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Wine targeted as Russia and Georgia tension mounts

Russia has publicised a clampdown on Georgian wine imports over quality concerns, amid heightened political tension between the two countries.

There has been a ‘deterioration’ in the quality of Georgian wine imports in recent years, said Russia’s consumer watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, on Monday (24 June).

It said officials have tightened controls over the quality and safety of imports, after introducing new and unspecified tests in 2017.

The timing of the announcement coincided with rising political tension as both countries blamed each other for whipping up anti-government protests in Georgia’s capital, Tblisi.

Kremlin officials denied a link between events in Georgia and tougher checks on wine, according to Reuters.

However, Russia banned Georgian wines between 2006 and 2013 in a move that many commentators at the time believed had political motivations.

This week’s complaint from Rospotrebnadzor specifically alleges a decline in the quality of Georgian wine imports between 2014 and 2018.

Georgia’s national wine agency quickly issued a riposte. ‘We think that there is no objective basis for questioning the quality of Georgian export products,’ it said, adding that it had increased quality controls itself in recent years.

Georgia, which has an 8,000-year history of winemaking, has worked to decrease its reliance on the Russian market, particularly by seeking expansion in Asia and also in the UK and US.

Around 86.2 million bottles were exported in 2018, to 53 countries, which represented a 30-year high and a 13% increase in 2017, according to Georgia’s national wine agency.

Exports rose by 20% in value, in US dollar terms, to $203m.

Russia is still the destination for more than half of Georgian wine exports, however.

See also: Crimea’s historic Massandra winery set for controversial sale


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