Growing wine business in Georgia creates career opportunities for rural women
Chemistry of Wine
October 15, 2019
Mariam Chichiashvili lifts two volumetric flasks as the light flickers in hearty red and amber liquids enclosed in the glass. The 23-year-old student of winemaking and viticulture at the College of Vocational Education and Training in Kachreti, has recently joined the fast-growing avantgarde of Georgian women winemakers who swiftly and effectively shutter most stale gender stereotypes.
Mariam’s homeland, the region of Kakheti, is proudly carrying the title of the world’s winemaking cradle, where vintages were produced since the times so distant as eight thousand years ago and where almost every family owns an ancestral vineyard and a wine cellar.
“To me, winemaking is a form of art, a beautiful way to express yourself,” says Mariam. “It is an interesting and profitable profession. However, it was always considered strictly men’s domain and my generation is the first to practically prove this cliché wrong.”
Originally trained as a biochemist, Mariam decided to join a short-term winemaking course at the Kachreti college, supported by UNDP and the Government of Sweden as a part of a wider effort to create equal employment opportunities for men and women.
“We are particularly pleased with the results of our vocational training programs in Kakheti and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti, where 68 percent of the 4,000 women we trained went on to find jobs”, says Louisa Vinton, Head of UNDP in Georgia.
Mariam’s background helped her to quickly obtain the qualifications in the technology of winemaking, especially in biochemical analysis of wine. She is currently practicing her skills at the Georgian National Wine Agency, working with local winemakers during the grape harvest.
“Two years ago, there were virtually no female students at the winemaking and viticulture courses. Today half of the graduates, about twenty per year, are women,” – says Tamar Getiashvili, manager of the career development at the Kachreti college. “The main reason behind this breakthrough is a sharp rise in demand for Georgian wine which made the profession popular and well-paid during the past few years. At the same time, a conventional division between man and women attributed occupations became much thinner.”
“I love to see the number of women winemakers growing. There are few very successful women - wine producers who set an example for others to follow”, says Mariam. “Winemaking is subtle chemistry that combines natural conditions with knowledge and human skill. I have personally found my true self in this profession, and I do encourage other women to try themselves,” she adds.
Mariam is confident that her future lays with growing grapes and making her own bespoke wine. “My family comes from the village of Mukuzani, a birthplace of a famous variety of red wine, which is my favorite sort,” she says. Her plans are precisely defined: first, master’s degree studies abroad to help her learn more about modern technologies. Next step: her own bio vineyard in the ancestors’ place, where she hopes to finally blend her knowledge with the chemistry of love for winemaking.
Georgia ranks 99 out of 149 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index. Women remain underutilized in the Georgian economy, especially in rural areas and underrepresented in public life – 44% of women are economically inactive and outside the labor force, of those employed - on average women earn 36% less, only 13% of local councillors are women, and the number of women in parliament remains as low as 15%.
With financial assistance from the Government of Sweden, UNDP in Georgia supports women’s entrepreneurship and engagement in public life as well as works actively to shift public perceptions on gender roles in politics and business.