IWINETC Day 1 round up: Excitement Increases for Georgian Wines & Tourism

After a very tense and dangerous bus ride less than two miles from the hotel, only to have to walk the last 100 meters of the way on a side street, our first official visit was to the only wine bar in Tbilisi called Vino Underground Wine Bar & Shop. As its name suggests, this is an underground cellar that was converted into not only a wine bar, but also a small and delightful wine shop that brings to Tbilisi some of the best natural wines of Georgia.

vinounderground3Owned and operated by seven small Georgian wineries, here one can find a wide variety of wines representing the different wine regions of Georgia. The vast majority of wineries of Georgia are very small. But there is a movement for some of these wineries to work together to improve wine quality and awareness.

From traditional Georgian qvevri to western stainless steel styled wines, from fresh and light whites to fuller bodied and savory orange (or amber) wines, our host, John Wurderman and a few of his fellow Georgian wine makers gave us a most well rounded introduction with a very well prepared tasting of Georgian wines to be discovered during the International Wine Tourism Conference in Tbilisi this weekend.

vinounderground1Although myself and many of my colleagues struggled with names such as Kakhuri Mtsvane, Saperavi and Tavkveri, which are the names of just a few of the five hundred indigenous grapes used for making Georgian wines. Last night’s tasting was an excellent way to start the up coming events.

Azarpesha Restaurant and Wine Bar in Tbilisi

azarpesha1An azarpesha is a small metal bowl with a long handle. It is used to drink wine. In Tbilisi, Azarpesha is the name of a restaurant/wine bar. Owner, Luarsab Togonidze, dresses in traditional Georgian clothing and serves as tamada during a supra. During our visit, the International Wine Tourist Conference media group experienced a supra, a Georgian feast where a tamada makes toasts. For the evening, John Wurdeman of Pheasant’s Tears Winery in Signagi served as toastmaster. One of the toasts was made using an azarpesha.

azarpesha2We sat at tables that already had several traditional Georgian appetizers available to eat. John explained the rules of a supra. He stressed the importance of pacing yourself when it comes to the food and wine. He also stressed that during a supra, if a tamada ever says “bottoms up” do not believe him. You do not have to drain your glass after every toast. Two Pheasant’s Tears wines, Rkatsiteli and Saperavi were at the tables. John also said that throughout the evening there would be many toasts, polyphonic singing and food.

After each toast there was a polyphonic song. The three part songs were in Georgian. Even though most of the media group did not understand the words, the music touched our hearts. No one was eating during the first several songs; we were entranced by the music.

The first toast was made to our Creator. Following toasts covered several themes including Anthony Swift of Wine Pleasures who organized the conference and the people at the National Wine Agency of Georgia. John explained that if a tamada alaverdied a toast, he passes the toast to another in the room. The next toast was to Georgia. John then passed the toast to Terry Sullivan, who also spoke of the first visit to Georgia when he was a guest and now he feels like family. The toast was then passed to Luarsab Togonidze who spoke of Georgia and peace. Other toasts during the evening included love, our loved ones who passed away, women, our children and the chefs and kitchen staff who worked tirelessly during the evening.

azarpesha3Between toasts, John opened a sparkling cider that was made in Georgian qvevri in the state of Virginia. The refreshing apple cider was very palate cleansing and several of the media made positive comments about the cider.

Dessert was served and Chacha was opened. Some sipped their Chacha while other drank their Chacha like Georgians downing it in one gulp.

The evening served to bring the media group together, but more importantly it gave us an example of Georgian hospitality. Memories, that will last a lifetime, were created during the three-hour supra. We all felt a warm welcome to the birthplace of wine.

Coming Up Later Today!

IWINETC Media Group to Visit Two Wineries, a Distillery, and Georgia’s Ancient Capital – Mtskhetis

  • Bagrationi 1882, a winery producing sparkling wines
  • Sarajishvili, a brandy maker
  • Jvari Monastery
  •     Lunch at Guajari Mtskheta Darbazi (Mtskhetis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site)
  • Chateau Mukhrani, a winery property from the 1800s with replanted vineyards
  • Restaurant Kopala

Melba Allen & Terry Sullivan

IWINETC 2014 Sponsors & Partners- Thank You!

IWINETC is most grateful for the support from all of these sponsors. We are particularly grateful for the financial and logistical support from our Premium sponsors: The Georgian National Tourism Administration and the Georgian National Wine Agency.

Thank you also to our Gold sponsors Kindzmarauli Marani, Winery Khareba and the Champagne-Marne Tourism Board, Comité Départemental du Tourisme de la Marne.

We are always looking for new sponsors and new ideas to be sponsored to enable IWINETC to host a memorable conference for delegates. If you are interested in sponsoring a part of IWINETC’s 2015 Annual Conference in France’s La Champagne, please contact the IWINETC Head Office staff.

International Wine Tourism Conference Gearing Up to Start this Weekend!

The 6th Annual International Wine Tourism Conference is set for this weekend. Wine tour operators and media specializing on wine tourism topics will be involved with writing, blogging and photography of Georgia as the Birthplace of Wine. People attending the conference will be from around the world searching to find out about the wine tourism  industry of Georgia and other grape escape destinations represented at the event including Armenia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Italy, France and Spain.

Follow along on the IWINETC website to learn of Georgia’s wine history, unknown grape varieties and wonderful culture. Discover the traditions of Georgia!

Coming Up Tomorrow for early arrivals! Thursday March 27

  • Visit to Vino Underground, a natural wine bar in Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Dinner at Azarpesha Restaurant with Tamada Luarsab Togonidze and polyphonic musicazarpesha restaurant Georgia part of the iwinetc social programme 2014

Follow events as they happen on twitter #iwinetc

Still time to register as a conference delegate. Last few tickets available here>>

Media Release: Destination Georgia! IWINETC descends on Tbilisi

March 29th and 30th 2014 will see the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) bring together a unique blend of wine industry professionals from around the world in the 5* star venue Tbilisi Marriott.

The event, organized by Wine Pleasures is an interactive and dynamic 2 day program during which time is spent building new business relationships, learning from global experts, exploring an emerging Georgian wine industry, and of course, tasting wine!

Tour operators/agents and wine experience providers specialized in wine and culinary tourism have dedicated time to meet at the Wine Tourism Meet Up. Professional and enthusiast wine lovers can devour the knowledge of over 30 guest speakers.  Wineries can showcase their latest release or special classic vintages.  It’s all about growing the wine tourism industry!

George Sigua of the Georgian National Tourism Administration and Levan Davitashvili National Wine Agency kick off the festivities with a look at wine tourism in the cradle of wine.  Many discoveries have left historians in no doubt that Georgia is the birthplace of wine. Ancient wine vessels made of clay, bronze and silver; gold cups for drinking wine; wine barrels dated to the 2nd or even 3rd millennium BC; and vine seeds found in the ancient tombs of the Bronze Age all leave a continuous story of the history of Georgian wine. A unique grape escape location indeed!

Below is a sampling of the top quality guest speakers who promise to make IWINETC 2014 a memorable experience.

IWINETC welcomes back three wine tourism experts to the conference. Laurence Cogan, professor at the ESC Dijon- School of Wine & Spirits will demonstrate how wine tourism can boost/reboost wine sales with specific reference to Beaujolais. Authors of the book Georgia, Sakartvelo: the Birthplace of Wine, Terry & Kathy Sullivan will be stressing the importance of telling heart-warming stories to visitors: Chicken Soup for the Wine Tourist’s Soul

Guest speaker, professor, and co – owner of Antigua Tours Sarah May will be dealing with the common issue of how to get visitors out of the major cities into the nearby wine regions. Case Study: Rome – Lazio. The Clarke in Arblaster & Clarke Wine Tours will be giving an account of What I told Georgia and what I learned from Georgia

Veronika Raetchi, President of the Ass National Center for Promotion of Wine Tourism Moldova will unveil how Moldova is fairing as an emerging wine tourism destination.

A look at wine industry updates and wine tourism opportunities in India, Okanagan, Texas, Quebec and Georgia. Including a tasting of Wines of Georgia led by Sarah Abbott MW and Shalva Khetsuriani. President of Georgian Sommelier Association

And, several more celebrated wine travelers, bloggers, and experts in their fields will speak to topics like Managing the Guest Experience & Avoiding Hospitality Mistakes, Re-Inventing Tradition: Qvevris, Amphorae, Concrete Eggs, and the Natural Wine Movement, The Dos & Don’ts of Wine Tourism and Using Sensory Analysis as Games for a Memorable

Conference delegates arriving early and staying on can take full advantage of the tours around wine, food, and culture of Georgia.

As the Georgian slogan says: “Georgia – for the best moments of your life” Add in wine and food and you’ve come then you should find yourself in heaven.

7th International Wine Tourism Conference will be hosted in La Champage 2015. Dates pending confirmation.

More info:
Anthony Swift
+34 93 897 70 48

Inspiration for the Book Georgia, Sakartvelo: the Birthplace of Wine

What inspired us to write a book about the country Georgia and its connection with wine? Different experiences at different times provided sparks of inspiration. Several years ago, Kathy and Terry decided that, “If we are going to write about wine, we should make wine.” That idea sprang into action in 2008, the year we made three wines at home. The following year, we were making wine at a winery in Virginia and a winery in Maryland. We have continued to make wine ever since. Inspired by our success, we wanted to learn more about winemaking. We took online winemaking courses through Washington State University and attended several winemaking and wine growing conferences. In September 2013, we were offered the opportunity to help make wine in the country Georgia. All of these varied  experiences provided us with the knowledge we needed to write the chapter about winemaking in Georgia, Sakartvelo: the Birthplace of Wine.

At the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) in Perugia, Italy in 2012 the country of Georgia caught our attention and a book idea began fermenting in our minds. Terry attended a presentation by Ia Tabagari about Georgian wines and winemaking techniques. She showed photos of qvevris. We had seen our first qvevri at Vinopolis in London in 2007. After the presentation Ia asked if the group had any questions. Terry raised his hand and asked a winemaking question, “How do you clean a qvevri?” Perhaps the most important thing we learned about winemaking is cleaning, so for us this was a logical question. Ia explained to the attendees how winemakers in Georgia use a brush made of cherry bark to clean the inside of a qvevri. The idea of cleaning with a cherry bark brush was so unique, it piqued our curiosity. We just had to learn more and write about the wines and winemaking in Georgia.

In 2013 the International Wine Tourism Conference was held in Zagreb, Croatia. A Georgian delegation from the National Wine Agency (NWA) presented and offered Georgian wines for tasting. A qvevri-made wine from Kisi grapes really sparked Terry’s interest. Enjoying red wines with bold tannins, an amber-colored white wine with bold tannins was a gift. Terry asked Irakli Cholobargia of the National Wine Agency if they would be interested in sponsoring a trip of wineries and vineyards in Georgia. Kathy and I wanted to learn more about Georgia and its wines by helping with a harvest and making a qvevri wine. In addition we wanted to write articles about each winery/vineyard visit and post daily blogs while in Georgia. Last summer, Irakli contacted us and said the NWA was interested in our idea. We traveled to Georgia in September 2013 and visited more than 30 wineries.

It did not take long to observe that Georgia was unique, more so than any other wine region we had visited in Europe, North America or Oceania. Kathy and Terry have visited over 1,000 wineries/vineyards in these areas. Many of the Georgian grape varieties were new to us, with the exception of Rkatsiteli and Saperavi that are also grown in limited quantities in the United States. The traditional winemaking technique of making wine in qvevri was new to us, even though we have seen qvevris at a cidery in Virginia. The practice of cleaning and sanitizing qvevris was new to us, and at Twins Wine Cellar in Napareuli we cleaned and sanitized a qvevri. Vineyard libraries were new to us. One winery we visited, Kindzmarauli Marani has over 400 different grape varieties grown in Georgia. Visitors can walk between the rows and observe the differences between the grapevine leaves and grapes. Vineyard libraries gave rise to an interest in writing a chapter about some Georgian grapes used for winemaking.

We discovered Georgia is a very religious country and that there is a strong connection between religion and wine. We learned of the sacramental wine called zedashe. We learned that St. Nino began to spread Christianity throughout the land with a cross made of grapevines. The religion and wine connection began to form as a part of our book.

We learned of Georgian history. We were interested in the Bagrationi dynasty. We walked through the beautiful restored estate at Château Mukhrani and learned of the grapes growing on the property in the 1800s, as well as the sparkling wine that won awards in St. Petersburg. Near the château, a modern winery also called Château Mukhrani has a sloping living roof over the tank area. This winery bridges the gap between ancient times and the 21st century. The Georgian history chapter began to form.

The experiences we had in Georgia included harvesting grapes, stomping grapes, destemming grapes, cleaning and sanitizing a qvevri and placing grapes in the qvevri to ferment. We also met with two qvevri makers who demonstrated their craft. All of these experiences and others were developed into chapters of our book.

Our book, Georgia, Sakartvelo: the Birthplace of Wine  will be available for purchase at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Tbilisi, Georgia on March 29th and 30th. Copies of the book will be at the registration area.

For those people attending IWINETC 2014 Georgia, make sure you schedule time to visit the exhibition area and try the wines from the following producers:

Kakhetian Traditional winemaking – Château Mukhrani – Kindzmarauli Marani – Twins Old Cellar –Winery Khareba

We hope that our newest book Georgia, Sakartvelo: the Birthplace of Wine will provide you with information and a memory of the country of Georgia.

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Pop that! La Champagne to host IWINETC 2015

The IWINETC Team is pleased to announce that the 7th annual International Wine Tourism Conference 2015 will be hosted in France’s Champagne region. The Champagne-Marne Tourism Board, Comité Départemental du Tourisme de la Marne will be our premium sponsor for the event. Dates pending confirmation.

La Champagne to host iwinetc 2015Known in Roman times as Campania, Champagne is best known around the world for the bubbles that have been produced here since the days of Dom Pérignon.

Production of the prestigious sparkling wine takes place mainly in two départements: Marne, whose metropolis is the ‘Coronation City’ of Reims and will be the venue for the IWINETC conference; and Aube, whose préfecture is the ancient and picturesque city of Troves, home to several exceptional museums and whole streets lined with half-timbered houses.

The town of Epernay, is the de facto capital of the champagne nectar. The Champagne Route wends its way through the region’s diverse vineyards, taking visitors from one picturesque wine-growing village to the next. A number of name-brand champagne houses have achieved international renown, but much of the region’s liquid gold is made by almost 5000 small-scale vignerons, many of whose family run facilities welcome bubble lovers.

IWINETC is the leading global event for the wine and culinary tourism industry. IWINETC 2015 will provide, once again a unique opportunity to build essential contacts, discover a new destination and services key to the future of your business, expand your industry knowledge and maximise your return on time.

Start planning your visit as early as possible to take advantage of every aspect of the event

Registration for IWINETC 2015 Champagne will be open 1 May 2014.


Advertise in the IWINETC Conference Programme 2014 Georgia

High Impact – Smart Investment – Tangible Results

With a reach of over 46,000 wine and culinary tourism professionals each year, the IWINETC Conference catalogue is the most read information channel in the niche market of wine tourism. It is an excellent tool to communicate your company and increase visits and business.

Why Communicate in the IWINETC Conference Programme is a Must?

All IWINETC Conference delegates, speakers, invited Buyers, media and exhibitors read the IWINETC catalogue to know what’s happening in the event and in the wine tourism Industry.

Maximum Impact

  • Each attendee at the event receives a copy of the Conference Catalogue
  • IWINETC  communicates the IWINETC catalogue via all their official channels (website, social media, mailings..that’s in excess of 100,000 right people each time we speak)
  • Available in print and digital format
  • Available online prior to, during and after the event

Advertisement options include:

1. 1/2 page (190×130mm), black & white – 290 Euros

2. Full page (190×270mm), black & white  – 500 Euros

3. Inside front or back cover (190×270mm), full color – 750 Euros

4. Outside back cover (190×270mm), full color – 1,100 Euros –  RESERVED

Please note all advertisements must be booked by 14 March 2014.

IWINETC Georgia Conference Registration

Registration is open to any member of the public who wishes to attend the two-day Conference (29 & 30 March 2014). There is a 40% discount per person for group registrations. Deadline for group bookings is 14 March 2014.

To register for the conference please use the online registration form where you can make secure payments with PayPal and credit cards.

IWINETC Georgia 2014For conference registration and the optional winery visit programme to the Kakheti wine region, please email your request to the IWINETC Head Office

Please make every effort not to leave your registration until last-minute as the IWINETC Office will be fully committed to conference arrangements from 14 March onwards. Unless we receive your registration and full payment by Friday 14 March, you will need to register on arrival at the venue providing there are places available.

IWINETC Georgia 2014Accommodation info here>>

Getting to Tbilisi info here>>

Scraps of Heaven; the Prehistoric Roots of Georgian Wine

Georgia has a long and rich tradition of wine drinking that goes far beyond merely enjoying a nice glass of red with one’s dinner this holiday season. New archaeological evidence and research suggests that wine drinking in Georgia may date as far back as prehistoric times and is an integral part of the development of Georgia’s rich culture and heritage. It would appear that wine has part of Georgian religious ritual and ceremony for centuries before the adoption of Christianity in 337 AD made Georgia one of the worlds first officially Christian countries, and has long been considered both sacred and central to family and everyday life. The presence of the Tamada, or toastmaster, is still often seen at gatherings and feasts and many families when moving home still preserve the old tradition of burying a jar of wine in the soil of their previous land to bless it. The attempts of the previous Soviet occupation to outlaw wine drinking in Georgia has been regarded by some social and political commentators as a direct attack on the Georgian cultural identity, so integral is the production and consumption of wine to the Georgian way of life.

Wine and Early Civilization

buffalo hornEven in creation myth dining rituals feature in the mythological heritage of Georgia. An old legend states that Georgia was created when the scraps of God’s heavenly feast fell from his supper table. The history of early civilization is very much the history of agriculture, specifically the cultivation of certain plants, and the land that became Georgia played a crucial role in this process, particularly in the cultivation of the vine. Linguists and etymologists speculate that the very word ‘wine’ – and its European counterparts including ‘wino’ and ‘vino’ – itself comes originally from the Georgian ‘Rvino’. In a recent archaeological dig situated in the trans-Caucasus region of Georgia as we know it today, cultivated grape pips have been found dating back to the sixth to fourth millennium BC. At other sites dated back to around the same period other artefacts that depict the early consumption of wine have been found, from a silver chalice shaped very much like a modern wine cup depicting what may be the ancient god Mithra drinking intoxicants, to a vessel decorated with wooden ‘grapes’ that has been found to contain wine residue. These artefacts date before evidence detailing the use of grapes as a food, suggesting that the vine was originally cultivated not for the direct consumption of its fruit, but for the express purpose of wine making.

The Roots of the Tamada Tradition

Kakhetian traditional wine makingIt has long been noted among researchers of global alcohol traditions that in countries where alcohol consumption is considered part of daily life and has entrenched ritual associations, alcohol problems are in fact a great deal less common than in those where ‘binge drinking’ is considered the norm. Those who drink alcohol in a more mindful manner, such as the way the Georgians and other cultures have traditionally consumed wine, tend to be more aware of their consumption and in the case of potential problems more able to carry out their own addiction self assessment. This may be considered a generalization, but from a sociological point of view there can be no denying that the responsible consumption of wine is often tied in to its being regarded as a healthy part of cultural heritage rather than a substance to over-indulge in. The long tradition of the Tamada, or toast master, is an excellent example of the Georgian attitude to wine drinking. The toast master is present at the supra, or special banquet or feast, and the roots of this role it has been discovered may go as far back as the first millennium BC. In another archaeological dig dating back over three thousand years a small bronze figurine holding a drinking horn was found amid other ritual artefacts. Experts believe the figurine shows a depiction of what may be the original qvevri potsGeorgian Tamadas.

The beautiful country of Georgia, with it’s rich cultural and historical heritage, and the long tradition of wine drinking as both a sacred and a ritual act would appear then to go hand in hand, explaining why every year hundreds of tourists flock to Georgia, described by historians as the ‘birthplace of wine’.

Claire Hibbert

Register for the International Wine Tourism Conference Georgia 29 – 30 March 2014:

Eventbrite - International Wine Tourism Conference 2014 - Tbilisi - Georgia

IWINETC Offers Special Discounts

IWINETC 2014, the International meeting place for the wine and culinary tourism industry has announced a range of special offers and discounts for all attendees of the event, which will take place in Tbilisi Marriott, Georgia from 29 – 30 March 2014. Discounts available here>>

Participants of IWINETC will also be able to take advantage of discounted accommodation during their time in Tbilisi. Attendees can secure reduced rates at the both the Tbilisi Marriott and the nearby Courtyard Marriott. Accommodation info here>>

To find out more about the benefits of attending IWINETC 2014 as a conference delegate and to register, please visit www.iwinetc.com

Tour operators or travel agents specialized in wine and culinary tourism or considering adding this lucrative product to their portfolio could be eligible to attend IWINETC as an Invited Buyer. To find out more, please view the info for the Wine Tourism Meet Up and Fam Trip.

IWINETC will be relevant and unmissable if you are any of the following:

  • Winery owners, representatives and winemakers
  • Wine importers, distributors & the on and off trade
  • International wine & tourism journalists, bloggers & photographers
  • Wine & tourism consultants, educators, guides & experts
  • Hotel & restaurant owners, representatives, chefs & sommeliers
  • International tour operators & travel agents specialized in wine & culinary tourism
  • In-coming DMC & travel agents from host and neighbouring countries
  • Public officials representing Tourist Boards, wine routes & Chambers of Commerce
  • Students following courses in wine and/or tourism

Keep up to date and network with IWINETC on:

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