Russia set to resume imports of Georgian wine and water

Mon Feb 4, 2013 8:38pm EST
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By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Wine and water from Georgia should soon begin flowing back to Russia, after Moscow agreed in principle on Monday to lift an embargo in a step towards rebuilding relations shattered by their August 2008 war.

Imports of Georgian mineral water and wine could resume this spring, officials from both countries said, seven years after Russia banned two of its small southern neighbor's prized products as tension mounted before the five-day war.

Prospects of a thaw in ties between the former Soviet republics have improved since Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune doing business in Russia, became Georgia's prime minister after a parliamentary election last October.

The tycoon's rise to power comes at the expense of pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili, who lost control of parliament in the vote and is barred from running for a new term later this year in the South Caucasus nation of 4.5 million.

"We have agreed to revive our commercial relations," Levan Davitashvili, the head of Georgia's National Wine Agency, told reporters after talks with Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's consumer protection service chief.

Russian representatives will go to Georgia, possibly as early as next week, to look at the quality control system. They will also begin visiting wine and water producers that have applied for permission to export to Russia, Onishchenko said.

There are still inspections, paperwork and permits to get through, but Onishchenko made clear he expects Georgian wine and water such as Borjomi, the which had been popular in Russia for decades before the ban, would be back soon.

"I think that mineral water - I would first of all name Borjomi and Nabeghlavi - and wines from both eastern and western Georgia will be coming onto our market," Onishchenko told a joint news conference after the talks.   Continued...

Bottles of Georgian wine are seen at the Teliani Valley wine factory in the town of Telavi, some 150 km (93 miles) east of Tbilisi, September 29, 2010. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili