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Gastronomy and Wine Portal


Congratulations to WTA nominee Daria Kholodilina from Georgia, who won the IWSC 2024 Emerging Talent in Wine Award sponsored by the London Wine Fair!

The list of exceptionally talented candidates for this award was announced last week. After a detailed review, the judges chose Daria Kholodilina. They were simply fascinated by Daria’s creativity and abilities. “It changes and moves forward the entire Georgian wine industry,” experts noted. “Her influence, ingenuity and work are creating markets and changing the way we think about wine.”

Daria Kholodilina is an expert in the field of wine tourism in Georgia, she is a big fan and popularizer of Georgian wine, has a WSET 2 certificate. She regularly blogs about Georgian wine in social networks under the pseudonym of Dariko Mogzauri (“Dariko the Traveler “ in Georgian). In 2022, Daria Kholodilina a.k.a. Dariko Mogzauri joined the WTA community in the nomination Wine & Food Influencer/The Brightest Journey.

Daria was born in Ukraine, and in 2013 she moved to Georgia and has since fallen in love with this country. She participated in the development of Georgia’s national tourism strategy for 2015-2025, focusing on marketing and promotion.

The judges were impressed by how Daria Kholodilina acquired deep knowledge in such a deep topic as Georgian wine in a few years and became a respected specialist in the field. She is the co-author of the book about Georgian wine, the only English-language guide to the wine regions of Georgia “Georgia: A Guide to the Cradle of Wine“;  she hosts a podcast and radio show on the same topic, and also created her own wine tourism company, Trails and Wines.

In 2020, Daria spent several months traveling around Georgia, visiting wineries and filming interviews with winemakers. She gave her notes to Georgian wine importers in Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands to help them promote the wines. In addition, Daria organizes training on the development of wine tourism and conducts numerous tasting events, presenting Georgian wine in Georgia and abroad.

The IWSC 2024 Emerging Talent in Wine judges praised Daria Kholodilina’s work and expressed their admiration for her intention to use her £2.5k travel award to help her community and expand her impact. In her application, Daria said she had two ideas for how to spend her scholarship – an internship at a European winery to conduct more in-depth training sessions for Georgian winemakers, and representing small Georgian producers at one of the major trade fairs.

Daria Kholodilina is sincerely happy about her award: “Georgian wines have already received several medals from the IWSC, but I am happy to bring home the first award in the field of wine communication and marketing in Georgia!”

The Wine Travel Awards team hopes that this year will be a stellar one for Daria – and she will win this project as well. Public voting for the nominees of the 2024 award will start on March 1 and we invite readers to support Daria by visiting her page from March 1 to 31 and giving her a “like”.

Congratulations to WTA nominee Daria Kholodilina from Georgia, who won the IWSC 2024 Emerging Talent in Wine Award sponsored by the London Wine Fair! The list of exceptionally talented candidates for this award was announced last week. After a detailed review, the judges chose Daria Kholodilina. They were simply fascinated by Daria’s creativity and abilities. […]

Thomas Brandl: “I didn’t expect such a quality revolution in Ukrainian winemaking within such a short time“

Only in 2023, Ukrainian wines have won more than 150 medals from various international competitions, evaluated and awarded by wine professionals and experts from around the globe. We do believe that these numbers will grow in 2024, especially now that every year we witness the growth in quality of Ukrainian wines. 

The range of wine competitions is really wide, so what differs one from another? Drinks+ decided that the best way to find that out is to talk to insiders. Victoria Makarova‘s interview with Thomas Brandl, the representative of Concours Mondial de Bruxelles for Eastern and Central Europe and owner of xenos-comm, is, hopefully, one in a row, providing useful insights to Ukrainian winemakers.

How did your career wir CMB begin? I am sure there‘s an interesting story behind it. 

Yes, indeed, there is. Back in 2007, during my time as Communication Director of Stuttgart International Trade Fairs, I was invited as a judge to a national wine competition in Chile. That was the time when I met Baudouin Havaux, the Chairman of Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. We are the same age, we had (and still have) a lot in common —  as you may know, wine is connecting people. Baudouin had a “campo” in the Maule region of Chile, and he invited me to spend a few days in his country house. A year later, in 2008, the Chilean competition was already co-organised by CMB, it took place in Valparaiso — I was invited to join the jury. And in 2009, I found myself as panel chair of the big CMB in Valencia / Spain. Since then, I do this every year. In 2012 I became the official CMB Ambassador for Germany, Austria and all Eastern European countries.

So you are currently working with lots of so-called „emerging“ wine regions. Which of the recent years’ discoveries you would call the most impressive ones, and why? 

During my 14 years at Messe Stuttgart the winemaking of Eastern Europe was my focus. We did many presentations and press conferences for the Intervitis   vitivinicultural technology trade show to attract visitors to Stuttgart. When I started  my own PR agency xenos-comm in 2011, I continued working in this field. I helped wine countries like Georgia, Moldova, Bulgaria, Romania and North Macedonia to gain visibility in Central Europe, as well as Turkey and Greece. Recently I started a collaboration with Wines of Armenia, and every now and then I’m helping my Ukrainian friends a bit as well.

In the last few years, Ukraine and its wines have probably been the biggest surprise years for me. I didn’t expect such a quality revolution in Ukrainian winemaking within such a short time — and especially during the on-going russian aggression in Ukraine.

You are well familiar with Ukrainian wines. Which categories could be the most relevant for the range of CMB competitions and have better chances to win medals?

So far, I think your chances are better with white wines and sparklings. Odesa Black (the famous local red) can deliver very powerful, spicy red wines. But sometimes I find them a bit rustic. The indigenous Telti-Kuruk or the local Sukholimansky are very interesting white varieties in my opinion. Of course, there are better and better Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon produced in Ukraine as well, the question is, however, are the export markets waiting for them…? There is already a global oversupply with the wines made of these French varieties.

Ukrainian wineries have already participated in CMB and won some medals. What would be your recommendations to those who are planning to do it for the first time? Is there a “must do” checklist, maybe?

No, there’s no “must do” checklist. But, of course, as Concours Mondial regulations are the strictest in the world, only top quality wines should be sent there. We follow the rules of OIV with maximum 30% medal awards, unlike, for instance, some British competitions, where 80% of all participating wines get medals. I don’t think flooding the world with medals is a very serious business behaviour, to me it seems more like a “money printer”. Each producer should be aware of the value of his medals obtained in a competition where 4 out of 5 wines are getting one. This may not be so obvious to the consumer, but definitely clear to the expert community. 

To be awarded at the “big” CMB for red and white or the specialized editions for Rosé, Sparkling and Sweet wines might not be as easy, but the producers can be sure that their accolades at CMB do count amongst the best wines in the world. And the organizers do a lot to promote the award winning wines and wineries globally. 

Could you tell us a bit more about the special features of Concours Mondial de Bruxelles? What makes it different from other international contests?

CMB defines itself as the “United Nations of Fine Wines”. No other competition in the world has such an international tasting panel, with people coming from over 50 countries and from all continents. There are other important competitions, for example in Germany and the UK, but, as far as I know, the tasters there are mainly German or British. 

Another distinctive point is the cooperation with the University of Louvain in Belgium for statistics and the “quality control” of our tasters: every day they are tasting the same wine twice blindly without knowing it – and if their scoring differs remarkably, they will have a problem.    

So CMB has a mechanism regulating the number of medals granted to the participants. How does it work, practically?

We follow the 30 percent rule strictly. When the tasting sessions are over, our IT system does the necessary corrections of scores to remain within the 30 percent frame. This may result in some wines getting into a “small silver” range, meaning they are within the general “silver” score, but not winning a medal.

Sounds tough. Considering the strict evaluation procedure, what are the most meaningful advantages the participants are getting from your competition? And what are the benefits for those who don‘t win the medals?

As I already mentioned, 50% of our tasters are international journalists, another 15% are international buyers and importers. The award-winning wines very quickly raise the public awareness of the producers. Just to give you an example: in 2022, 3 days after winning the trophy of the Best Red Wine in Show, a wine from Moldova was completely sold out! It was the first time that a wine from Eastern Europe won this award at CMB. In 2023 another red wine from Bulgaria followed, with a similar success rate.

All participants, including those who do not win medals, receive an elaborated sheet with the details of the tasting panel, comments from tasters, and the aroma profile of their wine, which they also can use for their marketing purposes.  

The wine map of the world has been expanding in the last 10-15 years. How did that influence your competition (participants, judges)?

Since I began to work for CMB the number of samples submitted by wineries from Eastern European countries have more than quadrupled! This goes hand in hand with the quality revolution we have been witnessing there recently. Of course, the number of tasters from Eastern Europe has risen at the same speed. Many of them do a very good job and have become important members of the big CMB family, some of them also serving as panel chairs. I’m very happy about this evolution!   

There is a certain stereotype among the participants: if a contest is held in Germany / Italy / France / the UK, it focuses mainly on the buyers and consumers of that country. Do you think it’s true? And what are the core “markets of influence” for your competition?

I think this perception is quite true. If producers are targeting merely the German market, they are in good hands at Mundus Vini. If they are interested in the British market, there are several competitions to be considered there. The competitions in France, Italy and Spain are heavily dominated by national producers and judges. CMB is actually the only international event which travels every year, thus exploring new wine regions and countries and putting them on the global winemaking map. The biggest number of samples are submitted by the winemakers of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, followed by Eastern Europe in the meantime.

Our recent creation of “Wine Bars“ and “Wine Corners by CMB” in important global cities like Mexico and Tokyo in combination with our new collaboration with United Airlines and their Business Lounges offers CMB medal winners unbelievable marketing possibilities in the future – all around the world!

In 2023 we surpassed the former Iron Curtain for the first time, when we organized CMB in Slovakia. In 2016 we were in Plovdiv, in 2020 in Brno, in 2023 in the Croatian Poreč. Why not come to Odesa one day, when this horrible russian aggression is history? I’d love to realize this dream…        


The CMB Red & White Wines Session will take place in the city of Leon, Estado de Guanajuato, Mexico, on June 7th, 8th, and 9th. This is the first time the competition will be held in North America. The State of Guanajuato has a rich winemaking history that dates back five centuries. 

More details about CMB sessions and registration can be found here:

Rosé Wines Session

Sparkling Wines Session

Red and White Session

Sweet And Fortified Wines Session

IMPORTANT INFO: on the request of Wines of Ukraine, the CMB organizers are offering Ukrainian participants a 20% discount for submitting their samples, valid for all tasting sessions in 2024. For further details and promo code, please contact Wines of Ukraine team at info@ukr.wine.

Photos: Thomas Brandl, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 

Only in 2023, Ukrainian wines have won more than 150 medals from various international competitions, evaluated and awarded by wine professionals and experts from around the globe. We do believe that these numbers will grow in 2024, especially now that every year we witness the growth in quality of Ukrainian wines.  The range of wine […]

“Ribera del Duero DO. Big wineries help small ones, and small ones strengthen the big ones”

The Regional Editor-in-Chief at the WTA Guide and Drinks+ Magazine, Brand Ambassador of Vinos de La Luz international group of companies Nataliia Burlachenko specifically for Drinks+, conducted an interview during her stay in Spain with the leaders of the most well-known association of winemakers – Mr. Enrique Pascual García, president of the regulatory council of Ribera del Duero DO, and Mr. Miguel Sanz Cabrejas, general director of Ribera del Duero DO. The conversation revolved around the successful experience that has enabled the Ribera del Duero brand to hold a worthy position in Spain’s top 100 brands ranking today.

How is it the situation at the moment with Ribera del Duero in general?

Enrique Pascual García: The situation is very good. We are currently growing, positioning ourselves not only in volume but also in terms of quality which is essencial. So at the moment we have obtained very interesting outcomes. All the DO is facing this moment of growth also because  its image and reputation of quality is changing. We are not just interested in growing the volume of our sales.

What are you doing that is making you grow like this?

E.P.G: In terms of quality measures, in viticulture but also at the wineries we are making sure that we are delivering that same quality. This system that is being implemented is helping us since the beginning with high principles. This is how we distinguish ourselves from the other because we have been focusing on that especifically. In this market, there are only two ways to distinguish yourself. Either by price or by quality. The wines and its production have been growing intensively on quality. I know the production almost since the beginning of it so I faced its evolution and lived very close to it. I can tell you that because of that, we have been given the possibility to growth our business. Nowadays we are the only ones to deliver this kind of quality in the region.

What do the producers that are out of the DO say about this?

E.P.G: All the people that are inside the region is part of the DO. There is only one project that is out of it but because of the kind of wine they produce. The ones from outside that want to be integrated can not do that.

Are you going to make any new changes in terms of law and legislation?

E.P.G: At the moment we are working on a project about new varietals that may be included into the region because of the climate changes, allowing us to keep producing the wines we currently make. They have to be varietals that will improve with time. Tempranillo will still be tempranillo but we have to consider these factors to protect us from the future changes. We are also trying to bring back some varietals that we can regulate. All of this is very complicated, especially if we wouldn’t have the association that is helping us developing the project.

It’s true that Malbec was very hard to work with because it used to be very sensitive to this kind of climate and region, very hard to achieve the intended colour etc. Do you work with the OIV? Because they produce and provide a lot of rules and recommendations about varietals and they study very deeply this topic.

E.P.G: For us the OIV is in the international contexto which, for us, is not that relevant. So all the recommendations they provide are more the matter of the national level organisations or the governmental ones.

How is the situation about Albillo? Do you tend to plant  more this white varietal? Why did you choose this grape? Is it to create a competition with Rueda?

E.P.G: What we intended to do was to create a different line. We see no advantage on competing with anyone. We are a team. Our goal is to define our viticulture heritage. The whites of Ribera del Duero have the goal to not be sold young, so they usually have barrel aging and they have similarities with wines from Burgundy. They are not so similar to the rest of whites from Spain in terms of style, more complex. The ideal is to position them in Europe with 5/8 years old. We have to learn, this is something new for us too. And now it has been planted more and more. Nowadays, to keep the profile of the Roses, they use Albillo. With the demand that we are facing, the viticultures are delivering by planting it more. Although it is in fact more expensive than Tempranillo. The Claret wine has always been a mix between white and red with no percentages, it was made naturally without that kind of control. There was no measure, we just mixed it until we reach our final goal. The result is very good. It has aromas of white wine but with the complexity of  red. All of the first red wines from Ribera del Duero had white grapes in it. From 1982 to 1990 the red and the white started being separated and the process finished in 1990. We have modified the conditions allowing to pour up to 25% of white in red.

We did it to be crossed with other varietals. Last year, 200.000 bottles were sold. When they are released, in less than one month they are sold out.

How was the impact of covid for the producersp Also how influences the war in Ukraine? Did you notice any sort of negative impact on sales?

E.P.G: Covid was not like we thought it would be for the business. It wasn’t very significant impact and we recovered from it very quickly. Overall, we didn’t face any problem regarding the war in Ukraine, Undirectly, it affects us on a level because of the world inflation. The energy increase was more impactful.

What about in terms of Enotourism? Is there negative effect that impacted you?

E.P.G: In terms of Wine tourism the effects were very strong but we are recovering very well and we faced a growth in terms of quality tourism which is something that we are looking for.

And the quality that you are achieveing is not only in terms of wine but also in terms of services, Hospitality, Location of the route because it is a very strategic point from Madrid, France. There are a lot of things to see and taste and a lot of diversity in general.

E.P.G: The business of wine is now positioned together with tourism and finally it is open. Logically it is very hard to fight against the coastal tourism and rural tourism, which is our scope but weare  developing and offering quality and well directed to succeed. The wine tourism has an advantage. It was born because people fell in love with a certain wine and they want to see how it is made and what’s the story behind it. And that’s what we are transmitting to people and it’s our main factor of attraction and allow us to grow, especially in consumers who are willing to pay more and more. Our signature is: If we are capable to offer a wine with such quality, the service has to deliver that same quality because that’s what people will be hoping for.

Which are the duties of the board? To regulate or to develop the DO?

Miguel Sanz Cabrejas: It has 2 roles. At the moment we are certifying and we also make the legislation because we need to make sure the quality is being delivered. We are present in 11 markets which represent 76% of Ribera del Duero exports. The goal is to reach these 3 things: • The wineries export increase • Increase the price of the product, generating value • Generate brand awareness.Most of the wineries in Ribera del Duero are very small and without many resources. We never use generic wines to represent us. The wine is worth more because it is better. Everything is connected to the quality. Personally I don’t come from the wine world. I am the first director of a DO that never had experience in wine, only in the food industry in the enterprise level. This is the philosophy here too. We have our goals to reach and negotiate our  plans. We created one international comission of promotion in which 6 wineries are participating and these ones are the ones that export to the 11 markets. So, when we plan a market strategy, they know that same market and they can cooperate between each other.

The producers and vine growers are part of it?

M.S.C: The administration includes 5 vine growers and 5 wineries. And they all have the same power. We do study the market properly and then discuss and take the necessary measures to apply to all. If you have the perfect product but you don’t know how to sell it there is no point.

The producers and vine growers are happy about all the work that has been developed?

M.S.C: All the decisions that are made are common to all, there are no votes. They are all very happy. We exist to recommend not to create different opinions.

How’s the reputation of Ribera del Duero inside the country?

M.S.C: It is excellent. At the moment it is considered a top wine in Spain with quality. In 2021, there was a list of 100 spanish brands that deliver trust the consumer. There were only 2 wine regions: Rioja and Ribera del Duero (out of 101 in all Spain) and Vega Sicilia that is Ribera del Duero is also in this list. In terms of notority, you could see that in covid period because the market was closed and when the sales increased online, the consumer understood that Ribera del Duero had a higher price but it was better at satisfying its needs because while the sector was falling, we had better sales because of the brand awareness created. The young generations had a very good perception of what we did and target that we reached. They understood our essence. They are looking for a different profiles which we offer. The kind of style that still has the quality and the fruityness.

Why is Ribera evolving much faster than Rioja?

E.P.G: Ribera del Duero had so much success in Spain already that you didn’t need to export it. From the 310 wineries we have, 120 export regularly. 40 are in charge of almost 80% of the total exports. So, after covid everything changed. The national market was closed, we had to open globaly in order to save the business. There were few wineries that were selling only in hotels. And now they are in the international context. Another very important element is that, 8 years ago when I first joined DO I went to US for a business trip and I asked the local businesses why do you only have few Ribera wines? And they would answer like “ why would we if they all taste the same? ”. After that, there was a revolution on the wineries level individually because they understood what the market wanted and started to make different wines and giving it a different profile. So now, that diversity is what made the region grow. Now, in the US, if they want to show the diversity of Ribera they need to have 5 or more wines to really represent it. Also, not all the world has the monetary capacity to export outside Spain. Ribera is a very recent region that exists now for 40 years so also there was still no capacity to look to the outside market as the main goal. The way that one winery creates to open the market, facilitates to the other ones and that is the kind of cooperation we are looking for. The big ones help the small ones and the small ones reinforce the big ones. Nowadays the buyer knows what he is looking for when we are selling Ribera del Duero, we do not really need to prove its reputation.


The Regional Editor-in-Chief at the WTA Guide and Drinks+ Magazine, Brand Ambassador of Vinos de La Luz international group of companies Nataliia Burlachenko specifically for Drinks+, conducted an interview during her stay in Spain with the leaders of the most well-known association of winemakers – Mr. Enrique Pascual García, president of the regulatory council of […]

Bordeaux changes through the prism of the vision of Jane Anson or back to pre-phylloxera winemaking experience

Recently, the Incubator of Bernard Magrez hosted a very special event – a conference and business networking event “Big Mentor Day”, headlined by the famous wine critic and journalist Jane Anson (the UK) and the modernist and very talented winemaker Loic Pasquet (France). Very open-minded bright person – Lady Jane Anson warmly prized our representative with her time and attention and gave an unexpected opportunity for an interesting conversation during the conference break for lunch.

It should be noted that the Wine Travel Awards project became a member of the Bernard Magrez Incubator a year ago. This project was chosen among 2000 applicants as a promising start-up in wine tourism and as a platform for networking for all branches of the wine community. Thanks to the incubator, we, the project team, have the opportunity to learn from the examples of our colleagues, meet many prominent people who write the modern history of wine and share useful information about current events and the daily life of the wine industry.

That morning I had mixed feelings of excitement and excitation.

9 a.m. Two black Mercedes Mini Van parked in front of the Incubator of Bernard Magrez in Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux/France.

She slipped out of the car and entered by her light steps into a spacious hall. Jane Anson, a prominent personality of the Bordeaux wine elite, was followed by dozens of young people in a procession of honour. Their appearance talked clearly that they had arrived at Big Mentor Week from all over the world. The lucky ones who won have a chance to discover the hidden pearls of the Bordeaux wine region thanks to the support of the Gerard Basset Foundation!

Джейн Ансон

I heard my heartbeat strongly… But, fortunately for me, Jane was accompanied by her business partner, Chinedu Rita Rosa, whom I knew thanks to one of my classmates from my time at the Bordeaux International Business School studying wine marketing and management. So, I breathed a sigh of relief and after enduring a pause and contemplating the warm greetings of the guests both scholars and representatives of start-up Win of Bernard Magrez Incubator, I finally approached to shake hands with the woman, meeting with whom was an unattainable dream for me a few years ago. Chinedu warmly welcomed me and introduced to Jane. We had a three-way conversation later that day.

Ljudmila Bobik: As we know you have been here in Bordeaux for more than 20 years, aren’t you?

Jane Anson: Almost exactly, – replied Jane. It was September 2003, when I moved here.

L.B.: Why did you decide to choose Bordeaux and not Burgundy or Champagne wine regions?

J.A.:  Those were the other two places we’d considered moving to, who’s gonna be either Bordeaux or Champagne or Burgundy. And we decided Burgundy was too far away from England, to be honest, and we wanted to fly home easily. And there is one hour from London to Bordeaux. So very practical reason. We decided Champagne was a little bit too North and maybe the weather wouldn’t be so good.

L.B.: Yes, 20 years ago definitely!

J.A.: Yeah, but not today, – Jane smiled. And maybe it’s more expensive as it’s closer to Paris, so, yes…we didn’t… we’ve moved here (Bordeaux) with really had nothing at all. We didn’t have jobs, we didn’t have a ton of money, we just moved in to see what would happen. ‘Cause we were in the EU at the time, before Brexit you could do that! But now, somebody couldn’t do what I was doing because of Brexit… So, they’ve destroyed a lot of possibilities for the young generation.

Also, the other reason was, the people of Bordeaux have a big worldwide reputation. So, as a writer, I knew if I moved to Bordeaux I could sell stories, so could earn money. Because I needed money to live and to pay my bills, I thought Bordeaux was a sensible place to move to from the practical point of view, ‘cause it’s a well-known wine region.

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L.B.: I think, also, ‘cause Robert Parker made it loud the name “Bordeaux”

J.A.: Yes, agree, that’s true. But I think Bordeaux had 2,000 years of great history long before Robert Parker came along.

L.B.:. When did you start to write for Decanter? Share, please, your story.

J.A.: I started with Decanter when I moved here which means 20 years ago. And before that moment I was already a journalist, but not a wine writer. I was able to use my skills as a journalist to research asking my questions, to not be afraid of getting things wrong, as a journalist you need to verify, verify, but ask the questions. Also, I was lucky enough to meet those people who compatitate me seriously and who helped me to study. I began my wine education with WSET. It was great as a broad overview of the economy and geography of wine, but for my tasting abilities it was really taking the DUAD tasting diploma at the Bordeaux Institute of oenology that made me more confident in my abilities. At the same time I was writing books, and the research involved in books helped me along the way to get more knowledge. Writing Inside Bordeaux was a culmination of all that time living and learning about Bordeaux, and I knew that I was able to offer a different point of view on the region. Covid made a big difference because during Covid I was doing a lot of online tastings for Pall Mall 67 that helped make my profile higher. I’m really grateful for having worked with Decanter for so long, but it felt like the right time to leave and begin something on my own. My last tasting with them was an online tasting of Château Margaux, a great one to finish on!

L.B.: Can you say that you are a witness of real big changes in Bordeaux that started at the end of 1990th, a witness of the real modern development of the Bordeaux wine region?

J.A.: Yes, you are right. It was not only Robert Parker who had a lot to do with the development of Bordeaux but also people like Michel Rolland or Denis Dubourdieu. There were a lot of key figures in Bordeaux at that time who were either consultants or winemakers or professors, who did a lot of things trying to help understand this region. I think one thing quite interesting in the change – when I came in 2003, a lot of that stuff they were doing within the wineries they making sure you had clean vinification and Denis Dubourdieu did a lot of work with yeasts, what were the right yeasts to use. And I think today the shift is gone really back to the vineyard and people really really much more interested now in terroir, in organics, biodynamics, sustainability, environmental things. Which is wonderful!

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L.B.: We are going to be close to nature, to the natural processes, aren’t we?

J.A.: Exactly. We are going back in time! More turn how it was hundred years ago.

L.B.: Bordeaux was always an unreachable legend and how did this trend start changing during the last years? When Bordeaux become more open?

J.A.: Yes, I think that what I’m doing with Chichi is important in changing the conversation around Bordeaux. In many ways as a port city Bordeaux has always been open to new consumers and new markets, but internally it can be very traditional. Understanding Bordeaux is a great way to be taken seriously in a wine career, and Chichi and I wanted to help find a way for people from other places who maybe have barriers to progressing, whether economic, geographic, cultural, whatever, to get a shortcut to this knowledge, and help set up an exchange – because Bordeaux also benefits from meeting this brilliant next generation of the wine industry.

L.B.: Dear Jane, I’d like to thank you, as many wine lovers would also do, for your in-depth writing work “Inside Bordeaux” which is nowadays the best seller and where you show and explain that new vision of this legendary wine region! You, as a woman, who moved to a new unknown to you country and made yourself who you are today in a business where the majority of the representatives are male, is very inspiring!

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Lady Jane Anson – the famous wine writer, wine critic, and author of dozens of books, thousands of articles and essays about the Bordeaux wine region, its history, viticulture, wine estates, wine trade and business. To make even brighter the portrait I’d like to add a short comment from Chinedu Rita Rosa, who is also a very talented businesswoman in the world of wine and the founder of the first Woman Bordeaux Business Network Association.

I’d like to mention one thing which is very keen to what she’s done and what she continues to do is – she is English, she’s not married to a French man, she’s not connected to any of French wine families, she doesn’t have any present, past, future we don’t not yet and she came to this region as a passionate outsider, passionate about her writings, not the wine. She is a passionate writer and wine came after. And while you are reading her book about Bordeaux it’s a flow of the sentences. Not many books are written in the way you become excited by the style of writing. So, in Jane, I see first of all a very talented writer who can make any topic become interesting!

Recently, the Incubator of Bernard Magrez hosted a very special event – a conference and business networking event “Big Mentor Day”, headlined by the famous wine critic and journalist Jane Anson (the UK) and the modernist and very talented winemaker Loic Pasquet (France). Very open-minded bright person – Lady Jane Anson warmly prized our representative […]

Giacomo Pondini: “I believe that the role of Consortiums soon will focus increasingly more on tourism issues. With that in mind, we should build up a net that goes beyond our wineries”

How the one of the most famous DOCGs of Piedmont Consorzio dell’Asti is functioning, what are the new vectors and marketing strategies and in the framework of the Wine Travel Awards project as well, about the sustainable development initiatives among Asti winemakers it’s wines and new markets we disscuss with the consortium general director Mr. Giacomo Pondini.

Consorzio dell’Asti patronizes one of the most famous DOCGs of Piedmont. Please tell us what territories, terroirs and how many estates it covers today?

The area of production of Asti DOCG covers 51 municipalities in the Alessandria, Asti, Cuneo provinces: ten thousand hectares of Moscato bianco in the heart of one the most important Italian regions in terms of quality wines, Piedmont. A UNESCO site since 2014, the territory is usually characterized by hilly landscapes covered in vineyards, sometimes placed on steep slopes, that can only be worked by hand. Great variety of terroirs, with soils that may vary from light weight mineral and sandy, more permeable in western side, to the silt-richer, solid of the easter, halfway between the Cottian Alps and the Ligurian Sea.

Mr. Giacomo, as we know, you have an education as an international political scientist and extensive work experience in the wine world, in particular, in Chianti and the Brunello di Montalcino consortium. How does all this affect the work at Consorzio dell’Asti e del Moscato d’Asti DOCG? What exactly did you change, what new vectors did you discover?

I don’t think you have to change or invent anything. It’s all there. Asti and Moscato d’Asti, as sparkling / fizzy wines, are versatile. That can really be a bonus, in terms of creating different lines of communication. And the history of this wine, make things even more interesting: a fore father of Asti Sparkling was created by Carlo Gancia in the 19th century based on Moscato grapes with the Traditional Method; in 1898 Federico Martinotti, Director of the oenological school in Asti, created the “tank fermentation” method, in order to improve the vinification process, and a the same time creating the circumstances for a new style of wine, less bubbly: the Moscato d’Asti. Asti DOCG is at the heart of the sparkling wines story. 

Since June 2014, the wine landscape of Langhe, Roero and Monferrato, consisting of 5 wine-growing areas, including Canelli and “Asti Spumante”, has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The recognition concerns not only the picturesque hills covered with vineyards and wineries, castles and centuries-old cellars, but also the role that Moscato bianco and Asti winemakers had and have in the development of the economy and the preservation of territories. How does the Consorzio dell’Asti work towards this program? We understand that the consortium’s participation in the international Wine Travel Awards for the second year in a row is an action in this direction. And what other events or programs for the promotion of these glorious territories and wineries on the world market are in your plans?

As a Consortium, we are concentrating on various projects of “place branding”. One consists of “explaining” the landscape through artistic installations, placed along the streets and roundabouts of the area of production for Asti, that recall the tradition for vine growing, clarifying the role of Moscato grapes in the local community.     

Judging by the composition of the Wine Travel Awards nominees from Asti (by the way, some of them, including the consortium itself, became winners of the public voting), we observe that not only wineries, but also attractions such as TrEno LMR serve as tourist sightseeing activity, historical Casa Martini & Rossi, Canelli and the Underground Cathedrals, Moscato Wine Route, etc. How does the consortium communicate with similar objects, maybe some unique collaborations are formed? Tell us about such an experience if you have one.

I believe that the role of Consortiums soon will focus increasingly more on tourism issues. With that in mind, we should build up a net that goes beyond our wineries, involving all the assets that can help growing a community, such as its historical and cultural heritage. 

Asti wines, thanks to their quality, lightness and possibilities of consumption – from aperitifs to cocktails – are becoming more and more popular. In addition, Consorzio dell’Asti has low-alcohol wines in its portfolio of winemakers. Please comment on this popular trend. Marketing research may have been conducted, please share your observations.

All over the world there’s an increasing interest for low alcohol wines. Asti Sparkling Dolce and Moscato d’Asti have always been naturally low in alcohol, as naturally sweet. Together with the aromatic profile, all these characteristics make our wine unique in the global scenario of GI/DOCG wines.

Did the consortium introduce any measures to encourage winemakers to produce low-alcohol wines?

The Consortium can support its wineries – by law –  only in the promotion and protection of the ASTI DOCG wines. 

It would also be interesting to learn about sustainable development initiatives among Asti winemakers. How are models of established farms being implemented in your territories, and what support do you provide for those who apply them in themselves?

Sustainable development has always been a key factor for many producers. In fact, the first BIO wine in Italy was a Moscato d’Asti, back in 1992.

We are now experimenting with a group of wineries a sustainability protocol that we’re planning to extend to the whole area, in order to obtain, in a few years’ time, the sustainability certification for the entire Appellation. 

If we talk about the export of wines, which countries’ markets are your priorities at the moment, who are the leaders in the consumption of your wines? Judging by the general statistics, Italy leads even in such developed wine-growing countries as France. Which European countries are in your area of interest?

The United States is the first market in the world for Moscato d’Asti, while Asti Sparkling has its main export end in the eastern European countries.   

We noted that the Consorzio dell’Asti has a rather unusual approach to the selection of its ambassadors. If most wine associations rely on sommeliers, the ranks of Asti’s ambassadors include bartenders, chefs, culinary schools, and the Accademia Maestri Pasticceri Italiani. And even among the ambassadors of Asti is the young tennis star Sonny (Lorenzo Sonego). Is this a particular strategy of the Consorzio dell’Asti? Who is its author? Do you attract guides or representatives of other professions to the clan of ambassadors?

Asti is a popular Docg in Italy, and to explain the versatility of these wines, we needed different characters. That’s how you can explain the food pairing (the famous Italian chef Alessandro Borghese), aperitif and mixology with the flair bartender Giorgio Facchinetti, top dessert with AMPI, and any celebration moment, through the tennis star Sonego. There’s always a reason for Asti. 

We see that the Consorzio dell’Asti also supports a large number of initiatives – it is the official sparkling final of the Nitto ATP tennis tournament and celebrated its 90th anniversary with an exhibition called “Novant’anni di bollicine”. What other creative marketing programs do you have in the works?

One of the next big goals is going to be developing a complex where to enhance the awareness of the appellation, making the exhibition permanent, where wine lovers will be able to understand and enjoy the unique history of Asti and its wines.    

Please announce in more detail the leading events – in fact, their number and variety is amazing – from official meetings and forums, to festivals, cocktail parties and gastronomic outings.

That would take a few pages. I would like to mention that only for the “local” promotion, there are 51 municipalities within the area of production of Asti DOCG, and nearly each of them every year has a specific event supported by the Consortium. Then add events such as Vinitaly, Prowein, London Wine fair, Guided Tasting in the US and other countries, Milano Wine Week, Collissioni Festival, Atp Tennis tournament … and many more.  

What new projects and concepts are you developing (perhaps together with regional promotion organizations) for the development and promotion of wine tourism in the coming years?

I believe the key should be promoting Piedmont as a whole, through the concept of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato, that can immediately bring people to a perception of excellent quality wines and food, in an outstanding landscape. 

If you single out only three leading missions of the consortium you lead today, which would you name first?

Increase the awareness of Asti Docg Wines and its territory, while giving stability to the production, in sustainable ways.   

How the one of the most famous DOCGs of Piedmont Consorzio dell’Asti is functioning, what are the new vectors and marketing strategies and in the framework of the Wine Travel Awards project as well, about the sustainable development initiatives among Asti winemakers it’s wines and new markets we disscuss with the consortium general director Mr. […]

Dr. Ricardo F. Nunez: «One big Reconstruction Plan for Ukraine will come after the war, like the Marshall Plan for Europe after World War II, because all the heroic resistance of Ukrainians has been aimed at protecting the freedom of the West»

Dr. Ricardo F. Nunez, founder and owner of the Vinos de La Luz group of companies, analyzes the special path of Ukraine in the modern historical context, the impact of the war on winemaking and the country’s prospects.

Dear Doctor! The Drinks+ editors for almost 10 years – please correct us if we are wrong – see your interest in the Ukrainian wine market: you participate in all specialized exhibitions and events in our country, maintain friendly relations with winemakers, go on tours around the regions, perform at seminars, as a sponsor, you support sommelier competitions and industry publications.

Since last year, Ukraine has been taking giant steps both in the development of wine quality, and in the evolution of business thinking so that Ukrainian consumers consume Ukrainian wine. In recent years, several medium companies made great efforts to act under the name of the united Ukrainian brand, and the big companies that already existed were maintained. In the middle of this process, russia proceeded with the full-scale invasion, based on the doctrine that Ukraine does not exist and that it is part of russia. Inhabitants of the East had to be internally displaced, millions of Ukrainians searched for a refuge abroad. Among these people are entrepreneurs, professionals and employees of the wine industry. Ukraine has been facing constant bombardments and destruction. Notwithstanding, all those who stayed or left the country did not stop being proactive, waiting to return, or reactivating – sometimes rebuilding – their own industries. If we look at the aftermath of the war, at first, it indicates that the invasion halted the development we are talking about, but in fact, in the month of September and before the harvest, the same protagonists were already activated who were promoting changes in the industry.

«Ukraine has been taking giant steps both in the development of wine quality, and in the evolution of business thinking so that Ukrainian consumers would choose Ukrainian wine»

Knowing your curiosity and analytical mindset, we can assume that you have a fairly complete  picture of the Ukrainian wine industry. Please share your observations on this matter: what are the disadvantages and what are the advantages of the Ukrainian wine industry.

In the middle of the disaster, that is, this war of annihilation, it would seem that there are no advantages,but one should not look at this topic as a photograph. In the medium term and when the conflict is over, no matter when the Marshall Plan appears, it will restore everything destroyed in the country, covering an integral wine industry, from vineyards to distribution of wine to the consumer. It is necessary to reconstruct a lot from the industry. I have a conviction that the Marshall Plan for Ukraine will come because all the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians has been aimed at defending the country, as well as protecting the freedom of the West. Countries that support Ukraine are now investing weapons or money to buy weapons. Then they will invest in its restoration, and wine in the reconstruction and modernization plans. This will be a unique opportunity and that is why you need to be active today, even if minimally active, making wine and delivering the message that the industry is on its feet, waiting for the war to end. On the other hand, the great disadvantage that I see is that there is no centralized organization that seriously represents the entire industry. I see a lot of personal issues involved, as well as envy in the leaders of the sector, and I think it’s very negative to be able to use the possibilities of the Marshall 2 Plan, this time aimed at Ukraine. The behavior of some leaders can cause irreparable damage to the wine industry, today and in the future.

Dr. Ricardo F. Nunez

Dr. Nunez, please share with us how you see this Marshall 2 Plan.

It will not be called the same for sure, but it will have those characteristics. The European Recovery Plan, known as the Marshall Plan, named for Secretary of State George Marshall, was launched for 4 years in 1948, after the Second World War. It was aimed at rebuilding and modernizing Europe. And the results are in full view – prosperous Europe for years, with an extraordinary quality of life, and with great economic strength. It was illogical that the Soviet Union did not want to participate and did not allow its satellite countries to do so, and the result was an industrial and commercial lag and a large difference in the growth of East Germany, Poland, Hungary, etc. When the war is over, the reconstruction plan will be implemented only for Ukraine, and the concentration of funds will be very important and strictly supervised. This will be the moment to use that tool to rebuild and modernize the industry. I support this in all the forums I participate in, and a few days ago I had a strong influence when I was invited to the opening of Vinexpo, which took place in the Hôtel de Talleyrand – I did not know that this was the place where the Marshall Plan was signed after the Second World War.

Dr. Ricardo F. Nunez

The opening of Vinexpo Paris 2023, Hotel de Talleyrand, the place where the Marshall Plan was signed after the World War II

As far as we understood, you have a missionary approach to any business you undertake. In particular, one of your recent missions is to support the Ukrainian delegation at the 43rd World Congress of the International Organization of Vine and Wine, which took place in October last year. As you know, Ukraine was once a member of this respectable international organization, but at a certain point it terminated its membership. Please provide more details on the question.

This topic is largely related to the shortcoming mentioned above, that in Ukraine there are no leaders who think more about the industry and its future, and not about constant rivalry among themselves. I know the OIV very well. For many years, I have been close to the presidents of the organization (Argentina, Germany, Brazil and today Italy) since I played that representative function for Argentina. All of these countries are member states of the OIV. But in this last period, magnificent and one of the best for me, the Director General is Pau Roca, a Spaniard who was the general director of the Spanish Federation of Wine, of which I am a member, and whom I supported strongly from the private sector for his election. The Ukrainian leader of one of the associations that unite wine producers – at least I know two such associations of a national level in Ukraine and the third who is improving the presence of Ukrainian wines inside and outside the country: the Ukrainian Association of Craft Winemakers – asked if I could support Ukrainian entry into the OIV, but he also informed me that there are some economic problems. I clearly remember my response: “This is an organization of states, states are members. There must be a governmental decision and official communication.” Shortly after the Russian invasion, he contacted me again and told me that President Zelenskyy had publicly stated that Ukraine should be part of every possible international organization that is related to its strategic existence. He also informed me that the Minister of Agriculture had the firm decision to move towards the OIV, but there were still economic constraints. Personally I think it was a great decision for Ukraine, because while russia denies its existence, Ukraine becomes a full member in a state organization. Everything was made step by step, and almost daily. The work of the Ministry of Agriculture was very dynamic. The president of Ukrsadvinprom, Volodymyr Pechko and Nataliia Burlachenko, worked against the clock to arrive at the Assembly in Mexico in November. One of my great emotions of these last years was to hear Pechko’s and Burlachenko’s speech at that Assembly, in Ukrainian and in English, stating that Ukraine is being accepted as a member and that they share greetings of the winegrowers from Crimea, Kherson, Odesa, and Transcarpatia – from all over Ukraine, claiming the sovereignty of Ukraine. It was a breathtaking and very touching moment. I think you have a recorded video now and should spread it. It was another battle won, because in this war everyone fights with the weapons they have.

«Ukrainians need to be active today, even if minimally active, making wine and delivering the message that the industry is on its feet, waiting for the war to end»

It is true that Ukraine has been on the sidelines of this organization for quite a long time only because there were no funds to pay off the debt and pay membership fees. If it’s not a secret, how is the issue resolved now?

Ukraine does not owe anything to the OIV and currently it does not cost a single hryvnia for Ukraine to be in the OIV. The previous debt has expired, the payment for the period from 2023 to 2025 is not required until 2026. The only thing that was paid is the period from November to December 2022 to use the opportunity not to pay for full years. All expenses of the delegation, including their business trips, were made at the expense of private donations.

So, who paid for that period of 2022?

It doesn’t matter who paid for it. Besides, they paid it as a donation to Ukraine, which will need to be processed when the war ends. Now is the time to continue donating.

You have made many donations. Please let us know what areas you decided to support and with whom you cooperated.

I will repeat myself, everyone fights with the weapons they have. I produce food in self-heating cans, I have sent hundreds of thousands of them to Ukraine, its children and soldiers. And Nataliia Burlachenko made a great contribution to this. Apart from that, we regularly donate a certain amount of money to contribute for the purchase of what the country needs. Also, we facilitate internal and international relationships that we have made available to the country.

And now, thanks to your efforts and the team of Ukrainian ambassadors, Ukraine has returned to the OIV family. How did the leadership of the OIV react to your efforts?

In an extraordinary way. It was they who made it possible to overcome the bureaucracy and marked the exact path to income.

Dr. Ricardo F. Nunez

Vinexpo Paris 2023

Who was on the team that went to Mexico City? How were the roles distributed between you?

I would like to clarify that I did not play any role. The Ministry of Agriculture appointed the President of Ukrsadvinprom as the head of the Delegation, and Nataliia Burlachenko as the deputy. There were issues of protocol, languages and knowledge of the environment in which Nataliia is well known, as well as in the topic of wine. They made the perfect duet. I had the honor to accompany them, but the official delegation was entirely Ukrainian.

Could you tell us in more detail what exactly membership in the OIV gives to member states?

The most important thing for Ukraine today is its presence as a sovereign nation producing wine. Believe me, this is a widespread feeling of the countries that make up the OIV, and it was noticed by the endless applause of all the free countries when Pechko and Burlachenko ended their speech. On the other hand, the OIV is an inexhaustible source of knowledge, including on technical issues, provided by more than 1000 experts and specialists, which will be extremely useful for Ukraine. There are already specialists from the Ukrainian research institutes of vine and wine, who are part of the OIV committees, which briefly say what needs to be done in the world of wine. That is why today it is best to be part of this board to follow directions. Another point is foreign investments that will come. It is difficult to invest in a country that is not integrated in the OIV because it is like investing in a country that has no voice or vote in the world.

«The OIV is an inexhaustible source of knowledge, including on technical issues, provided by more than 1000 experts and specialists, which will be extremely useful for Ukraine»

Today Ukraine is waging an unequal liberation war. There are opinions that integration into the world professional communities is not in time. What can you say about this? What advice would you give to representatives of the Ukrainian winemaking industry?

They must fight, and it is they who are trying to create conditions for the government to survive in the face of this terrible russian aggression. And they oblige their leaders to be united in their views on the present and future. Within 10, 15 or 20 years, Ukrainian viticulture will be the product of the chosen approach of producers united by a common development policy. In this emergency, only fools can believe that they will be saved alone.

What global challenges, in your opinion, are facing the wineproducing countries as a whole, which can only be solved through joint efforts?

The most important, without a doubt, is climate change. The consequences of this phenomenon are so great that the UK and Sweden are already wine-producing countries, while others are losing vast territories with their vineyards. Or suffer disasters in their grape production. In Argentina this season, when the red grape harvest falls in March, there have been five frosts. There is no historical record to tell us that my vineyards could freeze in February that were a month short of harvest. In studying the phenomenon and its prevention, OIV will be of great help, and, having connections with the wineries of the world, which are seriously working on this topic, will teach Ukrainian producers a lot.

Dr. Ricardo F. Nunez

Perhaps, for many, this fact will become an information bomb – you have recently become a Ukrainian winemaker and have even released your own wine! Please accept warm congratulations from the entire staff of Drinks+. And respect for your courage as an investor, as well as gratitude for your firm faith in Ukraine! That is, now wine from Ukraine is added to the constellation of wines from Argentina, Spain, Italy, the USA under the Vinos de La Luz brand. Actually it’s a sensation. Please let us know, if possible, the details.

Many years ago, we were behind the project for the production of red Ukrainian wine with the Odesa black variety. There are several opportunities that are being tackled in Ukraine to enable and give momentum to progress. But the war also came. And we decided that it was time to do our part to demonstrate that the vitivinicultural industry continues to struggle, as other producers do. And we decided to release wine before the year of the full-stale war. It was a huge effort of people who are part of La Luz wines, and here again Natalia Burlachenko appears, who is at the forefront of the Ukrainian company, which is a subsidiary of Vinos de La Luz. It is a magnificent idea because thanks to the artist Ivan Marchuk, we can reproduce some of his paintings on the bottle of this first edition and on future releases. Now the bottles look like works of art. And most importantly, Ukrainian works of art. It is a special edition of only 1000 bottles. We presented it on February 23, 2023 in Krakow at the opening of Marchuk’s mega exposition. The wine is Odesa Black 2020 aged 12 months in French oak. It will only go on sale in May, although I think the list of buyers exceeds the quantity produced.

«Russia must be removed from all international organizations, including the UN, where it still has a veto. That is what I believe in. However, there are rules that apply to everyone»

Today, a significant number of international organizations are getting rid of representatives of russia, recognized as a terrorist state. At the same time, this country is still among the members of the OIV. We know that you are one of the most ardent defenders of Ukraine, from the first days of the war and today you financially support the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and take an active pro-Ukrainian position in the international arena. How, in your opinion, should Ukraine’s position in the OIV develop on this issue?

Russia must be removed from all international organizations, including the UN, where it still has a veto. That is what I believe in. However, there are rules that apply to everyone. I was told that it was written in some media that the Director General of the OIV is pro-russian. This is nonsense. I know perfectly well what Pau Roca thinks, but in his position he cannot support one country at the expense of another. He follows the OIV Rules. If so, it was not Ukraine, it would not be within the OIV. And if the statute provides the possibility of excluding russia from the OIV, then the official Ukrainian delegation should give this fight. As in all wars, the first thing that dies is the truth. And in the midst of this war, attributing a pro-russian attitude to the Director General Pau Roca is really a delusional lie. In addition, the very leaders of Ukrainian associations who hug and take pictures with him, as recently happened at Vinexpo, should be the first to come to his defense. I want to pay extra attention to the topic: if I am a Ukrainian leader and I shook hands, hugged and took a picture with someone who is accused of being pro-Russian, I have two options, either I don’t hug him, or I stop being a leader.


Dr. Ricardo F. Nunez, founder and owner of the Vinos de La Luz group of companies, analyzes the special path of Ukraine in the modern historical context, the impact of the war on winemaking and the country’s prospects. Dear Doctor! The Drinks+ editors for almost 10 years – please correct us if we are wrong […]

Ljudmila Bobik: “I am grateful to the destiny that there are always special people on my way”

Today, Ukrainians, who act according to the slogan “what does not kill us, makes us stronger”, show the world miracles both on the battlefield and at work. And the wine industry is no exception. Our journalists now have to observe almost unbelievable stories of people that are worthy of reflection, if not in marble during their lifetime, then in literary genres. We bring to your attention one of such life stories. The columnist D+ interviewed a resident of Uzhgorod, who made a breakthrough in her career and, having given up the comfortable chair of the owner of a prosperous business, chose the profession of a sommelier. In an incredibly short period of time, she managed to study in London and Bordeaux, gain experience in a Michelin-starred restaurant, at a winery in the Loire Valley, and as a global market analyst. And Ljudmila Bobik had to go through a significant part of this path already during the liberation war of Ukraine with russia.

D+: Ljudmila, I looked over your resume and was surprised by the twists and turns of your fate, and even more so by the rapid development of your professional career in the wine industry. What brought you to wine education? Perhaps it wasn’t your dream since childhood?

Yes, you are right, a few years ago, I made a sudden change in my career. It happened unexpectedly for me, but really on time. I consider it a gift of destiny. I was a successful top manager in another industry – selling fibreglass premium-class swimming pools and equipment from leading European producers. It was our family business. After the divorce, I founded my own company, which had exclusive rights from one Spanish manufacturer on the territory of Ukraine. Thanks to many years of management experience, I was able to organize my work in such a way, that I could travel at the same time. Over the past fifteen years, I have visited more than 30 countries around the world on three continents, as I’m a real passionate traveller.

It was one of those regular summer trips and I’ve decided to spend it in Sicily ‘cause kitesurfing is one of my hobbies. That hot Italian evening, as they say, I was “surfing” through pages of Google (at that moment I was found reading the blog of Eugeniy Chichvarkin on Instagram). And so, just out of curiosity, I opened his website Hedonism Wines… I must admit frankly, I was embarrassed because I realized that I was looking at dozens of coloured wine labels and didn’t understand anything. And when I saw the prices with four zeros, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Of course, a lot of questions arose. And I went to the section where the team is presented: I wanted to understand what kind of education is necessary to get to be more comfortable in this wine space. The wine consultants listed their education with the abbreviation WSET.

Людмила Бібик

It was on that warm August Sicilian evening while sipping delicious local Nero d’Avola, I discovered for myself a new universe and the existence of wine education.

D+: And what, you dropped everything and started acting?

Almost: I found a window in my work schedule for September, and, without hesitation, sent an application for the 2nd level intensive the very next day. I have always admired England and its history. So decided that a visit to London, plus something useful for comprehensive development, is a good idea. The one-week intensive wine course in London changed everything about me. I still remember that storm of positive emotions, a kind of excitement and just “wow!” from everything I heard. And unexpectedly for myself, I realized that I have well-developed receptors, so it was very easy for me to describe wine. In short, I returned home and immediately invited my friends to my first wine tasting. I wanted to share the experience with as many people as possible and shout: “Bingo! We can read the wine!”. That’s how I discovered a new, exciting, sophisticated and diverse world – the world of wine. But I received only a small piece of information that could answer those many questions which arose while flipping through the pages of the Hedonism webpage. At that moment, I understood that I had to move on. And immediately after receiving the result of the 2nd level exam, I applied for the 3rd one. At the same time, I began to research all possible information about the wine. I learned later that the WSET school has branches in 70 countries around the world and Ukraine as well. While waiting for the exam results, I accidentally came across an announcement on Facebook about the 1st Wine Hub in Kyiv in February 2020. I am very glad that I attended this event. But it again gave me a lot of new questions to think about. Because it was a wine business meeting and discussions. It was about marketing, trends, and production problems. There I learned about educational offers in Ukraine. That was the first time I looked at the wine industry from a business perspective, which started to interest me a lot, although it had nothing to do with the purely academic teaching of the material during the wine course in London. You may have already guessed what my next step was – I found a sommelier school in the same London and paid for the nearest course to make an independent assessment of the difference between these two types of wine schools. This moment was fateful for me because I realized that I was no longer just playing a wine lover, but began to seriously delve into it. And the further I moved, the more questions I had, but at the same time, the feeling of admiration didn’t subside. This knowledge had become like a drug for me (a state in which I have been already for the fourth year). Then, in February 2020, I decided to sell my company and go deep into studying and understanding this new for me wine direction. The wine topic gave me emotions of a new level, the knowledge of something extraordinary, which brings intellectual, cultural and gastronomic pleasure. So, at the start there was no clear plan – I just trusted my heart and intuition.

And then, already in the process, at the subconscious level, the habit of thinking strategically, having several options for the development of the situation and clear goals, developed over the years was included. But the most important thing was full dedication and passion for what I was doing!

Людмила Бобик

D+: I know that you have recently successfully defended your thesis and are receiving the title of Masters & MBA in Wine Marketing and Management. Can you explain how it is located in the coordinate system of wine education? Most of us know that there are levels of WSET, MW, etc. To what level is your title adequate, how much do you need to study, and which exams to pass – please share with those of our readers who are interested in moving to higher levels of education.

At the end of August 2022, I successfully graduated from INSEEC (Institute of Higher Economic and Commercial Education), which was renamed OMNES just last year. This French higher education school was founded in 1975 as a private institution with 10 branches around the world. By the way, the Institute is considered the best business school in France. As for my education, the abbreviation MBA briefly speaks for itself – Master of Business Administration. The basic level of the INSEEC institute involves three years of study. The best students have the opportunity to continue their studies at the Masters level, a program which is designed for two years. Graduates are top-class specialists according to the best world standards in the business. As in any educational institution, this one also has different faculties. The Faculty of “Wine Marketing and Management” is one of it, which is considered a specialized wine business education. It covers all areas of the wine business with a detailed study of the specifics of the main strategic wine markets of the world and those that are developing. The program includes marketing strategies, e-commerce, international wine trade, business negotiations and types of agreements, the legal side, pricing, management of wineries with the development of a business plan for production, international logistics, branding, media marketing, and wine tourism. All lecturers are held by top managers from different areas of the wine industry: corporate top managers, CEOs or top managers of online wine platforms (Vivino, WineLister, Liv-Ex and others), lawyers of well-known wine corporations, etc. Our studies were in the form of 100% real -case studies examples from the modern wine business with their detailed analysis.

I’m not familiar with the information about the procedure and requirements for admission to the entry level: as I said, I immediately submitted a package of documents (all previously obtained specialized certificates WSET 3, CMS and AIS Diploma) for the 2nd, that is, the highest level of Masters (MS2), considering CV with 15 years of business experience in top management positions, albeit in a different industry. Then there was an interview in a very unusual (modern) format.

Людмила Бобик

D+: Which one exactly? Decipher, please.

I received clear, detailed instructions that even included requirements for appearance and dress code. The interview was digital. Before starting, I received a link to the online page. Questions were presented on the monitor and I had one minute to prepare, and then my task was to formulate a complex answer lasting two minutes and dictate it. A new question appeared exactly after 2 minutes. Of course, the content of the questions was unknown and even the number of questions was not announced in advance. The language of the interview was English, as for all further studies. By the way, the language of study can be chosen: either 100% English or 100% French, or both 50% English and 50% French.

I waited for the result quite a long time, I remember, I even lost hope. A positive answer came three months later.

As for Masters of Wine (MW), this is a title obtained after graduating from the privately owned “The Institute of Masters of Wine”, founded in London in 1955. Before entering the MW study programme, prospective students must have advanced qualifications in wine, at least Diploma level from the WSET, or a sommelier certificate of an appropriate higher level, such as an Advanced Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers. In addition, ideally, the applicants should have a minimum of three years of professional working experience in the international wine industry. Applicants must submit a basic essay, pass a blind tasting exam and a short motivation letter that clearly explains the goal of becoming a Masters of Wine. The program of the English institute can be approximately (by 70%) equated to the Masters program at the INSEEC business school. I say this because I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with the questions of the written part of the final exam for MW and understood all the answers related to business. The difference is that the English institute nevertheless focuses more on the scientific aspect of knowledge of oenology, and high awareness of wine evaluation. Therefore, I would call this higher wine education scientific. While studying in Bordeaux, I systematically attended blind tasting practices for applicants to the MW degree and our group consisted of sommeliers with titles from international competitions and graduates of the WSET Diploma level. We also practised and analyzed the specifics of theory questions. Tastings were led by one of the MW candidates. To apply for admission to MW, you also need to have a mentor, that is, someone who already holds this high rank.

Людмила Бібик

There is also the title MS or Masters Sommelier. This is the highest title in the field of HoReCa, which is highly valued in Europe and around the world. This is already the third school with a world name that trains sommeliers of the highest status in the Court of Masters Sommeliers. Very interestingly and in detail, these schools and exams are described in the autobiographical book of Gerard Basset, who was the first holder in the world of all three Master’s school statuses.

D+: If you compare the institutions where you studied, what exactly distinguishes the sommelier school from the programs of other courses?

Back then, at the beginning of my wine journey, it was a real discovery for me that London is the world’s wine capital. That’s why I say: higher-quality education with the best specialists and practical samples of wine cannot be found anywhere else. After successfully completing WSET Level 3 with a mark “Pass with Marit”, I chose the sommelier school at the UK Association of Sommeliers. And I don’t regret it. The basis of the course is the complete program and methodology of the Italian Sommelier School with an in-depth study of the wine regions of Italy and their unique autochthonous grape varieties. Also, this school provides an in-depth study and understanding of the principles of combining wine and various dishes. And the third component is service. But I must note that I learned all the details of the highest service standards later in practice, working in a Michelin restaurant.

D+: After having your own business, not everyone will be ready to go, so to speak, “into the fields” of the hospitality sector. Haven’t you been told that sounds weird?

Imagine, at that moment, after finishing wine school, I dreamed of working as a sommelier – and only in a Michelin-starred category-level restaurant. Yes, it looks a little strange: to be so eager to work in the hospitality sector, considering that before I was a top manager and the owner of a successful company. But I became so obsessed with the desire to learn about wine that I saw the only chance available to me to re-taste all the dream samples of wines if started to work as a sommelier. By the way, I was often asked about this at interviews. So, with no experience whatsoever, but with recommendations prooved by high marks in the sommelier school exams, namely from Andrea Rinaldi – President of the UK Sommelier Association – I sent out my CV to London’s top restaurants. And it turned out that four Michelin restaurants were ready to hire me at once! I was lucky even to choose one of them by myself. But there is a small detail (so don’t get the impression that getting a sommelier position in London is too simple, especially in a Michelin-starred restaurant,). The situation worked in my favour: after the second lockdown, a lot of hospitality workers left London, including sommeliers. This was one of the advantages of getting a position easier. Although it is clear, I was lucky to receive invitations to work in the best places primarily thanks to my professional education.

Людмила Бобик

D+: By the way, regarding education, to summarize, which of the schools to choose – what are your recommendations?

If you want to go into the wine business, choose WSET (you must pass all four levels), and it will take at least five years because 80% of students do not pass the third level from the first attempt. Studying requires an excellent command of the English language and writing.

Studying in an MBA is a great option specifically for a business career too, but I would advise finding a sponsoring company (during the entering procedures, the school provides access to a database of European companies that are ready to pay for study with parallel employment and it’s called “alternance”).

If you plan to get a prestigious job in the field of hospitality or to be a professional wine consultant at HoReCa, I undoubtedly recommend the sommelier school. A true sommelier is a person-encyclopedia, a wine addict for whom wine is the vocation and sense of life. I have great respect to people of this profession. Also, training in sommelier schools has the most effective ratio of price/time/knowledge gained. For example, the Court of Master Sommeliers textbook contains the entire volume of study material at once, including information for the Advanced level exam.

Людмила Бобик

WSET doesn’t have that. There, extended training and information are given dosed in accordance with the level. The first three levels of the WSET do not contain any precise information about real-case samples from the wine business and it’s logical, as those levels prepare students for a further one. Though, at the Diploma level, there is only one unit block on the wine business. That’s why I didn’t go to the Diploma level but chose a reputable specialized wine business faculty.

While working in one of London’s Michelin-star restaurants, I passed the Court of Masters Sommelier certification exam. It would be impossible to pass this exam without the previously acquired knowledge. There is, of course, another option – to have two or three years of work experience as a sommelier. My apologies for not being humble in mentioning my service abilities, but in just one month of working at Michelin, I was trained so well that I received the highest score for service on the CMS exam. Thanks to the interviews during the hiring process, I’ve met many of the most famous Londons’ Head Sommeliers.

Людмила Бобик

D+: I have long ago wanted to look behind the scenes of a star restaurant. After all, I understand that the same beauty and refinement of details in everything that guests see, looks a little different at backstage. I assume that not all employees can withstand this pressure because apparently there is almost military discipline (perhaps even the traditions of relations are similar to those “military”, right?) and strict requirements for personnel. Can you satisfy my curiosity – what does the day of an employee of a star restaurant look like?

So. Everything is correct. The requirements for standards are the highest, there are a lot of rules connected with service moments and therefore discipline is a core always and in everything. But discipline often goes overboard. So I call my period in a Michelin-starred restaurant a little rude, but most close to “special forces”. Because the conditions were often simply not human: you don’t have the right to sit down even for a minute, and you don’t have time for that either. But when you’re on your feet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is the end of the first shift, and then immediately begins preparation for dinner and evening service until midnight, or even longer, and all this with the opportunity to go on a break in turn for only 30 minutes, and another 30 minutes are allocated for lunch, which you often eat standing up, so I’m not sure that everyone who dreams of working under the stars of “Michelin” can stand it. The pace of the service is simply insane because everything has to be on time, everything according to the rules, the guest never touches the bottle, and one sommelier has more than two dozen such guests at the same time (and during the evening service, even more than thirty people). And you have to make sure that nobody’s throat, sorry, doesn’t dry up (guests really know the rules and nobody even thinks to serve water to themselves) – you had to walk fast all the time. The schedule is also crazy: four working days with two shifts, or two services daily, and only the fifth day – one service. Often senior staff (waiters) try to burden newcomers and additionally train them in “rigidity”. That is, almost military hazing, I even had to hear rude phrases from some of my colleagues (these people simply do not even notice who they have become after years of work). I can just be compassionate to them… I will also note the following specifics: as a newbie, in addition to two services after midnight, I was also asked (politely, but in a commanding tone) for an indefinite period of time to help the staff in the glass washing section to perfectly wipe the glasses. The restaurant where I worked had 150 seats and all the glasses were Riedel and Zalto. That’s how I learned to perfectly wipe glasses in a month, which also has its technology. But after these additional tasks, I crawled home at 3 in the morning. And at 8 o’clock it’s already up again… After several months of work, my illusions about the honorary position of a sommelier in “Michelin” shattered against the hard everyday reality. And if in the beginning, I was motivating myself by discovering and tasting real wine treasures, then later everything turned into trekking (and it reached more than 10 km per working day on my Apple Watch) to keep alive until the two days off… It’s good that I ran every morning 6 km during the lockdown, so everything was fine with my physical state of health. But in such conditions, money is no longer a joy (although the salary was excellent). So, just five months later, I submitted my resignation letter. At the same time, I was offered to be the managing sommelier in a small Italian restaurant in the very city centre, but the so-called residual aftertaste and disgust from the everyday realities of the previous place of work created resistance in my mind. And I, having to outstep this experience, moved on.

Людмила Бобик

D+: Forgive me for forcing you to return to unpleasant memories, but I will still ask – how are the responsibilities of sommeliers in “Michelin” divided: are the wines fixed among the team members by country, or by price level, or according to some other principle? I understand that each institution has its own rules, but for the most part, how is it arranged?

Service is provided to the same standard by everyone, but recommendations are mostly made by senior sommeliers. When there were a lot of guests, I was made an exception and allowed to make recommendations as well. The number of sommeliers depends on the number of seats. The only thing is that the Head Sommelier mostly manages the process and makes sure that everything is clear, beautiful, refined and on time. He/She also does wine service for VIP guests in the main hall. We had three separate additional VIP rooms, where the service was conducted by each of the sommeliers in turn and the one on duty was appointed by the Head Sommelier. We always knew in advance who our guests were because twice a day we had a short briefing (10-15 minutes), where the restaurant manager explained in detail the special wishes of each table reservation. It was practically impossible to enter our restaurant without a prior booking. During the service, each sommelier had a clearly defined section of the restaurant space to serve. But if someone was freer, he/she always helped a colleague with the service of his/her tables.

D+: How were sales trainings conducted, do they give instructions on how to sell more expensive wine?

Once a week, for 30 minutes we were practicing blind tastings held by the Head Sommelier. There were no special sales instructions. All sommeliers (and there were four of us) have an understanding of the availability of wine. And for the service, this is one of the features of the work, when the sommelier has to skillfully understand the taste of the guest and the approximate price maximum during communication and making recommendations. A talented and educated sommelier will find a way to offer a rare sample because you always get a special pleasure from it by yourself – as you tell the story of the wine, describe the aromas and tastes in combination with the dishes. A sommelier should appreciate guests and be their best advisor. The guests of our Michelin-starred restaurant – and it was located in one of the skyscrapers of the banking centre of London, i.e. the most expensive part of the city – were mostly open to interesting offers. Also, many of them were knowledgeable in exclusive wines, so communicating with them during recommendations was a real pleasure.

Людмила Бобик

D+: And what about your idea – to taste all the wines of your dreams?

The goal was achieved in just a few months, thanks to the wine list of our restaurant, which had 60 pages and an excellent selection of the assortment. But, as it turned out, I was not satisfied with the prospects of the next two or three years. I skillfully mastered all the requirements for Michelin standards in the shortest possible time, which, I note, was very surprising to the restaurant management. But there was no development: according to the rules, according to the rank, I had to perform the boring basic work of a Junior sommelier for at least a year! For example, I had much higher knowledge than my colleague, who had already worked for two years, and I became impeccable in the field of service in just a month. But I didn’t have those formal hours – so I wasn’t allowed to fully use all the knowledge in practice. Instead, I heard from my colleagues: “What, you are going to make a revolution in our field?” The rules didn’t envision rapid personal or career development!”. So, I decided to move on in another wine direction that could satisfy the level of my requirements. Especially since there were still many questions that I had not received answers to in the previous two schools. So, in July 2021, I submitted the resignation letter, and at the end of September, I started studying again, having moved to France, in Bordeaux.

Людмила Бобик

D+: As far as I understand, the war caught you there? On the Facebook page, you shared your regret that it was not possible to write a thesis on the topic of Ukrainian winemaking. What exactly did you want to tell the world about our country?

I had an idea for the project and for this I had to work closely on studying and analysing the consumer tendencies in the wine market in Ukraine (surveys, interviews, testing). And the beginning of the war made all my research work impossible. Like all Ukrainians, I believe in our victory and then, if it is still relevant, I will return to my idea. Since this project is an idea, I cannot disclose it. I would like to note that, unfortunately, the Ukrainian digital space is very limited by open professional information (different statistical data) from the wine industry. When I was preparing a business case for the premiumization of Sicilian wines for the Ukrainian market, I encountered simply terribly outdated analytics, and a lack of access to the type of information that we easily found when preparing business cases about the European or the USA wine market. During my study experience, I had to face a lack of information only in countries where the wine sector is developing. Of course, the most valuable info in Asia was in Chinese, so luckily for our group, we had a native speaker among us, so we could turn to him when working on China-related projects. I also noticed that the availability, quality and quantity of information about the market made it clear the economic level and transparency of doing business in specific countries. I am currently studying and observing the work of the Ukrainian wine market and in the future, I have a great desire to meet and communicate personally with Ukrainian sommeliers and winemakers/wine producers. And I would still like to talk about Ukraine and Ukrainian wine and present it from the position of a sommelier. But for this, I need to taste all possible Ukrainian samples today and form my own professional opinion. That is, I have plans to dive deeper into the world of Ukrainian wine.

D+: Instead, your topic sounded like this: “The canned wine and its perception by the French market”. Can you elaborate – what, in your opinion, are the prospects of such a container?

Людмила Бобик

This is a very interesting topic with future prospects. The type of packaging is still unusual and not too familiar for European consumers, but in the USA and Australia, the wine-in-can has successfully established its position and has been actively developing since 2001. A big role in the perception of an aluminium can is played by the culture of the country, and US consumers, as you know, are very democratic.

Of course, this type of packaging is intended only for wines ready to drink, and that type of wine volume on the shelves is 90%. Usually, the maximum shelf life or terms of use of this type of packaging should not exceed one year. There is a producer in France who packages quality aged organic wine. In England, the segment of premium wines in cans is generally developing. There are many additional specific requirements which make wine suitable for this type of packaging. It should also be taken into account that this is an alternative type of packaging for certain places of consumption. An aluminium can can’t completely replace a glass bottle. Wines with a long ageing potential it is ideal to store exclusively in glass.

From an environmental point of view, this type of packaging has many advantages in use over a glass bottle, although there are also disadvantages. But that is a big and interesting separate topic.

D+: My next question follows logically from the previous ones: what is your final goal, what exactly do you want to do in the wine business?

My initial desire has remained unchanged – I want to make as many consumers as possible fall in love with wine and help them understand it. I would also be glad one day to give lectures on wine marketing for Ukrainian youth who plan to do it professionally. The business school in Bordeaux finally put everything in order and on its shelves and I have a clear understanding of the structure, principles and interaction of all areas of the wine industry. All three schools were important, three completely different directions that helped me develop a deep understanding of the exquisitely worked-out system of this complex wine organism. The aim is to have my own project. But while it’s in the process of creation at the moment, I will not make any statements in advance.

Людмила Бобик

D+: You recently completed an internship in the Loire Valley, also helping to harvest, and oversee the winemaking processes. I guess one can only dream about that, right? Share, have you had to learn something fundamentally new, which is not told during the study of theory?

It was extremely interesting to dive into the everyday life of a small French winery. The first thing that struck me was the modern equipment with digital control because this is not even a mini-factory. It is nice to note the level of quality control in all processes, starting from the picking of grapes in the vineyard. There were many technological points that neither the WSET school nor the sommelier school teach, but this is not necessary for people who will not connect their lives with wine production. There are specialized faculties for the profession of winemaker and oenologist. It was important for me to finish this year at the winery, because, in parallel with my office work (as the export manager during the internship period), I observed the life of the vine almost every day, starting in April, how it behaves in different soils, on different altitudes of the vineyard in the landscape. So, it was interesting to see how this affects the quality of the future product. I am very satisfied with this experience.

D+: During your education, you had to live in different countries, so you saw different wine communities. At least in Great Britain and France (perhaps in some other countries?). How do they differ, what do they have in common – apart from, of course, the wine itself?

My most vivid impressions are from the sommelier community in London. It is interesting that probably more than 80% are Italians. Relations between the majority are good and warm. Sommeliers often share interesting new wine samples and places where you can buy this or that wine. It was the Italians who helped and supported me in many ways. At that time, I was preparing for the Court of Masters Sommelier certification exam, and it was the Italian sommelier Beatrice Bessi who helped me and gave me two free master classes on blind tasting and champagne service. By the way, she is also an honorary judge in the Decanter nominations. Once again, I am very grateful to the sommelier school of The UK Association of Sommeliers, namely Federica Zanghirella, for the detailed instructions in understanding the pairing of wine with food. Many thanks to Andrea Rinaldi for the service lessons, which are of course an integral part of the sommelier’s role in a restaurant.

I also developed good relationships with sommeliers and wine professionals in Bordeaux during my time in business school. In our group there were also those who were preparing for the entrance or final exams for the WSET Diploma, there were three MW candidates. All of us were united by the desire to better understand the principles of blind tasting and simple communication, all about the same wine.

Людмила Бобик

D+: This year, our Drinks+ media group had the honour of co-organizing the Ukrainian national stand at the London Wine Fair, as well as the Wine Travel Awards ceremony. It was very difficult for us, considering that we were doing everything in the conditions of a war waged against our country. And the first to lend us a helping hand was The UK Association of Sommeliers. To be honest, we are impressed by such a vast combination of professional level and humanity, passion for work and desire to help, which the English sommeliers demonstrated. Are we right – it’s no coincidence that the UK sommelier community really has such a high level of communication principles? Please tell us more about people in the UK hospitality wine industry.

Allow me to clarify: although you have been supported by The UK Association of Sommeliers, the vast majority of its leadership are Italians. As I mentioned above, these are very open and sincere people. Their nation is sunny and happy. In general, the sommelier community in London is international, so everyone knows what it’s like to be in a foreign country. This is probably the main thing that unites all British sommeliers so strongly. And that’s why there are sincere relations and mutual support and understanding between everyone. By the way, during my work and studies, I did not have the opportunity to meet a purely Englishman or an Englishwoman in the HoReCa field. Also, in my opinion, Ukraine is now supported by the whole world and it was really a charitable gesture from the side of The UK Association of Sommeliers to help you present Ukrainian wine. Because usually, as everywhere, and especially in London, any serious services are paid and it is understandable – it’s a business.

D+: The next question will be about national sommelier associations. What is their ideal function – from your point of view?

The Association of Sommeliers is an organization that unites people by professional skills, that is, sommeliers. The association cooperates with sommelier schools, namely, creates and monitors the teaching program in accordance with the standards of well-known world schools and informs about updates of current trends. It organizes sommelier competitions, and interesting events and thus is the initiator of networking, and exchange of experience, novelties or ideas. The Association of sommeliers should play the role of an intermediary between the winemaker (producer) and the consumer. Also, one of the main missions of the Association of Sommeliers of a specific country is the promotion and popularization, first of all, the best samples of local wine products. It may sound unexpected, but since the president and vice president of The UK Association of Sommeliers are Italians, so this association is extremely active in promoting the brand of Italy as a wine country in London. Even the main sponsor of the competition for the best sommelier in Great Britain is always one of the famous Italian wine houses.

I would like to note that the right to become a member of any of the European associations of sommeliers is exclusively for sommeliers who have received professional education and successfully passed exams.

Людмила Бібик

D+: I know you had to collect analytics for one of the head consultants in the wine industry for the World Bank – can you tell us more about this mission and comment on the main global trends?

I am truly grateful to destiny that there are always special people on my way. This is exactly what I consider the experience of working at Frederic Julia’s company – Verthemis International. Yes, he is currently a consultant on international wine expertise and technical support from such international financial institutions as the World Bank Group, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Food and Agricultural Organization, the International American Bank, and the International Finance Corporation. But this is only one of his activities. I worked in his company in the export department. My responsibilities included a detailed analysis of potential companies of a certain segment in European countries for partnership – the sales of an assortment of the company’s portfolio, which included not only wines but also several exclusive positions of spirits. Another interesting experience was the analysis of the French spirits market, as the company is currently at the stage of introducing a new product to this market.

About trends. In my opinion, it is possible to consider the trend regarding a specific country, because consumers of different countries have very different tastes and local traditions, history, mentality, and economic factors influence this. A few words can be said about the main trends in the wine industry. Number one is taking care of the environment and drastic climate change, which means working to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions. Organic and natural wines are gaining, or rather, maintaining their popularity. After two years of covid, digitalisation is gaining momentum. There are more and more online platforms for selling wine. And the consumer is no more a goal – he became a resource. Improvements in the use of artificial intelligence for marketing purposes in the wine industry are rapidly developing. Exclusive alcohol began to be sold on platforms in the form of NFTs.

Людмила Бібик

D+: We strongly believe in such a trend in the wine industry as wine tourism, which becomes not only the lure of wine regions but also the driver of local wine sales. How do you assess the development of this industry? In which countries do you think wine tourism is best developed?

I completely agree with you that wine tourism is a very important branch in the promotion of the country, wine regions, and specific winemakers. This industry is very well developed in the USA, especially in Napa Valley and Sonoma. Some wineries sell almost 90% of their products exclusively through direct sales, so to speak, from their domains or wineries. The important thing, as always, is quality, service, as well as skillfully planned marketing. These wineries have special clubs where members profit from various bonuses. In the famous European wine-producing countries, as well as in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, there is a clear division of the wine market by segments. There are three of them: mass market, premium class wines and luxury segment or “icon” wines. The scale and philosophy of the presentation of a wine house or winery depend on the specifics of a wine region, history and traditions, the audience the wine house is targeting, and its positioning in the wine industry. There are wine houses where visits and tastings are possible only by prior appointment, and there are those that work during normal working hours and are open for visits to everyone. For example, in France, all wineries are closed for tours on Sundays. The cost of the visit also depends on the price of the wine on the shelf. In Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, there are wine houses that only welcome their regular customers, sommeliers and wine specialist partners – these are most of the houses or chateaux with luxury wines or they are also called wine icons. In small wineries, you will have the opportunity to communicate with someone from the family, since the owners do not hire an additional employee to conduct tastings. The level of consultants is also very different. The highest requirements for wine consultants in the tasting room in wine houses with a world name. Each wine region of France has an organization dedicated exclusively to the promotion, creativity and development of wine tourism: wine maps, marketing identity, planning and organization of various events with tastings (bicycle tours, walking tours, days of music and theatre performance in wine regions). Another feature, the tourist period in France is seasonal, that is, the active phase from the end of April to the end of October. In the region where I did my internship (Loire Valley/Anjou), there are wineries where you can stay overnight (a few B&B rooms right in the middle of the vineyards), there are luxurious chateaux with stylish rooms (maximum 4-5 apartments), a hall for celebrations and a conference room and, of course, a tasting room with a wine boutique.

I saw similar principles of organization and management of the tourist wine business in wineries in Portugal, Spain and Italy. Winery owners are very interested in the development and popularization of their products, attracting the attention of direct buyers without intermediaries. But this still applies to premium-class wines or small family wineries. Because for large companies, so-called wine groups, tourism is primarily a part of maintaining the brand image, so not everyone practices it. But I agree that wine today is an attraction, the icing on the cake of tourism, and tourism is a tool for promoting and selling wine.

D+: Thank you, Ljudmila, for such a long and meaningful conversation.

Today, Ukrainians, who act according to the slogan “what does not kill us, makes us stronger”, show the world miracles both on the battlefield and at work. And the wine industry is no exception. Our journalists now have to observe almost unbelievable stories of people that are worthy of reflection, if not in marble during […]

Anna Sarkisian: “Ukraine was given a key task in the Sea of Wine project, and we coped with it perfectly”

All wine travel lovers are in for a surprise: several of the world’s leading specialized institutions, including the Odesa National University of Technology (ONUT), have taken part in a 26-month project implemented within the framework of the Joint Operational Programme Black Sea Basin 2014-2020, Promotion of the Black Sea Region as a Wine Tourism Destination – The Sea of Wine.

The goal of the project is to create a joint brand of wine tourism in the Black Sea region, which is recognized as the cradle of world winemaking. So, experts from Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and Greece developed 33 innovative thematic wine routes, which included 156 wineries along with historical and natural sights, restaurants, museums and other attractions. We asked the Dean of the Faculty of Wine and Tourism Business of ONUT, Professor Anna Sarkisian about Ukraine’s participation, as well as her personal role in this large-scale project.

Anna, for you as a sommelier and Dean of the Faculty of Wine and Tourism Business of ONUT, the concepts of wine and tourism have probably already become inseparable. Please share with us how these two directions combine in your life. Tell us about the project that you are taking care of today – the Sea of Wine.

Don’t be surprised, but since my childhood, which was spent in blooming and diverse Bessarabia, I was familiar with winemaking. After all, my parents worked at a large winery in Tatarbunary. So when it was time to choose a profession, I entered the Odesa National University of Technology, which has the only Department of Wine Technology and Sensory Analysis in the country. After defending my master’s thesis, I decided that I should get to know wine from a different angle. Therefore, I graduated from the First Sommelier School “Master Class” in Kyiv. In the end, my candidate’s thesis was devoted to the production technology of grape juice with a high content of polyphenolic compounds, and my doctoral thesis was devoted to regional tourism markets, because I work part-time at the Department of Tourism Business and Recreation, which is part of the structure of the Faculty of Wine and Tourism Business which I head. I teach various disciplines and, in addition to students who are future winemakers, I work with hoteliers, restaurateurs and tourists. Actually, food and wine tourism is not just a job, it is my passion. This is a very interesting modern discipline, which includes the organization of the work of sommeliers and guides, the basics of wine production, sensory analysis, etc. This direction has great prospects for the wine industry.

So, when Arthur Grigoryan, the director of the International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (ICARE) approached us and offered to participate in the Sea of Wine project aimed at promoting the Black Sea region as a wine tourism destination, this idea aroused great enthusiasm in us. Such authoritative organizations from four countries as the International Center for Agribusiness Research and Education (Armenia), the Odesa National University of Technology (Ukraine), the Fund “Georgian Center for Agribusiness Development” (Georgia) and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) participate in the project.

How did it happen that these countries were united in a single route?

The lead beneficiary of the project was Armenia, which invited other participants to it. When the application was submitted and approved, each country received a field of activity in which it would act as a responsible partner.

Ukraine was given a key task – to develop an ICT (Information and Communication Technology) platform and a mobile application, as well as create training materials. Interaction with trainers from each country helped to identify common ground. For two years, our team was engaged in research and, together with foreign specialists, created a database. We coped with our task perfectly. Soon everyone interested will be able to make sure of that.

What does it give each participant? In particular, what does collaboration with other countries in the Sea of Wine project give Ukraine?

First of all, it is an opportunity to exchange experience with leading specialists from other countries. Ukraine is a very young country from the point of view of a wine tourism organization, so positive experiences are on demand.

Equally important is the opportunity to present your own routes. As part of the project, our team visited Greece at a tourist exhibition in Thessaloniki and had the opportunity to work with students of Aristotle University. As a result, we talked about the wine regions of Ukraine and learned about others.

Afterwards, we accumulated all that experience on the platform developed by the Ukrainian ICT team, where the wine routes of the Black Sea Basin of all participating countries will be presented. Thus, each participant of the Sea of Wine project expands the horizons of wine tourism. The logical result was the creation of a single route, the Black Sea Wine Route, which covers all participating countries. In Ukraine, it starts from Odesa, from the Wine and City Life route.

Who exactly and how developed wine routes in Ukraine, which locations were included in them?

In general, when announcing this project, we invited all wineries of the Black Sea region to participate, because our goal has been to promote the wine tourism potential of Ukraine at the international level. In order to develop routes for the Sea of Wine project, a team of colleagues from our department and I went on an expedition to the wineries of the Odesa, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions. The audit focused on the winery’s ability to host tourists, infrastructure, road quality, and local gastronomic offerings. In this way, we have chosen almost fifty wineries, including large and well-known, as well as very young and craft ones. To list some wineries, I will mention SHABO, Leleka, Odesos, Kolonist, Frumushika Nova, Kyrnychky, Beykush, SliVino, and many others.

Currently, seven thematic routes have been created for the Sea of Wine project: Wine and City Life, Wine and Legends, Wine and Flowers, Wine and Art, Wine and Religion, Wine and Ethnicity. First of all, we emphasized the particularity of the regions and included local holidays and festivals in the routes. For example, the winemakers of Bessarabia invite guests to Trifon Zarizan, a holiday of pruning vines, which takes place on February 14 in Bolhrad. We selected bright events for each route featured on the website. The final product, developed by the efforts of specialists of our department, is tours for domestic and experienced international travelers. We have set the bar high.

How important is tourism for the development of wineries?

This is a very important tool for the promotion of Ukrainian wineries, even small and completely new ones. Speaking of which, during the expeditions, we opened the Kyrnychky winery to the world (and to ourselves!). There, we found an interesting history, traditions, good potential of raw materials, and quality wines. It gave a chance to a very young winery to take part in an international project. We are sure that thanks to this, this winery will become popular in the future. Winemakers dream of meeting tourists, treating them with their wines and giving them emotions. I would like to note that we made our itineraries free of charge in order to support the winemaking and tourism industries of our country.

We know that there are even plans to introduce a single label for participants. How do winemakers feel about it?

The label has already been created. We will distribute it electronically to all route participants. They can use it on their websites, in booklets, at international events. After all, it is prestigious to be part of the European Neighborhood programs.

Does the project provide for the development of routes, the addition of new locations?

Yes, winery owners can apply, and information about them will be posted on our ICT platform. After all, it can be updated, and wineries, locations, festivals can be added.

What special educational programs are planned for guides, sommeliers, winemakers?

Educational training based on materials developed by our Ukrainian specialists was held in each participating country. In January, we held a three-day training on the topic “Wine tourism: tapping into new opportunities”. The entire material is divided into three main topics: “Wine tour guiding”, “Wine destination product management”, and “Destination sustainable management”.

The event took place at a high, international level. It was a lively discussion. After the lectures, practical cases were provided, in which winemakers participated. Very useful communication between manufacturers, developers of the tourist product, and those who will accompany the tourists happened there. We are proud that it was Ukrainian scholars who developed educational materials that will be used in other countries. It should be noted that these documents are now kept in the European Library. All our reports and studies are a great contribution to the development of the scientific aspect of wine tourism. We are happy to have been the first to do so.

What measures to popularize wine tourism in Ukraine are taken within the framework of the Sea of Wine project?

“Let’s talk about wine” forums were held in all partner countries. They were aimed at bringing together wine experts, winemakers and wine lovers and acquainting them with the results of the project. The Ukrainian side, in view of the war in the country, planned to spread information online, although we saw how it happened in other countries through in-person meetings with winemakers, tastings… It became sad only from this thought that we would have to talk about wine online. So we made a decision anyway to gather like-minded people, wine lovers, representatives of the tourism business and winemakers who present their wines in a safe place. The meeting was warm, full of hopes and dreams for the best wine future for our country.

What joint promotion activities are being carried out and planned in the project?

It includes visiting festivals and specialized exhibitions. As I mentioned, this year we visited a tourist exhibition in Thessaloniki, attended the National Wine Day of Moldova, where we held a presentation of the wine routes and the ICT platform. We hope for very close cooperation with Moldova after the war finishes and a transnational path opens. Our partners from Greece and Armenia visited the London Wine Fair, where our project was also introduced.

The next event is the closing ceremony of the project in Yerevan. It consists of two activities: on the first day, a conference, and on the next day, a large-scale wine event “Black Sea Wines” held according to the standards of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV).

In what forms will the Sea of Wine continue to exist?

First of all, this is the work of the ICT platform and mobile application, which are convenient tools both for specialists in the wine and tourism industries, and for tourists, consumers of these products. Here you can get detailed information about the routes, wine-growing regions, wineries of the participating countries, and about the events taking place there. This turns out to be a solid database for planning trips.

How did the war change your plans, and what remained the same?

I can’t say that we change our plans, but we certainly adjust themaccording to the situation. So, for example, at the Department ofTourism Business and Recreation, we organized a webinar “Tourism as a means of rehabilitation in post-war times” this month. Psychologists, rehabilitators, specialists in the tourism industry wereinvited. We talked about how to restore your morale, includingraising such a topical component as “wine recreation”, which aimsat a moderate wine consumption. We also discussed those brightemotions and unforgettable impressions that a wine trip provides. Imyself observed when I recently conducted an excursion to a winery, how people relaxed and distracted themselves from the news,stayed without the Internet, but with a glass of excellent wine inthe middle of the endless steppe. They returned home completelydifferent – with a thirst for life and new ideas. Therefore, I believethat our cause is very important.For the sake of safety in Odesa, tastings and wine festivals are heldin the Odesa catacombs. The war forced us to take such unusualmeasures. And all the wineries included in our routes continue towork – despite everything.

…This year was sunny and raw materials have good potential. As for the energy of the war, let’s see if it was transferred to wine. In these difficult times, we support each other. And the whole world supports us. I am very grateful to our partners. We could have left the project, but the partners declared with one accord: “You should stay with us.” And we proved that Ukrainians are stable in everything, both in war and in work.

All wine travel lovers are in for a surprise: several of the world’s leading specialized institutions, including the Odesa National University of Technology (ONUT), have taken part in a 26-month project implemented within the framework of the Joint Operational Programme Black Sea Basin 2014-2020, Promotion of the Black Sea Region as a Wine Tourism Destination […]

Nina Basset: “Hotelier is something that I still identify as being because it’s shaped who I am and what I’ve done”

Nina Basset, FIH Hotelier, Mentor, Co-Founding Trustee and Chair of the Gérard Basset Foundation, Co-Founder and Vice President of the UK Sommelier Academy, kindly agreed to share her experience in the hospitality and wine industries. In her interview with Oleksandra Hryhorieva, Drinks+ Editor and Project Lead of the Wine Travel Awards, where Nina became a judge, she also talked about activities and projects of the Foundation. This is a longread that may give you some insights and incentives to act.

Dear Nina, on behalf of the whole WTA team, I would like to express our gratitude for joining the pool of judges of the WTA second edition. We perceive this as a kind of feat for the sake of our project because we know what an incredible workload you have. And the first question will relate to the order of job titles you mentioned in your bio. Why did you not choose “Co-Founding Trustee” or “Chair” of famous and solid organisations but rather “seasoned hotelier” to put in the first place in your resume?

Seasoned hotelier, it’s what I’ve been doing for the last probably 30 years. I entered the hospitality business when I was very young and so hospitality to me has always been a huge part of my life and also Gérard’s life when he was alive. Hotelier is something that I still identify as being because it’s shaped who I am and what I’ve done. And then within that, obviously, I’ve also mentored people. Then as time has progressed and life has changed, the setting up of the Foundation has become something very important for all sorts of reasons, one of which is because my son, Romané who’s also a co-founding trustee, and I wanted to ensure that Gérard’s legacy and memory was continued. And we wanted to focus on something that was very important to him, which was education and mentoring. So, the foundation is very much set up to help support young people who are wanting to come into the drinks, wines and spirits or hospitality industries, but cannot see a way to do so. It might be through inclusivity issues or diversity issues or economical or ethical reasons. And so we tried to make their path into the industry easier through funding educational programmes, through helping them with internships, through helping organisations as well as individuals to fund education programmes. It’s become something that’s very dear to our hearts because we know that Gérard would have been very proud to have his name associated with such a foundation.

Please, tell us about the Spot in the Woods project, it probably occupies a special place in your life. If I’m not mistaken, you started it with Monsieur Gérard. In one of his interviews to our media he talked about a small but elegant hotel in Hampshire called TerraVina (which was later conceptually changed to Spot in the Woods), where some of his and your dreams were to come true. I read later that the hospitality there is so thought out down to the smallest detail that rubber boots for walking in the forest and reading glasses are offered if you forgot yours at home. And the restaurant and wine list are outstanding. Is this about the same hotel?

TerraVina was the hotel that Gérard and I set up after we’d sold our original hotel business, which was called Hotel du Vin. And we had Hotel TerraVina for approximately 15 years and it was very much a wine focused hotel. When Gérard became ill and was unable to be at the hotel as often, we decided to change the style of the hotel. It wasn’t so wine focused because obviously people were coming to TerraVina hoping to see Gérard and when he wasn’t there, it was a disappointment to them. So, instead we changed its concept to a boutique bed and breakfast with a deli and a lifestyle store and less focus on wine. Consequently, we changed its name and we had that business for two years and during those two years, Gerard was very poorly. So when Gérard subsequently passed away, I made the decision to sell the business altogether. We no longer have the hotel Spot in the Woods. So, I guess I’m a retired hotelier.

Nina Basset

In fact, behind you as a professional is a whole series of projects in the field of hospitality – Hotel du Vin, Hotel TerraVina, Spot in the Woods. Did you receive an education specifically as a hotelier? Can you tell us about the origins?

Yes, I went to a hotel school. I left school when I was 16. How it works in England is you take exams called, well, in my day they were O levels, but now I think they are GCSEs. And then often people stay on at school and do A levels and then they go on to university. However, when I was 16 and having taken my O levels, I decided that I didn’t want to take A levels or go to university. I wanted to go to a hotel school and do four years of hotel training to become completely focused on a hotel industry career. And I remember my headmistress saying to me: “Why are you doing that? You’re clever and you could do all sorts and why would you want to leave school and become a waitress?” I was so horrified by her attitude that I was determined that I was going to prove her wrong and create a career within hospitality that I would be proud of and that ultimately would show other people like her who were small minded enough to think that it wasn’t important as a career choice. So I went to hotel school. I did four years, which at the time were diplomas, but would be now the equivalent of a university degree in hotel management.

When I left, I went to work at a hotel called Chewton Glen, having spent some time in Paris beforehand doing a work experience “stage”. It was at Chewton Glen where I met Gérard. I stayed there for a year. Then I saw an advert for a hotel and restaurant inspector. Bear in mind, I was only 21, I was very young and I thought, well, that sounds really interesting. I know I’m not going to get the job because I’m completely inexperienced, but I think it would be interesting to go and see what it’s all about and have an interview. Interview practice is never a bad thing. So, I went for the interview and there were a number of rounds of interviews and eating out in restaurants with inspectors and all sorts… And to my amazement, I got the job and so I became the youngest hotel and restaurant inspector ever. There’s never been a younger.

To become an AA Hotel and Restaurant Inspector at 21 y.o. is an incredible, truly great achievement!

Yes, and I absolutely loved it. It was an amazing experience; I met some incredible people. I did that for just shy of six years. And the reason I stopped was because whilst being an inspector, Gérard and myself and my former boss from Chewton Glen, and at the time, Gérard’s current boss from Chewton Glen, Robin Hutson, had decided that we wanted to co-found a hotel – Hotel du Vin. It was difficult. I couldn’t really be involved in being an hotelier and being a hotel inspector. It was a conflict of interest. So, because the Hotel du Vin needed my help and support at the setting up time, I stepped away from being an hotel and restaurant inspector and became a proper hotelier. That’s sort of how it all started. And then we went on to have a number of hotels before we sold Hotel du Vin. And then Gérard and I never expected to redo another hotel after we sold Hotel du Vin, but we felt we had one more hotel in us. So, that’s how Hotel TerraVina came about.

Nina Basset

Over time, how did this activity combine with the wine industry in your life? Was it as unexpected as for Gérard, who went to a football match, and got into the world of wine and for all life?

When I met Gérard, I had already an interest in wine before I met him. And in fact, when I’d gone to hotel school, I had toyed with the idea of slightly changing specialisation and becoming a wine buyer because I enjoyed wine and I liked learning about it. However, I hadn’t done so. When I met Gérard, suddenly all of my holidays were spent in vineyards. And obviously he was travelling quite a lot and I was travelling with him; and he was tasting a lot, so I was helping him taste. My life became very immersed in wine, but the wine industry is a lovely industry to be involved in. So, it wasn’t a hardship.

In one of his interviews, Gérard mentioned that Burgundy was one of his favourite places to visit and he had one of his greatest wine experiences there.

Absolutely. And in fact, our son is named after a Burgundian vineyard. Our son is called Romané as in there’s a lot of vineyards with Romanée as part of their name. It’s their beginning name: Romanée-Conti, Vosne-Romanée, etc. Burgundy was very close to Gerard’s heart, as was Madeira. He loved Madeira wines. And in fact, one of our dogs was called Malmsey, after a type of Madeira wine.


This is definitely a creative approach to choosing names. At one time, you became the youngest winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Women in Business. For what merits and under what circumstances did it happen?

To be honest, it is quite a long time ago now, so I can’t remember exactly what the criteria was. However, it was one of those things that somebody had asked me, my acquaintance I knew from when I’d been a hotel inspector. She was actually a hotelier, a very young one. She’d taken over her mother’s business and subsequently she’d started a Women in Business Award. So, we tentatively stayed in touch. She then contacted me to tell me about the awards and encouraged me to be involved. And I happened to be nominated by somebody. The first year I didn’t win, but it was nice to have been nominated.

The next year, I got invited to be involved again because I had been nominated and done relatively well the previous year. I was put forward, but with no expectations whatsoever. In fact, so much so that on the night of the celebration of the awards, I couldn’t go because Gérard had a big wine event taking place at the Manoir aux Quat’Saisons with Raymond Blanc. He was doing wine dinner with Raymond, and I’d already committed to going to that with Gérard. So, I had to send my apologies that I wouldn’t be at the awards ceremony for the Lifetime Achievement. Anyway, I thought I wasn’t going to win, so not too terrible for me not to be able to attend. I sent my general manager who I didn’t think and nor did she, that she looks like me at all. She asked me: “But you know what, if I have to make a speech?” And I said: “Well, you won’t have to make a speech because I’m not going to win.” And I got a text message during the wine dinner that I had won and that my general manager just left the stage, and she did have to make a speech. Even though she told everybody that she wasn’t me and that she was standing in on my behalf because I couldn’t attend, and that she was thanking everybody who organised the event on my behalf, in the local press, it got reported that she was me and what she said was as if it was me saying it. So, I kind of felt actually that although I did win it, I didn’t really win it because actually everybody thought I was somebody else. But, it was a lovely thing to win. To this day, you know, I’m surprised I did win it because I always thought to receive a lifetime achievement award, you have to be relatively aged. However, somebody did point out once you were a hotel inspector at 20, why wouldn’t you get a lifetime achievement award at 40.

Gérard Basset Foundation

It is well deserved, Nina. Now let’s discuss your current position. If I am not mistaken, you are the vice president of the Academy of Food & Wine Service. Please tell me about the activities of this organisation, its geographical scope, goals, as well as your responsibilities there in particular.

No, it is not totally correct. So, the Academy of Food & Wine Service was something which Gérard was very involved with for a lot of years. It was an important organisation that supported and championed sommellerie and hospitality within the UK. However, in recent years it did become a little bit lost in terms of activities. There wasn’t a lot happening within it. As a result, a lot of the people had stepped away from it. Gérard obviously had passed away. It had been taken over by people whose intentions were very positive. But unfortunately, it wasn’t the most important part of what else they did. So, it sort of slipped by the wayside, really.

The president, Nicolas Clerc, as was then, was a young chap who I’ve known for a very long time and who Gérard was very fond of. He called me up and he said: “Look, you know, the Academy is a bit of a lost, and it’s not really doing anything. I’d like to recreate something better, more innovative, more exciting for the young sommeliers within the UK because the Academy of Food & Wine Service was not really doing it for them.” And I thought it was a great idea, so I agreed to help him.

The Academy of Food & Wine Service is no longer active. It’s not affiliated to the ASI because we’ve recreated something new and fresh and exciting. And that’s called the United Kingdom Sommelier Academy that is now affiliated to ASI. This is very important because it means that within the UK by being affiliated, anyone who wins the UK Sommelier of the Year automatically becomes part of the ASI organisation and can compete in European competitions, ASI World Champion competitions, should they be eligible and at the level to do so. I’m Vice President of the UK Sommelier Academy, which has replaced the Academy of Food & Wine Service. And whilst we’re very fledgling, we have exciting plans. We have just held the United Kingdom Sommelier competition a couple of months ago. And we hold examinations in affiliation with the ASI certification and diplomas for a number of students we mentor. I’m in London for three days next week doing some training sessions with eight sommeliers to help them with competition preparation and so on. So, it’s an exciting involvement and I would say for me it keeps a connexion with sommellerie and wine, but it’s a connexion which is very enjoyable, not just because of my connexion to Gérard. I’ve been invited because of me and what I can offer, rather because who I was married to. So that’s nice.

Is the Academy open only for UK sommeliers?

The membership is predominantly sommeliers, but certainly restaurant managers, food and beverage managers, anyone really who has a food or beverage career can become involved. However, it is UK based and the reason it’s UK based is because every association within ASI in its own country has its own organisation. We work with other ASI affiliated organisations too. We’re closely affiliated to the Irish Sommelier Guild for example, but to be a member of the UK Sommelier Academy, you have to be based in the UK working within hospitality, wine or spirits business, retail or hotels or restaurants.

Nina Basset

As far as I know, you took this position at the UK Sommelier Academy in 2020, just before the pandemic, which hit this industry the hardest. How did you cope, maybe you can share some life hacks?

We worked on the project during COVID. We had endless Zoom meetings and it all was created by email and Zoom because we could not meet up. We had to postpone our sommelier examinations and the UK Sommelier of the Year competition because of COVID. In July, when we did the UK Sommelier Academy’s first competition, that was the first one in two years because of the pandemic.

Please share your thoughts on effective ways to become a true food & wine service specialist? Which global networks of educational institutions, in your opinion, are better to choose as today there is such a variety of schools, courses, academies? Where exactly did your son Romané study? He followed in the footsteps of his parents, didn’t he?

Obviously, to have a specific education within any career, whatever industry is useful, but I think for some people, it’s not necessary. Some people just don’t like studying, they don’t like taking exams. For those people a hands-on experience of learning will be what suits them better. That is why, in my opinion, to become involved in hospitality, the most important thing is you have to love people and not just because you’re going to be serving people and offering them hospitality experience, but also because you’re going to be working within a team of people. And working within that team is very important because hospitality demands an awful lot of you in terms of the hours you put in. Working within a team of people, you have to have a camaraderie. It becomes an extended family. If you don’t like people, there’s no point in it. And that’s the first really important thing.

If you can get to study and you do enjoy education and reading books and certainly travelling, I think that expands experiences which you can then bring into your hospitality career. But I think it’s even more fundamental than that if you’re going to be working in hospitality, then you have to understand what it is that as a customer is important. You have to experience being a customer at any level. It doesn’t have to be a Michelin star level restaurant. It can be at any level. You know, just being a customer in a coffee shop or a cafe is equally as important in terms of understanding what it is that people want from a hospitality experience. And that experience can be literally just buying a coffee on your way to work or sitting having a tasting menu with friends. Thereafter, obviously if you decide that there’s one specific area within hospitality, so it could be wine, it could be becoming a chef, then I think the educational aspects become more important. You can learn through doing courses, reading books and so on. Especially with wine, you have to expand your knowledge by reading about wine as well as travelling to vineyards and visiting wineries.

So, I think it’s not just one thing that makes it important. It’s a lot of little things which when you stitch it all together, make a patchwork and offer very important aspects that create the best possible way for you to progress and develop within your chosen career.


Sorry to make you recall the times when you and Gérard were together, but this is a unique figure in the history of mankind – his achievements and experience are unsurpassed. Perhaps, here it will be appropriate to offer our readers to watch a new film you initiated A Life in Wine: Gerard Basset | The World’s Favourite Sommelier | 67 PALL MALL TV. Could you comment on it and share Gérard Basset’s life and work rules. From whom did he learn the profession, how much time did he devote to work? Would it be more correct to ask if you had any rest days at all?

Thank you for sharing the link. The film came about because there’s a private member’s wine club in London called 67 Pall Mall, and they have a TV production company which became very important during the pandemic. They brought vineyard tours and tastings to their members and it’s a really good TV show. They have some great programmes on offer. They approached us and said to Romané and I that they would really like to make a documentary about Gérard and his life. We were delighted to work with them. We worked for nine months with the team and they were brilliant. They did an amazing job. The film is, I think, very watchable and very personable.

It gives a snapshot into Gérard’s determination in terms of the way he studied and the way education and travel was such a big part of what he did. For him, studying was never a chore or a challenge. It was something that he delighted in. He’d left school with no qualifications because he hadn’t knuckled down at school. He loved the idea of being with people and that camaraderie that comes from working within hospitality. Then, because he was front of house within a food and beverage environment, inevitably he became involved in serving wines. This really fascinated him. There’s so much to learn and once he opened his first wine book, that triggered his love of the subject. It was like the floodgates had opened and he wanted to learn as much as possible, however he could. Wine became his passion. However he always used to say: “I love wine, but I think in order to be a great sommelier, you have to love people more than wine.”

So, as he progressed in terms of learning and developing his own career, he realised that it was really important to take other people along the journey. He was very keen on supporting and mentoring and nurturing young people within the industry. He became quite famous for having proteges whom he gave a lot of his time and expertise to. He had people who wanted to work with him because they knew that if they worked with him, they would have an all encompassing experience of learning about wine in all different ways. And he gave them a lot of responsibility on very young shoulders, but he was always supportive. So, for example, when he had Hotel du Vin, each of his young, head somms had the responsibility for creating their own wine list for each hotel. It meant that those young people had been given a role to play and a large amount of responsibility at such a young age, they perhaps wouldn’t have been given if working elsewhere. So they felt very supported, but also encouraged. They were very loyal to Gérard. And, you know, even after we sold the hotels, all his proteges still used to come to visit and see him. They were and still are great friends of mine and Romané’s .  They still talk about Gérard with huge respect. I think that’s because they realise that with his help and support it gave them a huge chance within an industry that they were stepping into at a very young age. So, that was a very important part of Gérard’s career: not only his ability to win competitions and study and learn and gain exam qualifications, but it was also to help other people do the same thing because by doing so, it was improving their opportunities within their own careers, but also improving sommellerie as a whole within the UK.

Nina Basset

Perhaps you have a lot of business trips? Which countries could be singled out as exemplary from the point of view of enogastronomic tourism?

I think one of our favourite places to travel to at the time, it was quite a few years ago that I went there with Gérard, was California. We loved California. And in fact, at one time we had thought that we would probably leave the UK and go to work within the Californian wine industry in some way. It didn’t happen because we had Romané and he didn’t want to leave school. He was just very happy where he was. I loved the wine country, you know, Sonoma and Napa, and Gérard did too. Obviously France was always dear to his heart because he was French and the Champagne region was somewhere that we always loved to be. Equally, his sister lived not too far from the Rhone, so we often used to go to visit her too. Madeira was somewhere that was very dear to Gérard too. We loved going to Madeira and tasting Madeira Wines. Madeira and Sherry, all fortified wines, were something that Gérard absolutely loved. At every opportunity to go to Sherry or Madeira, he would jump at the chance. Certainly the marriage of all those different styles of sherries and the delicious tapas food was always something we loved. However, to say that there was a favourite region or favourite place would be difficult because it would depend on who we were with, what we were doing, whom we were having a tasting with, what the weather was like. I mean, every experience was special for one reason or another.

Probably somewhere that stands out, because it was so simple but was so beautiful, was when we were in Italy (Tuscany) one time. We were sitting right up high on a hill overlooking vineyards for as far as the eye could see. We were in a very, very simple little taverna where the Italian mama was cooking. There was no choice there. It was just the pasta that she was cooking that day. We could watch her making the pasta parcels in her kitchen. And she brought them out just with some home grown olive oil and some local cheese. And it was just the best meal, I think, that we had for a long, long time. We still used to talk about “do you remember when we went to… and that’s an amazing pasta…” So, sometimes it was the simplest things that made the biggest impact.

Nina Basset

Can you comment on how The Gérard Basset Global Fine Wine Report is developing?

That’s something which Gérard and one of his dearest friends, Lewis Chester, created before Gérard’s death. The first report came out in 2018 and they created a company called Liquid Icons together because they wanted to work together doing something involving wine, but they didn’t really know what. The Global Report was something which they thought would be interesting to do. So, 2018 was the first one. In 2019, Lewis suggested that we renamed it to The Gérard Basset Global Fine Wine Report in honour of Gérard because by then he had passed away. Lewis said: “You know, we gather all of this information from all these amazing people within the wine industry, the offices of wine, sommeliers, wine collectors, wine lovers, wine enthusiasts. Then we produce this report, but actually it could be perceived as being quite dry. We didn’t do very much with it thereafter. So, I think it would be really good if within that we asked people, well, who do you think at this moment and time of the year is making the best wine? And it’s clear for the best wine in Europe or the best wine in the Americas. We create an award and we give an award every year.”

So, here was Lewis’s idea to come up with The Golden Vines® Awards. And it’s worked very well. People think it’s great for other people to be awarded something for their hard work and effort. So, it’s made the report punchier, I think, and sexier and more interesting, more fun. On the back of that, Lewis said: “Well, if we’re going to give out an award, we ought to have an awards ceremony. So we should have the Golden Vines Awards ceremony each year. And why don’t we do a wine auction? And if we’re doing a wine auction, all of the funds should go to a charity which is then set up in Gérard’s name.” And because previous to that, Romané and I had set up various awards which we needed to have an umbrella that they were all within. Lewis suggested: “We need a foundation and we need to have a remit that is really impactful. I think diversity, inclusivity is something that we need to be addressing within the wine industry.” And Romané and I agreed. If we set up the Gérard Basset Foundation, everything can come under one umbrella. And then if we raised funds within the auction of The Golden Vines® Awards ceremony, that would then be given to the foundation. We can do great things with it. And that’s how, through just the Global Fine Wine Report, how everything else started. Working with somebody like Lewis is incredible because he has an idea and then he runs with it and it gets bigger and bigger and more amazing. So the impact is huge, whereas Romané and I had ideas that were so little. I know Gerard would be so proud of Lewis for what he has created and achieved and all in Gerard’s honour.

We didn’t ever envisage that what would happen has happened, but it is thanks to Lewis driving it forward.  Obviously we’re thrilled that we’ve now got all of these scholars throughout the world and 16 grantees (to date in 2021/2) around the globe who we’re helping and all connected with wine, spirits and hospitality. I think Gérard would be thrilled and humbled to think that his name has been put to something that’s so important for the wine industry.

Nina Basset

To the attention of our readers, the next Golden Vines® Awards ceremony was scheduled for October 14-17 in Florence, where the auction raised over £1.1million for the Gerard Basset Foundation. Talking about the incredible Fine Wine, Rare Spirit & Experience 2022 auction, what do you think will be the standout drinks featured there?

Lewis works very hard all year collecting the auction lots and he has an amazing network of people that he asks to be supportive and they all are enormously supportive and generous. The thing that’s very important for us is that it’s not just about being able to buy fine and rare wines, because if you’re very wealthy, inevitably you can afford to buy such wine. Often what you can’t experience is a specialness of having something else added on, which is what the auction aims to do, is that each individual auction has an experience within it, which is more than just buying amazing wine. That could be lunch with a winemaker, staying overnight at the winery. And sometimes these wineries don’t open their doors to the public, but somehow Lewis manages to get them to do so. So I think it’s the experience of the auction, which makes it special, besides from the fact of the wines that are on offer. And in this year’s auction, there are 107 lots, which in itself is amazing. Some of them go from a starting bid of as little as £500, right up to as much as over £100,000. And they’re all very varied and very different, but each one of them is unique and super special. As with much of what we do within the foundation, it’s all been enabled by Lewis and his incredible and tiny team, within the Liquid Icons, Lewis works so hard to offer such amazing and unique auction lots and the team work so hard to ensure the Golden Vines events are a huge success. It’s incredible. So there’s not one that is more special than another, they are all super special and very diverse.

Do the raised funds go exclusively for scholarships? Or do you invest in other projects?

All of the funds that are raised are donated to the foundation. For example, last year we raised just a little under £1.3 million. And with that money, we were able to fund all sorts of scholarships. Then we have our headline scholars for the Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships, which last year we had two master of wine students, this year we’ll have three (two Masters of Wine and one Master Sommelier student). They each get awarded £55,000, which pays for their fees for their Master of Wine or Master Sommelier courses and help with their studying and their travelling to various places. Besides, they have an internship programme which includes more than 35 different wineries around the world that they have the opportunity to work within. And again, sometimes they’re internships which ordinarily wouldn’t be able to be offered because they are at wineries where internships are not usual, but they’re opening their doors specifically for Golden Vines scholars. Last year, we had two further scholars who didn’t receive internships, but they had their study fees paid. One was for MS and one was for MW. This year,  we have four Dom Pérignon scholars, which will have the same arrangement. Their fees will be paid, but there’s no wide ranging internships. We have a Hennessy scholar, specific to Spirits with a bursary and a 12 month internship with Hennessy. We have five Artémis Domaines scholarships. These have an internship of up to six months and €20,000. In addition to the other scholars that we have, we also had ten Wine Scholar Guild scholars last year and we’ll have ten this year too.  We also have further scholarships to be announced in the coming months, based within both wine, spirits and hospitality

Then we also have our global funding grantees, of which there are currently 16 of them around the world, and that’s within five different continents. Some examples being, the Pinotage Youth Development Academy set up in South Africa. We have a programme working with indigenous people of Australia within Adelaide University. We have a similar project working with indigenous people of Canada in Okanagan. We have a project working with disabled people within a hospitality and wine focused environment in America. So it’s very diverse.

Nina Basset

We recently wrote, in particular, about the establishment of The Artémis Domaines Golden Vines® Victims of Conflict Charity scholarships. Who won it this year, were there Ukrainians among them?

These scholarships are granted for victims of conflict from anywhere in the world. In addition to that, we have something which we’re quietly doing in the background, where we’re funding people who are specifically impacted by what’s happening in Ukraine and Russia. Some of them are displaced, we’re helping them by paying for educational programmes such as the WSET courses and/or English courses. Some of the people that we’re helping are Russians who have left Russia because they don’t agree with the political situation and have lost their careers. And others are Ukrainians who have had to flee Ukraine. And that’s something that is in addition to the scholarships – we’re helping a number of people in that way.

Could those people contact you directly? Or what channel of communication did you choose?

Yes, we reached out to the Ukrainian Sommelier Association and various other Ukrainian contacts that we had. We showed what we had available and we’ve had a number of people reach out to us directly too. Various people came to us via having contacted Jancis Robinson and Ian Harris, retired CEO of the WSET, both of whom are trustees of the Foundation, and explained their situation. Jancis passed and Ian then on the details and we all agreed we had to offer help and support. Obviously, we want to help as many people as we possibly can, with some restrictions because of the finances that we have available. That is why this year we hope that the auction will raise even more funds and then we’ll be able to help even more people.

Nina Basset

Let it be so. Are you familiar with the wines of the countries of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus – Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia? Have you been to any of the countries?

I haven’t visited many of them. Gérard did. Gérard loved Georgia and Ukraine. I’ve tasted the wines of Georgia, specifically orange wines, and I like them very much. And it’s an area that I think I would love to travel to more. The last few years, obviously, travelling to wine places has been difficult because of COVID. However, now the world is opening up and it would certainly be somewhere that I would love to be able to go and visit. Some of the wines that are coming out of such countries are really interesting and have great potential to stand with their heads held high on the world stage.

I hope you will be able to visit Ukraine one day. Thank you very much for your time.

Thank you very much for inviting me. And, you know, I’m thrilled to be involved in the judging with WTA also.


Nina Basset, FIH Hotelier, Mentor, Co-Founding Trustee and Chair of the Gérard Basset Foundation, Co-Founder and Vice President of the UK Sommelier Academy, kindly agreed to share her experience in the hospitality and wine industries. In her interview with Oleksandra Hryhorieva, Drinks+ Editor and Project Lead of the Wine Travel Awards, where Nina became a […]

Salome Lomsadze: «You can’t produce wine and not think about beauty, nature, people…»

Drinks.ua and winetravelavards.com columnist talked to Salome Lomsadze, Commercial project manager, a representative of the young generation of top management of the unique Shumi Winery complex. Believe us, they had something to talk about!

Let’s start with the fact that your winery, located in Georgia, the country where winemaking dates more than 8 thousand years, became the winner of the Wine Travel Awards in the Magnet of the region category. And in such a region, such a title is worth a lot. In addition, we know that back in 2019, the territory of the Shumi complex was recognized as the most beautiful in Georgia!

Regarding participation in the WTA, Shumi Winery became the record holder among the nominees, being nominated for nine different categories and conquering all of them during the public voting stage. Also, a significant part of the international judges in the second round of evaluation of the nominees gave the Shumi complex the highest scores and literally a few points were not enough to win in several more categories! Congratulations on your victory!

Thank you! In turn, I want to thank your company for the excellent organization of the Wine Travel Awards, which met all expectations. It is a pleasure to be your partner. Based on my experience in holding corporate events related to tourism, I can say that everything went at a very high level of understanding of how it should be launched and organized. I have worked with organizations from different countries, and I want to note your comprehensive and forehanded approach – everything from PR and marketing to the organizational part, logistics, communications and certificates, and how all this was presented – a clear and correct “packaging” of the WTA.

Thank you for the kind words about the Wine Travel Awards and the work of our team, we hope that our cooperation will be developing in the future. We would like to learn more, and tell our readers, about Shumi Winery. Let us start with symbols. What does the name «Shumi» mean and why is the company’s emblem depicting a griffin?  

Everything is simple here: the word «shumi»  in the ancient Georgian language meant «the best of wines». The one that we call exclusive, premium in the modern world – that is to say, a product of the highest quality. This is both our name and our principle: to create wines of the highest quality, and we have been following such a principle for the past 25 years. It should be emphasized that it was no coincidence that the Faskundzhi griffin became the symbol of Shumi Winery: this is a character from Georgian mythology. According to the ancient legend, it was he who brought to the people the first bunch of grapes, which gave rise to the cultivation of vineyards and winemaking on our land.

 Salome, how did Shumi Winery start? You are a representative of the younger generation, but you are certainly aware of this amazing story. The founders immediately placed a bet not only on the production of wine, but also on tourism, or did the understanding of the importance of this vector come with time? In your opinion, what has led Shumi Winery to such a bright success: tourism or wine? 

You are right: initially the bet was placed on both production of wine and tourism. I think that in our case, we should not separate these concepts. Certainly, the first vineyards had been planted, and thereupon production was launched; already in 2002, Shumi was the first in Georgia to open the doors of its tourist complex, where guests can find more about the wine culture, specifically, they are able to visit the wine museum, participate in wine tastings, harvesting, and various culinary master classes. All this was done to show to the whole world the potential of Georgian wines and reveal the magic potential of our autochthonous varieties. Due to this assignment, we have created a company incorporating viticulture, winemaking, and tourism

It is not a secret that in Georgia, people are very passionate about winemaking. For example, if we talk about our winery in Tsinandali, I should say that almost everyone who lives in these places is directly connected with the production of wines. Our employees give much care and love to their work, thus helping us achieve our goals. Our success is directly linked with the fact that Shumi Winery treats our traditions with care and love, all employees share these values, and hospitality is an integral part of Georgian culture. This is the approach we are resorting to, when creating products – be it wine, excursions, master classes or events for guests.

Tell me please, Salome, whether Shumi Winery employed foreign specialists or relied exclusively on the wisdom, love for winemaking, and the experience gained by the Georgian winemakers.

Since 2005, we have been cooperating with the famous French winemaker Jean-Michel Ferandet. Since the very first day, Jean-Michel has been admiring the unique terroirs of our vineyards, local autochthonous varieties, and particularly, the Saperavi variety, and he believes that the 21st century, on a global scale, belongs to the Saperavi variety. The French winemaker generously shared his knowledge with our winemakers. Giorgi Khatiashvili, who is now very famous in Georgia and has been working with us for more than two decades, was among his students. Incidentally, I presume that such loyalty and stability of personnel is also an indicator and guarantee of our company’s success.

According to the statistical data, for many winemakers, wine tourism is becoming the leading vector, and for some wineries, income from tourists prevails over the sale of wines outside the winery. How is your company doing? Are there any statistical data available for this area? 

Shumi Winery is a major producer, and, undoubtedly, retail sales constitute the main source of income. Such wine production volumes intended for export can hardly beat the tourism proceeds.

The tourist complex is our soul, a kind of window through which we communicate with the world and show our essence to our guests, wine lovers. Here, we talk about the intricacies of contemporary wine production and the ancient technology of qvevri, about the varieties and types of wines, as well as our collection of vineyards, harvesting methods, and scientific work that is being carried out. As concerns the statistical data, the retail sector represents the main part of income, tourism is rather a method of promoting wines, a certain point of communication between the consumer and the brand. The point, where a special kind of loyalty is being developed. 

Our business related to the winery has two vectors: distribution, and wine and gastronomic complex. All these [vectors] exist simultaneously, but the tourist complex can be built without a winery. For us, the most important thing is wine. 

The tourist complex, which opened its doors in 2002, has already won more than one international award. The same can be said about the Shumi wines, which are annually awarded a bunch of medals at various competitions. Please tell us in more detail, what kind of an enogastronomic complex Shumi has.

Given our DNA, it was a natural decision to create such a platform where we present the culture of winemaking and viticulture, the culture of hospitality. The tourist complex and the winery are located in the village of Tsinandali, Kakheti, a territory awash with history, which at various times belonged to the Georgian and Kakhetian kings, the family of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze. However, when we bought the land, there was – and you won’t believe it – a garbage dump and a swamp. In addition, there was practically no soil – it was once washed away by the river and only bare stones remained. It took a lot of effort to put everything in order, drain the wetlands and clear the area. We imported land, cultivated vineyards, and orchards. It should be emphasized that we consider protection of nature and improvement of the land as one of our priority tasks. You can’t produce wine and not think about beauty, nature, and people… 

It will not be an exaggeration if I say that guests visiting us are immersed into the Georgian culture of winemaking. Everyone can visit the Vine Museum, the Wine Museum, the Georgian Ethnographic Pavilion, where we organize master classes in cooking, bread baking and tasting, crushing grapes in a three-hundred-century-old solid wood wine press, distilling chacha, etc. Our marani wine cellar, where qvevri wines are produced, also attracts tourists. No wine collector or connoisseur would skip a visit to the Shumi Winery enoteca, where the very first releases of wines from our winery are presented. A beautiful garden with flowers and rare plants, a sculpture park, gastronomic zones, where you can taste a lot of delicious things – all this ensures that a visit to Shumi would leave no one indifferent. Guests are happy to share on social networks their videos from various master classes, and events that we celebrate. 

In the tourist complex, there is a great diversification of the services offered. For example, there are many offers for local residents who come just for relaxation during the weekend, some guests would order banquets: with a traditional toastmaster, and the noise of many voices. We organize a large number of events for foreigners who want to get to know Georgian culture better. In addition, we often hold events for the wine industry professionals, who want to learn more about our production. 

Generally speaking, Shumi Winery opens up for its guests the Georgian culture: famous Georgian artists, musicians, singers, and dancers give their performances here. I recall that once our team of journalists, at the invitation of your director, participated in a supra feast and enjoyed wines, dishes, dances, and male-voice polyphony. Please tell us about the events and festivals that are held at Shumi Winery. Are there any international events of such kind, attracting influencers from all over the world?

The most significant festival, which is loved by both Georgians themselves and guests from different countries, is Rtveli, which is a grape harvest festival in Georgia. From September to mid-October, our guests participate in the grape harvest and the production of wine according to ancient technology. Accompanied by the performance of our ensemble Shumi – with traditional Georgian polyphony – the guests are participating in grape-stomping (crushing grapes with their feet) in the ampelographic pavilion. A special energy, and friendly, unifying atmosphere reign at the festival. The guests are cooking churchkhela, khachapuri together, raising glasses, and saying toasts; to cut a long story short, they become one big family celebrating a wonderful holiday

This year, we are preparing special events, surprises, and gifts for guests for the Rtveli festival. Our sculpture park will also be replenished with a new collection, where the works of Zurab Tsereteli, Merab Merabishvili, Gia Japaridze, and many other masters are collected. 

Superb! We will be waiting for your video from this anniversary celebration, which – we hope – you will share with the Wine Travel Awards community?! Which exhibits of the Wine Museum are you most proud of? 

I would like to emphasize that our museum is the first Wine Museum in Georgia. The oldest artifacts are over 6000 years old. I am particularly fascinated by the qvevri wine vessel, which is 3200 years old. It was collected from fragments, and we revealed an amazing ornament. How much love was contributed into this vessel by the master who created it! Even despite the fact that no one was supposed to see this ornament, because qvevris are buried into the ground. This is an amazing story about harmony, the person’s desire to pass on the love for his work, his skills, to the next generations: both due to the vessel contents, and through the ornament, the harmonious form of qvevri

This sincere Georgian feast is famous all over the world – I mean supra, which is led by a toastmaster like a well-coordinated choir is managed by a conductor. How is this skill taught at the School of Toastmasters, available in Shumi Winery? I simply can’t imagine how one can create a manual on such a subject? Who are the teachers and students, and how long does the course take

The School of Toastmasters is obviously not an educational institution in the conventional sense. This is an introduction into the art of toastmaster in a broad sense, and primarily, through practice)). Since our enogastronomic tourist complex is dedicated to the culture of Georgian hospitality, we cannot help but introduce our guests to the supra, a traditional Georgian feast. Should I mention here that the theoretical part takes minimum hours of the program? We just create a festive atmosphere for the Georgian feast. The school of toastmasters is an integral part of the Georgian tradition, and during the supra feast, we explain (and show in practice!), what toasts, in what sequence and how, are pronounced; what actions should accompany making such toasts (this is a musical accompaniment), and many more various particularities. For example: who should get up when making a toast, who and when has the right to say it, how we are clinking glasses, what toasts we are saying, in whose honor, etc.

Tell us more about the Shumi School of Wine, what and how it teaches. Is there a Faculty of Tourism available at the School? 

The School of Wine is a professional school based on our production facilities and ampelographic collection vineyard. It is the largest private vineyard in the world with over 1,300 grape varieties. We educate everyone who is related to viticulture and winemaking. We are talking about the agrotechnics of grapes, including bio- and biodynamic methods of growing grapes. We teach how to make wines, including theoretical and practical aspects. Both wine lovers and those who consider wine to be their life’s work, show great interest in our school. Before the quarantine restrictions, we had achieved a very good performance. We are currently in the process of restarting. There is a well-established training system, but we want to add online lectures that were introduced during the pandemic. In addition, the market has been updated, and new topics have emerged. We can say that now, we are searching for  new ideas. Incidentally, our school does not have a faculty of wine tourism, but I would like to thank you for this idea – I like it! We have a lot of developments in this regard, interesting cases – and we are ready to share them with those who want to organize tourist activities at their wineries. 

Are there any tours included in your offer? If so, to which regions, to which attractions? For example, due to the visit to Shumi Winery, we once observed the Kindzmarauli microzone for the first time, and were guests at a very simple but unforgettable supra in the vineyard…

Right you are, in addition to the work of the tourist complex, which was presented at the WTA, we also organize feasts and picnics directly in the vineyards, in the same Kindzmarauli microzone: it is renowned for simply amazing nature and unforgettable views. We are open for cooperation with agencies, we can provide a platform, catering or organize a helicopter tour around Kakheti, share our contacts, and give recommendations. If our guests choose a location, they set up a tent on their own, whereas we organize catering, wine, drinks, render assistance in maintaining the concept of such celebration with relevant master classes, and reflect such a concept in our menu, drinks. We resort to an individual approach towards organization of each event. 

We know that the company is not living by tourism alone. In 2020, Shumi Winery was recognized as the best wine producer in Georgia at one of the most prestigious competitions in the world – MUNDUS VINI Grand International Award! What are your company’s particularities that have enabled you to attain such results? 

I can say that a complex of components has led us to the success of Shumi Winery products. First things first, from the very day of foundation, we have been striving to apply the world’s best international experience in wine production practices. 

From the very beginning, we were focused on everything related to classical international business standards – both in terms of safety and quality. Applying the international practices since 2005, we receive all necessary international certificates. We produce biodynamic wines and work to ensure that the technologies we use in production are not harmful to the environment. After all, viticulture and winemaking are inextricably linked with the entire ecosystem.

Since its establishment, the company has been focused on the production of a full cycle: this is also an important component that helps us produce high-quality wines. 

A major role in our achievements is attributable to the unique microzones, in which our vines grow. All of them, like the appellations of France, differ significantly from one another in terms of their soils, conditions in which grapes with different technical characteristics are growing. The unique terroirs of Mukuzani, Tsinandali, Kindzmarauli, Khvanchkara are simply precious lands, where grapes have been grown, and wine produced for thousands of years. In addition, the main part of what we produce includes wines from local autochthonous grape varieties. 

In our ampelographic collection vineyard, a huge number of scientific experiments are being conducted. We are studying the potential of vines and current technologies for working with different grape varieties. It is simply impossible to emulate what we manage to attain. 

What wines and national drinks have recently replenished the range offered by Shumi Winery? Which of them are of the greatest interest to consumers, distributors, and importers?

We have a wide range of products both in the tourist segment and in wine production. We have classics: Saperavi, Mukuzani, Kindzmarauli, Khvanchkara, presented in the Shumi lines and in the premium Iberiuli line, which is distinguished due to a green harvesting method. In addition, we are all passionate about our exclusive line, where ZIGU has a special place. I have not yet met a single specialist at various tastings who would not be surprised by this drink, created out of grapes from our ampelographic collection vineyard and having no analogues in the world. We also have a unique qvevri sparkling wine called Brut Natur “Shobili”, which is produced according to the classic champagne method. And I would certainly like to distinguish the brandy Griffin, which is filled into a porcelain vessel having the shape of “Griffin” – a work of art by the great Georgian sculptor Merab Merabishvili.

In addition, we make exclusive drinks from the grapes of the collection vineyard, and the latter serves as a basis for scientific works. For example, we have revived the Simonaseuli grape variety and produce wine bearing the same name. In the near future, we hope to impress you with other rare Georgian grape varieties.

Goodness me, we didn’t even know this was possible! I really want to visit you again and see with my own eyes how these wonderful drinks are made. 

Well, we do have something to impress even the most sophisticated individuals! I would also like to distinguish Barbale ice wine made from 102 varieties of grapes, which are harvested at sub-zero temperatures from our collection vineyard. In addition, we produce chacha, brandy, and exclusive drinks from Saperavi. This is a super potential grape variety that never ceases to amaze the wine experts. We adhere to strict technologies for the production of wines that can mature, age, and get aged in bottles for a long time. We also have such unique wines as “Genesis”, created from the most ancient vine in Georgia, which is about 300-400 years old. It does not bear fruit every year, so this drink is particularly valuable. I would also like to mention Lazare wine, created from more than 450 grape varieties and presented in hand-painted bottles. At the current stage, we are updating the IBERIULI line: we have done restyling and new labels. It should be pointed out that all these areas are developing simultaneously. 

In addition, we continue to carry out our scientific work, conduct experiments, and create new drinks. Now, we have more than 30 ancient unknown varieties planted in our vineyard, which we have saved and revived, and our ampelographic device has not even established their names yet. We want to evaluate their potential and create wines from these varieties in the future. 

I happened to come across a tasting commented by Andreas Larsson on the Internet, which was related to Salome Premium 2014 wine. I dare to assume that the coincidence of your names is not accidental. Tell us more about this wine and this vintage, please. What was the release, is it possible to buy it today, with a lapse of 8 years, and where? What condition has it acquired?

Right you are – the coincidence is not accidental, but it would be immodest of me to tell this story. Salome wine is the first Georgian bio and biodynamic wine. It has been produced since 2005 using exclusive technology, in limited quantities. Salome is harmoniously developing in the bottle, and can age beautifully for 25 years. 

What channels do you prefer to affect sales: retail, HoReCa, duty free? What percentage of the total volume is attributable to the sales at the winery?

Shumi Winery is a large-scale production, and our products are supplied to the markets of more than 30 countries around the world. According to the business model, we work with HoReCa through distributors available in our country. We are dealing with the duty-free segment directly. However, the main share of income is resulting from retail. There is also a store in the tourist complex, but it represents a disproportionately small sales volume when compared with international distribution. 

Thank you, Salome, for an incredibly interesting conversation. Even for us, who are well aware of Shumi’s advantages, many things were just a revelation! And consequently, even new ideas emerged)). We are confident that having become the winner of the Wine Travel Awards, Shumi Winery, in collaboration with our media group, will be able to surprise the global wine community more than once. You already have everything required for this!

D+ Files 

The Shumi Winery complex is located in the famous region of Georgia – Kakheti, in the village of Tsinandali. These lands once belonged to the Georgian and Kakhetian kings, the family of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze. We can confidently state that all of the most iconic values ​​of Georgian culture are collected here. Shumi Winery includes 38 locations: the world’s largest vineyard with a private ampelographic collection, the first Wine Museum in Georgia, a sculpture park, a marani cellar with a tasting room, an enoteca, an ethnographic pavilion with a bakery, a winery, space for culinary master classes, and much more.

Drinks.ua and winetravelavards.com columnist talked to Salome Lomsadze, Commercial project manager, a representative of the young generation of top management of the unique Shumi Winery complex. Believe us, they had something to talk about! Let’s start with the fact that your winery, located in Georgia, the country where winemaking dates more than 8 thousand years, […]