Coronavirus: Georgia’s Centuries-Old Wine Tradition Turns To Virtual Reality

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    Winemaking is believed to have started in Georgia around 8,000 years ago. “We are a very old winemaking country,” said natural winemaker Beka Gotsadze from Gotsa Wines. “My great grandfather was also a winemaker. We like wine, we drink a lot of wine.” Now Georgia’s wine industry is facing Covid-19. Gotsadze says wine fairs have stopped and it’s difficult to find new customers. “It’s a big loss for the economy,” said Daria Kholodilina, who is a wine guide and author. So Georgia’s centuries-old wine tradition is turning to tech. “My initial idea was to create a virtual wine tour and to take it with me to international travel shows so that I would show to potential customers what is awaiting them,” said Kholodilina. Her VR tour includes a showcase of Georgian food and music. “So we started shooting it and then it was stuck in the production a bit,” said Kholodilina. “And then the lockdown came and they reached out to the guys that were making the project and they said, like, now is the time because people are sitting at home.” She says she’s had several requests for the tours in 2021. Irakli Chkhaidze, co-founder and director of 8000 Vintages, started delivering wines for free. The company created an online sommelier. And they took all photos of their wine and uploaded them on their website. Chkhaidze has been able to keep his staff and pay salaries during the pandemic. Kholodilina says wine sales have actually gone up during the pandemic. “I talked to many winemakers recently and some of them were saying that actually, their importers are buying more right now because the consumers abroad started drinking more during the lockdown during the pandemic,” she said. But they say real-life experience can’t be replaced. “It’s not shoes or trousers,” said Gotsadze. “You must drink it.” He’s optimistic. “For this moment, we have some space in the winery to keep the wines,” said Gotsadze. “And it’s good they will be aged.”

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