In this week, the Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) announced a new strategy for increasing the number of tourists visiting Georgia to experience the country’s wine and food. Gastronomic tourism, they say, has enormous potential for the country with the world’s oldest unbroken tradition of cultivating wine grapes and the home of the world famous, Brooklyn-popularized ‘cheese boat’ (Adjaruli khachapuri). GNTA says its new initiative aims to put Tbilisi on the map as a fine-dining destination.
There are plans to organize an annual food and wine festival. The project is still in the development stage, but this week GNTA hosted four internationally renowned chefs and 13 journalists and social media influencers for a whirlwind press tour that aimed to get the Twittersphere buzzing about Georgia as a gastronomic hot spot.
Georgian favorites have been increasingly appearing on lists of must-try food and wine, newly discovered by western writers and bloggers. The Instagram crowd has been particularly excited by the exotic look of rows of multi-colored churchkhela hanging in a market stall and plates full of plump, juicy khinkali.
In a recent article, The Independent listed a qvevri saperavi from Vazisubani Estate among the 14 best Eastern European wines, describing it as “unfiltered, leaving you to wallow in ripe cherry and soft fruits with pleasing tannins.”
In March, Georgian wine companies participated in the 43rd annual FOODEX Japan International Food and Beverage Exhibition in Tokyo with the support of the National Wine Agency and the Embassy of Georgia in Japan, presenting Georgian wines to approximately 8,000 visitors. In the first six months of 2018, wine exports to Japan increased by 200% (130,638 bottles) compared with the previous year.
In May, products from 13 Georgian exporters were on display at the International Food and Drink Exhibition “Sial China 2018” in Shanghai, Asia’s largest food innovation trade fair. The event saw more than 110,000 visitors.
The October 2018 issue of Food and Wine magazine will feature an article by Ray Isle about Georgian wine culture, cuisine, and traditions based on a weeklong visit to Kartli and Kakheti in April-May. The print edition of Food and Wine has up to 925,000 readers each month and its social media has over 2.3 million followers. On leaving Georgia, Isle said “I think [my] biggest discovery is the people; the culture here is so warm and inviting, open to visitors coming in and learning about Georgia, this is a source of pride in Georgia. One thing I’ve learned is how fun it is to be here. You see that in the toasts, in the tradition of caring about guests and inviting them in, that does not exist the same way in the US and it’s great to be part of it.”