A Georgian archbishop has been awarded the Masi International Wine Prize for his services to the country's wine industry.
Archbishop Sergi Chekurishvili of Nekresi joins a long list of illustrious prize winners including UK wine writer Hugh Johnson, Napa legend Robert Mondavi and Emile Peynaud, the most renowned of the great Bordeaux oenologists.
The Masi committee said the unusual choice of the religious leader – whose diocese includes the wine region of Kakheti – was due to his support for the country’s beleagured winemakers.
A spokesperson for Masi told Decanter.com: ‘In the difficult current political situation, where access to traditional markets is under embargo from the Russians, Metropolitan Sergi has acted to educate Georgian wine producers in their own traditions and to find modern technological solutions that will open up new global markets.
‘ This is a welcome boost for the Georgian wine industry after Russia, which accounted for 80% of its wine sales, banned Georgian wine imports in 2006.
Georgia, believed to be the birthplace of winemaking, also played host to the International Organisation for Vine and Wine (OIV) annual conference this year.
The Archbishop will receive the award at a ceremony on 25 September.
Written by Rebecca Gibb