Red Corner: Georgian Wine Fraud

During Soviet times, Georgian wines were the most outstanding wines available in the USSR. Stalin, who was Georgian himself, loved these wines. Last summer, when I traveled through the region, I grew to love them as well.

So why do so many bottles taste so very bad these days, especially in Russia? The answer is not due to inferior grapes or winemaking, but the result of counterfeiters. Nefarious bottlers are hijacking the popularity of Georgian brands with not only cheaper wine from places like Bulgaria, but sometimes, not even wine itself but colored dyes and a touch of fermentation.

According to an article in The New York Times, officials estimate that 80% of Georgian wine sold in Russia is counterfeit-the majority of which is actually produced in Russia and affixed with fake Georgian labels. You can just imagine what such a practice is doing to the Georgian brand. But, it looks like it’s not going to matter anyway. Just last month, the Russian government outlawed the import of Georgian wines, citing high pesticide levels-although most suspect the Russians did so for political reasons that had nothing to do with the wine itself.

Nonetheless, if you can get your hands on a legitimate bottle, give it a try. The winemakers in Georgia will be very happy you did. And so will you.