Moscow Prepares to Ban Import of Georgian Wines

Amid escalating tensions between Russia and Georgia, authorities in Moscow are taking steps to ban Georgian wines, the business newspaper Kommersant reported on Wednesday.

Violent protests erupted in Georgia’s capital last week after a Russian lawmaker addressed the Georgian parliament in Russian from the speaker’s chair. On Monday, Russia’s state consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said it was introducing tougher checks on wine imports over quality concerns.

Russia’s Agriculture Ministry is now surveying retailers on the amount of Georgian wine they carry, Kommersant cited at least three unnamed retail and alcohol industry figures as saying.

The informal Agriculture Ministry surveys could be laying the groundwork for a ban on the import of Georgian wines into Russia, three of the sources said.

Several major Russian retailers told the outlet that 5 percent to 9 percent of wines in their stores come from Georgia.

Georgia was the second-largest importer of still wines into Russia in January-April 2019, said Vadim Drobiz, the head of the Research Center for Federal and Regional Alcohol Markets (CIFFRA). Overall, Georgian wines make up 7.5 percent of Russia’s alcohol sector, Kommersant quoted Drobiz as saying.

Georgian analysts said this week that the new crisis in Russian-Georgian relations could stop Russian tourist flows into Georgia and undermine the country’s fragile economy. Authorities will hardly be able to reduce the damage from Russia’s sanctions, which have been or could be introduced in the future, the analysts said.