[Image of ancient amphoras borrowed from GeorgiaToday Website.]

I remember, when I was a child, my Aunt Edith went to Russia. This was during the Cold War; and my aunt, being a registered nurse, got onto some junket. If I had arranged for such a thing, my FBI file would have grown substantially. (We all have one, if we lived through the Summer of Love, right? There’s no sense thinking that we don’t.)

My aunt came back enthralled with St. Basil’s Cathedral. Honestly, I find images of this landmark remarkable. I’m fascinated with the Russian nesting dolls, and frankly love anything that has to do with foreign countries as a general rule. I was one of those students who aced my way through geography classes, and lived with my nose buried deeply in National Geographic books… still loving them today. The world is our oyster, and exploring is a passion of mine.

So, to be given an opportunity to speak to a group of Eurasian delegates at the Hampton Inn in Windsor was an exciting concept, and a truly great experience. Now, I want to learn as much as I can about wines from this region. After my seminar, I was approached by many of the delegates.

  • Iago Bitarishvili (Iao’s Wines) and Oto Sharashenidze (Pheasant’s Tears wine company from Georgian) presented a book to me entitled, Georgian Wine Guide, published by Malkhaz Kharbedia.

Patrick E. McGovern, University of Pennsylvania Museum, “Malkhaz Kharbedia has captured the wonderful allure of ancient and modern Georgia wine. Recent DNA and chemical archaeobotanical evidence increasingly pointing to this country, together with other parts of the mountainous Near East (especially eastern Turkey and northwestern Iran), as where the Eurasian grapevine was first domesticated and a “wine culture” emerged. 99.9% of the world’s wine today derives from these bold innovations in the Neolithic Near East.

I can hardly wait to begin reading it. It was Zurab Zarnardze who reminded me that wines from the Georgian region come with a 6,000 year history. I’m very much interested in the history of wine, where it originated, and what other wine regions have been born as a result of migrations. Obviously, this is a region of the earliest beginnings, and I’ll share with you when I get to bury myself in this book.

On February 9, 2012, this is the group with whom I met:

  • Wine delegates from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and the Ukraine
    • Yusif Aliyev, Azerbaijan
    • Gheorghe Arpentin, Mondolva
    • Levan Beridze, Georgia
    • Iago Bitarishvili, Georgia
    • Leia Chkheidze, Georgia
    • Tetyana Krylova, Ukraine
    • Gennaidii Kulzhynskyi. Moldova
    • Tetyana Krylova, Ukraine
    • Elena Olaru, Moldova
    • Andrey Pinkevych, Ukraine
    • Ievgenila Rodionova, Ukraine
    • Igor Samsonove, Ukraine
    • Oto Sharashenidze, Georgia
    • Nelia Sonic, Moldova
    • Adril Strilets, Ukraine
    • Kakha Tsiskarishvili, Georgia
    • Zurab Zarnadze, Georgia
  • Two interpreters
    • Dmitry Vinogradov
    • Sorry, I didn’t get the other gentleman’s name, but I can tell you this… He told me that his favorite wine is Petite Sirah, loving Bogle especially.
  • International Trade Specialist from the International Trade Administration
    • Justyna J. Kottke, who arranged this meeting with me

The group is made up of Eurasian marketing and sales directors, with a few CEOs and Executive Directors thrown in for good measure.

The SABIT (Special American Business Internship Training) Program’s Wine Marketing and Promotion session were seeking information on innovations and trends in marketing, promotion, and general management practices.

I addressed wine festivals, educational and industry organizations, marketing and social media trends, and marketing and promotion for smaller producers. What I found to be fascinating, which differs from our US marketing style, is that wineries in the Eurasian region of Europe do not embrace collective marketing. It’s a foreign idea to them. I stressed, however, that collective marketing moves any concept forward with great speed. I offered this as evidence.

  • When Diaz Communications began to promote Petite Sirah in 2002, there were 62 wine grape growers and wine producers of Petite Sirah in total.
  • In 2012, there are 162 wine grape growers and 872 wine producers of Petite Sirah. That’s a total of 1,034 grape growers and producers… versus the original 62.

I also offered the following marketing theory:

  • The power of one is the power of one squared. This equals one.
  • The power of two is the power of two squared. This equals four.
  • So… the power of my 90 members of PSILY is 90 times 90, which equals 8,100, and that was why I was standing before them on this particular day. We have become a global entity.

I explained that if they wanted to grow what they were doing, it would take changing a culture. When you think about the “Old Russia” versus today’s modern states, this is not going to be an easy task. It takes a very long time to change a culture, most especially if the culture for centuries was closed and secretive. I pointed out that Americans (fortunately or unfortunately) love gossip. We love knowing other people’s stories, and that’s what drives brand growth in the country; that writers love to get the skinny behind the brands they write about….

How these Eurasians bring attention to themselves is with telling humorous stories, especially on Facebook… While that will work on Facebook, it’s not as compelling as knowing what’s happening in the vineyards, what’s happening in the wine cellars, what the family is up to… foods they may be eating (recipes)… these kinds of things.

I can’t wait, honestly, to jump into this book, to learn as much as I can about their history; and more importantly to see how a book form this region of Europe presents itself with stories of the wine companies within its covers. They’ve definitely got some challenges ahead of themselves, if indeed telling about themselves is considered sharing internal secrets. Yes, the wine’s characters will help to sell the wine, but I reminded them that it was a character named Robert Mondavi who put Napa Valley on the world stage, not so much the wine he was producing. In my humble opinion, Robert Mondavi has had as great of an impact on the American wine scene in a positive way as did the repeal of prohibition, because he was a great storyteller. People loved being around him. He knew how to live, and shared his humanity openly and easily.

This region of Europe needs a lot of great storytellers in order to advance their cause and get the wines from their regions onto the world stage as more than an obscure curiosity, because it’s a global market and those who know how to adapt quickly with get there the most swiftly and establish that brief window of opportunity, before it all settles in for the next generation.

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