A Georgian winemaker aims to radically change his country’s vinification techniques – after winning a trip to France with the Geoffrey Roberts Award.

Shalva Khetsuriani, a Georgian winemaker who won the Award last year, recently announced changes in wine practices of his country, including new vineyard management techniques, new technologies in the winery and better production methods.

He told decanter.com that Georgia – ‘the birthplace of wine’ – had wonderful terroirs, ‘but the human side of production needs urgent development and modernisation.’

The Geoffrey Roberts Award, named after the late New World wine importer, is an annual travel bursary worth around £3000, awarded to ‘deserving potential achievers’ in the world of wine.

Ketsuriani used his bursary to visit about 20 leading chateaux in Bordeaux, including Branaire Ducru, Canon, La Lagune, Rauzan-Segla, and Domaine Bernard Defaix in Chablis.

He is now applying some of the techniques he observed. He has successfully applied pre- and post-fermentation maceration for some red wines – a practice unheard of in Georgia till now. Vinification in barriques and malolactic fermentation for red wines will follow, and he also intends to look into high-density plantings.

The learning process has gone both ways: INAO president Rene Renou has expressed an interest in Georgian terroirs, and a group of Bordeaux producers is planning to visit Georgia next spring.

Khetsuriani’s new vision is supported by his fellow winemakers. ‘Out of 100 Georgian producers 50 realise that we need to raise the general winemaking standards of the country’, he said.

Jancis Robinson who is on the jury panel at Geoffrey Roberts Award told decanter.com, ‘All of us connected with the Award are delighted that we have been able to help Shalva and hope that the effects of his tour are felt in Georgia and beyond.’

Contact geoffreyrobertsa@aol.com

Written by Eleonora Scholes