unique wines. All of this facilitated not only the promotion of medal-winning wines but also solidified Georgia’s esteemed position in the global wine community.

What has this event done for the global reputation of Georgian wineries?

Historically, this was the first time Georgian producers could aspire to win such a prestigious international accolade on home soil. Many seized this opportunity. Winning not only adds to a wine’s reputation but also typically results in increased sales. An IWSC medal is a testament to a wine’s quality and taste, which aids winemakers when they discuss potential partnerships or sales. This recognition paves the way for new export markets and boosts the wineries’ prestige.

How did wine community respond to the previous year’s competition?

Feedback from the wine community was invaluable. Even those winemakers who didn’t secure a medal found the experience enriching. Every participant, medalist or not, received feedback from the jury on their wines. Many stressed the value of this feedback, vowing to integrate it in their future endeavors. As for our partners at IWSC, their commitment to holding the competition in Georgia again this year speaks volumes about the previous year’s success.

As the competition nears, what are your hopes for this year?

The anticipation is palpable among organizers, participants, and the wider industry. To underscore the event’s significance, let’s consider this: In past years, the IWSC received 56 wine entries from Georgia. Yet, after announcing the competition would be held in Georgia, this figure soared by 750%. The competition undeniably resonates with the industry. This year, we anticipate even more innovative wineries and wines gracing the event.

Any advice for winemakers eyeing this year’s IWSC Wine Competition in Georgia?

I urge winemakers to participate in what is more than just a competition. The IWSC is a global society devoted not only to recognizing the best but also to unveiling hidden gems. As evidenced last year, many winners were from smaller or mid-sized wineries. So, I’d encourage every winemaker to present their wine and seize the chance to shine at one of the world’s most esteemed competitions.

IWSC’s First 2024 Global Judging to take place in Georgia

The illustrious International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) is set to inaugurate its 2024 Wine Awards in the revered viticultural landscape of Georgia, known as the “cradle of winemaking.” This autumn, connoisseurs and wine aficionados from around the globe will gather in this ancient wine-producing region to bestow honors upon exceptional wines.

IWSC, with its enduring commitment to uplifting and recognizing wine regions globally, will host a series of international judging events throughout 2024. These events will serve as a distinctive platform for wine producers to showcase their exceptional creations to a panel of internationally acclaimed judges, offering insights from various realms of the wine industry.

The 2024 global awards will kick off symbolically “where it all began,” celebrating wines from a region revered as the birthplace of viticulture. The success of the previous year’s IWSC wine judging in Georgia saw over 500 entries and the awarding of more than 280 medals. The return to this remarkable country promises an exploration of unique wine traditions and renowned hospitality.

In a significant collaboration with The Gurjaani Wine Festival and the National Wine Agency of Georgia, this year’s judging is poised to escalate into a major regional event. It welcomes not only entries from Georgia but also from neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Christelle Guibert, CEO of IWSC, remarked, “The Caucasus region, with Georgia at its heart, is famed for its unique grapes and ancient wine traditions. We’re witnessing a wine renaissance here, with numerous independent producers crafting high-quality, distinctive wines. By bringing the IWSC Awards to Georgia and opening entries to Armenian and Azerbaijani producers, we’re offering a global spotlight to the local viticultural excellence.”

The expert team, led by Judging Committee Member and Master Of Wine Alistair Cooper, will comprise a blend of international and local judges, including influential buyers, sommeliers, and wine communicators.

Benefits for Entrants:

  • Producers enjoy a discounted entry fee and convenient local delivery.
  • Winning wines gain exposure to IWSC’s international audience.
  • Inclusion in the IWSC’s influential 2024 communication campaigns.
  • Access to insights and evaluations from globally recognized wine judges.

The IWSC 2024 Wine Judging in Georgia is scheduled for 28-30 November 2023, and the award results will be revealed on 4 December. Entry submissions will open on 5 October 2023 via the official IWSC website.