MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti) – Specialists from Russian consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor will visit Georgia “in about a week” to discuss the resumption of access to the Russian market for Georgian wine suppliers, Rospotrebnadzor chief Gennady Onishchenko said on Monday.
“Three groups of specialists will go on the first trip next week so as not to delay the process,” Onishchenko said, following talks in Moscow with Georgia’s National Wine Agency chief Levan Davitashvili.
Russia banned imports of Georgian wines and two popular brands of mineral water in 2006, citing the poor quality of the products, in a move widely condemned in Georgia as politically motivated. Onishchenko then branded Georgian and Moldovan wines as “poison.”
Georgian wines and mineral waters were very popular in the Soviet Union and retained much of that appeal after the Soviet Union broke up. Before the ban, Russia was the largest market for Georgian wines.
Georgia is ready to supply 10 million bottles of wine to Russia annually, Davitashvili said.
Russia’s sanitary chief said, however, Rospotrebnadzor was yet not ready to allow Georgian wine-making ingredients to be imported into Russia.
“We’ll not issue permission for the supply of wine ingredients. Wine ingredients are the stuff which is delivered in cisterns and then fermented in Russia,” he said, adding this method of distribution facilitated the spread of fake products.
Counterfeiting of all alcoholic drinks has been a massive business across all the former Soviet republics in the last two decades, but Georgians claim supplies of alcohol from many other republics to Russia have not been interfered with, despite that problem.
The already prickly relationship between Georgia and Russia worsened considerably after the ascent to power of the pro-Western Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in 2004. The two countries briefly went to war in a five-day conflict in 2008 over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, which Russia later recognized as independent, while Tbilisi insists the territory is part of Georgia.
Georgian billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, the leader of the Georgian Dream coalition which won the country’s parliamentary elections late last year, said he wanted to improve relations with Russia and would welcome Russian investors in the country.