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A little more than a year has passed since Maxim Voloshin became the head of one of the largest wineries in Ukraine. The Drinks+ columnist asked the CEO of Cotnar what changes had taken place in the company during this period and what to expect from the renowned Transcarpathian winery in the near future.
Drinks+: Maxim, you have a new young team and I am sure you don’t just have a plan, but a long list of ambitious plans. What had to be changed in the first place?
Maxim Voloshin: The main goal is to recover Cotnar’s glory. Once it was the number one company in Ukraine in terms of sales, and a large-scale production was built for such sales. What makes me happy today is that the [production] line load is already much higher than a year ago, when I joined the company. I remember very well my first visit to the winery: I fell in love with Cotnar literally at first sight. And I was amazed at [its] potential. Virtually immediately, a strategy emerged in my head: where to move and what to strive for.
First of all, all attention and efforts were concentrated around production and launch of processes. I also needed a practically new team to implement all plans and ideas, and I particularly relied on the managers for working with partners and distributors, since some relationships required urgent rehabilitation. An important goal was to return, as much as possible, to retail so that Cotnar products could be found in any chain store. And now, we have the first results of our team’s work. Today, there is not a single region in Ukraine where Cotnar is not represented. During the year, we have expanded our product line and closed almost all possible segments, including the low-price category.
D +: What are your long-term and medium-term goals?
Maxim Voloshin: We are actively working in the export vector: the first contracts have been signed already, and soon our products will be available for purchasing outside of Ukraine. Now, we are actively negotiating with European countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, and Holland. The first contracts have already been signed.
D+: Maxim, what changes in production are we talking about?
Maxim Voloshin: Frankly, the market was lacking a good, light, pleasant wine for reasonable money. Taking that into account, we launched a new budget line of wines. And we were spot-on: the wines are in great demand and are well sold in Ukraine. Another of a series of significant changes, which had to be implemented was a change in the design of labels, and we focused on TM Cotnar. Today, new designs for Monte Cote, Cotnar Hills [labels] have been already elaborated, and we are in the process of redesigning the [label for] beloved Cotnar Gorobchiki. We are also launching a new line of Cotnar Grand Reserve within a few months and preparing new labels.
D+: Are there any plans for new blends and single-varietal wines?
Maxim Voloshin: We are planning to add new varieties, such as Zweigelt and Müller Thurgau. If they pass certification in Ukraine, we will most likely add them to our lines by the beginning of the next year. We will also expand plantings of the existing vineyards in order to increase the production of high-quality aged wines.
D+: Maxim, considering that you are launching high-level wines aged in oak: are there any plans for, or maybe there have already been, changes in the team of Cotnar’s winemakers?
Maxim Voloshin: No, we have an excellent team of winemakers. The only personnel change was that a high-class specialist in microbiology has joined us. We are the “Old School Believers” in this regard: I believe that the most highly qualified technologists in Ukraine are the specialists representing the “old school”. Naturally, such specialists are elderly people, so we are especially sensitive and appreciate our technologist Marina Stankovskaya. She is a guru, a master of her craft. And, of course, we appreciate our winemaker Geyzo Veresh, who has an absolute sense of smell and possesses a “gorgeous nose”: I don’t know, who is capable of competing with him. So our team is in full strength and on alert. I am sure that winemaking can become the most beautiful and prominent Ukraine’s trademark in the world stage. And we are already working on it!