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%.