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Gastronomy and Wine Portal

Sonal Holland: “I look forward to the day when India finds its rightful place at wine tables around the world”

The Drinks+ Editor had a talk with Sonal Holland, India’s 1st Master of Wine, experienced consultant at SoHo Wine Consultants and an expert in drinks, wines and spirits in India.


In her article for the Financial Times, renowned British wine critic Jancis Robinson said that the fact that Indian wine even exists is a miracle. However, despite serious challenges that range from an unfavorable climate to a ban on alcohol, the country’s wine industry is finally moving closer together.

India is a booming wine economy, both in terms of production and consumption. It has the potential to become a significant player in the global wine arena.

The total production of grapes is about 1.7 million tons per year, but most of it is used for the production of table grapes and raisins. Only about 10% of the grape harvest is destined for wine production. In addition, only a fraction of them come from high quality international varieties.

Considering its location, it’s hard to call India an easy place for large-scale viticulture. With latitudes ranging from 10 to 35 degrees north, the climate can be harsh, and tropical conditions mean the vines must withstand short growing seasons in addition to intense heat and unforgiving monsoon. Typical summer temperatures on the plains can reach over 47C and rainfall can be intermittent.

Fratelli Vineyards

Fratelli Vineyards

The south-western part of the country is the cradle of Indian winemaking. Most India’s wine regions are concentrated there, primarily in the state of Maharashtra but also in Karnataka. The slopes of the Sahayadri mountain range which forms the ‘Western Ghats’ have been identified as the most suitable place for viticulture, due to high altitudes and a correspondingly mild macroclimate.

Travelling to Maharashtra, we will definitely want to visit some of its most well-known wine-producing areas – Nashik, Sangli, Sholapur, Satara, Ahmednagar and Pune. And moving to the state of Karnataka, we will get to know that the best sites are situated on the foothills of the Nandi Hills on the outskirts of Bangalore.

Other notable grape-growing areas are found in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, and Jammu & Kashmir. A few areas in the north-east are also attracting attention due to their high location and cooler climates.

What do we know about Indian wine – what varieties are grown, what are the characteristics of Indian winemaking, who are the producers and to which countries it is supplied? Sonal Holland, India’s first and only Master of Wine, kindly agreed to answer these and many other questions.


“In fact, more people have been into space that have become Masters of Wine in the last 60 years. Even today, there are less than 450 MW’s across five continents…”


But first I got interested in the personal history of Sonal Holland, how she managed to get the title of India’s 1st Master of Wine and what has changed since then in this field.

Ms. Holland, could you tell us more where you studied and why you decided to enter the wine industry?

I decided at the age of 33 that I no longer wanted to work in a corporate environment as a Director of Sales at a NASDAQ-listed Fortune 500 company and instead, wanted to explore opportunities in a new industry achieving things that hadn’t been done before. The wine industry at that time, in 2007, was very nascent and wine was virtually unknown among the vast majority of Indians. There were a handful of producers making wine and limited imported wines available to a small community of affluent wine drinkers. I thought then that this could be an industry that would propel in years to come, and wine would become more mainstream like whisky and rum was in India. I decided then to professionally pursue a career in wines by embarking on formal wine studies with the aim of wanting to become India’s first Master of Wine.

Indian wines

Was it difficult for you to obtain the title of India’s 1st Master of Wine?

After a few early educational courses and concluding the WSET Diploma in 2010, I was the first Indian to be accepted on the Master of Wine program. I was so euphoric that I forgot the Master of Wine exams are among the toughest on the planet. In fact, more people have been into space that have become Masters of Wine in the last 60 years. Even today, there are less than 450 MW’s across five continents and here I was on wanting to become India’s first Master of Wine back at a time when even Italy didn’t have one and neither did China, the new superpower in the wine world. What were my chances I thought!

The next few years of preparing to become a MW were among the most challenging and arduous years of my life. At times, it even seemed impossible. As an Indian, I had very limited access to tasting opportunities or study groups and I felt alone at many times. It required a big investment of time, effort, money and commitment. I have lost count of the number of regions, wineries and trade fairs that I have visited around the world, and the number of wines I have tasted to prepare for this mammoth of an exam. I had to put the exam ahead of everything else in my life, sacrificing personal time, my daughter’s 4th birthday (which was heart-breaking), and my best friend’s wedding. Being on the MW program had completely consumed me. But I am glad that at the end, my dream of being India’s first Master of Wine was finally achieved in September of 2016.

Congratulations from the entire Drinks+ team! This is a great achievement. Moving on to the main subject of our conversation, from your professional point of view, what is the state of the Indian wine market now (what is good, what can be improved)? By whom is it represented (maybe by wine organizations, specific wineries or sommelier)?

The Indian wine market is still evolving, and consumption is growing at 14%-15% annually making wine the fastest growing beverage in India. Even up to 5 years ago, wine would not necessarily be served at weddings or house parties but now, it is always featured at large and small gatherings. Wine is now a mainstream drink and symbolised as success, celebration and romance across our media and movies.

Sula Vineyards

Sula Vineyards

India drinks 75% Indian wine and 25% imported wines although international wines are growing at a faster clip. The 3 main producers of wine, namely Sula Vineyards, Grover Vineyards and Fratelli Vineyards, enjoy nearly 70 – 80% of the consumption market share. I would love to see more brands and labels being introduced. But for this, consumption needs to grow at a faster rate. Wine is growing in popularity but due to high incidence of taxes, most of this growth is at the low-price end with importers seeking wines at Euros 3 – 5 price band. Only the most well-known brands at the premium end, sell healthy volumes. Brand familiarity is an important factor among consumers, so marketing is paramount.

The government has recently allowed digitisation of wine and alcohol by allowing retailers to operate an e-commerce business which makes the business environment very favourable for growth. Wine education through the digital medium is also on the upswing as both professionals and students are quenching their thirst for knowledge about wines by taking online courses (Sonal Holland Wine Academy saw a double digital growth in its uptake of online courses during the pandemic).

What grape varieties does India grow? What winemaking techniques are used?

India is home to a wide variety of wines made from different grape varieties: Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (France), Nero d’Avola, Grillo (Sicily) and Tempranillo (Spain). Despite the tropical climate, India actually has no problem with excessive alcohol levels and very high or very low acid levels.

Wineries are experimenting with various winemaking techniques like cold soak for red wines, skin contact for white wines, whole berry fermentation, gentler extraction methods for better tannin management, more elegant use of oak, and late harvest style.

India produces a diverse quality of wines in terms of styles. There are all kinds of white wines ranging from dry to sweet. We have red wines which are both unoaked and oaked. We have a range of sparkling wines that try to emulate everything from a more prosecco style wine to slightly more complex and deeper, richer wines. We have rose of all levels of sweetness and colors.

Sonal Holland


“It is heartening to see Indian wines winning awards at international wine competitions, getting listed at Michelin-star restaurants in London and New York; and boutique agencies like Wines in India believing in the future of Indian wines for the UK market.”


Considering the above, what are the perspectives of Indian wine on the international level?

I have been attending wine judging events and seminars internationally for the past decade. Earlier, people would be surprised to learn that India too produces wine. There was a total lack of awareness about its existence, but now, people seem more aware that India produces wine and would like to learn more about the styles, grape varieties, quality, wine making etc. I find myself being invited regularly at international forums to give a keynote address about Indian wines.

It is heartening to see Indian wines winning awards at international wine competitions, getting listed at Michelin-star restaurants in London and New York; and boutique agencies like Wines in India believing in the future of Indian wines for the UK market. At the core, wines offer a sense of discovery, learning and heightened appreciation and in this sense, every wine in the world has a rightful place as to where it belongs and who might enjoy it most. I look forward to the day when India finds its rightful place at wine tables around the world, and I am here to ensure it.


Drinks+ Files

Master of Wine Sonal Holland is India’s most accomplished beverage professional and a domain expert on the business of wines and spirits in India. An in-demand speaker, thought-leader, educator, event curator, judge, broadcaster, communicator and consultant to the Hospitality, Food & Beverage and the Alcoholic Beverages Industry. Founder of India Wine Awards and an Entrepreneur at Vine2Wine Retail business. Awarded for her pioneering initiatives in the field of wine and spirts; she has won several accolades and has been recognised among the Top 50 most Powerful Women in Indian Luxury and Top 100 Most Influential People in Indian luxury. Awarded ‘Wine Personality of the Year 2018’ by Food Bloggers Association of India.

The Drinks+ Editor had a talk with Sonal Holland, India’s 1st Master of Wine, experienced consultant at SoHo Wine Consultants and an expert in drinks, wines and spirits in India.

Stéphane Badet: «Tourism is an opportunity for wine and wine is an opportunity for tourism»

Stéphane Badet is an amazing, extremely important, and skillful specialist not only in the development of world winemaking, but also in our Ukrainian viticulture.

A French expert from Bordeaux has recently held a seminar “French experience in the wine sector: industry organization, commercialization and requirements for wine quality” for winemakers in the south of Ukraine, and Drinks+ took advantage of Stephen’s stay in Ukraine and talked to him about winemaking in general and winemaking in Ukraine in particular.

As a result of our communication, such an interesting and informative interview is released. Apart from that, Stéphane Badet is now a member of the jury of the new international Wine Travel Awards, co-organized by Drinks+ Media Group.


Drinks+ Files

Stéphane Badet is a specialist at Bordeaux Sciences Agro University (France) with a degree in Agroeconomics. The lecturer at EPL Bordeaux, Bordeaux Sciences Agro University and Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences. Specialized in wine industry management, business, marketing, and tourism for many years. Appointed by the French Ministry of Agriculture as a specialist in economic indicators and agroecology under the ministry. Stéphane has extensive experience as an expert and consultant in various cooperation programs in the field of winemaking around the world (Georgia, Ukraine, Serbia, Madagascar, Kosovo, Bolivia…) for Interco NA, French and German embassies, PNUD, FAO, etc. He is actively involved in the development of economic performance, marketing of wine tourism and agroecological transformation activities in the field of winemaking.


Stéphane Badet

Stéphane, please, tell us a little bit about yourself. How and how long ago did you step on the winemaking path? What is the focus of your main job?

I work for the French Ministry of Agriculture as a wine economist, professor of economics, management, marketing, tourism for the wine sector… and as an international expert for the state and regional authority of France, Région Nouvelle Aquitaine, specialized in economic performance and agroecological transition. I train and coach the next generations of wine managers and advise countries such as Bolivia, Madagascar, Serbia, Georgia… and Ukraine that want to develop their wine sector, with the support of France.

I am an agronomist engineer from Bordeaux, which is known as the world capital for the wine. So, when you are born in Bordeaux, you are in the wine since your birth! Wine in Bordeaux is everywhere, even downtown with monuments, wine bars, wine shops, wine tourists and the Cité du vin! There are more than 100 000 ha of vineyards around Bordeaux, more than 6 000 wineries and 60 000 people working in wine sector. Bordeaux breathes the wine. Many people in the world know the name of Bordeaux for its wine but they don’t usually know that it’s also a big and beautiful city! So, working in wine when you were born in Bordeaux, it’s a normal destiny!

Who invited you to Ukraine for the first time and with what mission?

It was in 2017, and it was the French embassy and the CCI France Ukraine. And it is the same for all the missions. I am an economist and an expert for the French Ministry of Agriculture, so I work as an official of the French state. I can also work for private companies, but my mission concerns public services and my priority target was and still is to analyse, to advise and to help to reborn, to restart, to develop the Ukrainian wine sector and all the wineries that want to take this way.

Stéphane Badet

You have been working with the wine region of Transcarpathia for several years in a row. What are some specific features of this region, to your mind?

Transcarpathia is a very different area from the other Ukrainian wine producing areas. At the same time, it is very similar of the European continental wine regions and countries, such as Hungary, Slovakia or Austria which are only few kilometres from Transcarpathia.

What potential does its wine have?

The natural conditions (soils and climate), the varieties are really the same, and the wine can be also the same and of high quality! The quality did not stop at the border!! It’s enough to taste wines from the château Chizay or from other wineries to notice it. The potential to make great wines of this area is very high, and the potential for tourism is also really very high!!

Stéphane Badet

What is missing in the region and what do you advise to pay attention to? 

Promotion, communication! Nobody knows Zakarpattia in the world, except Ukrainian and Hungarian people, which is not enough to develop a tourism sector of a region, such as Zakarpattia. So, we need to promote Zakarpattia to west-European people, and as a full destination with a lot of opportunities of amazing vacations: sport, hiking, nature, gastronomy, heritage, thermal baths… and of course wines. There is also lack of facilities: hotels, restaurants, road-signs, book-guides…

This area is very close to Lviv, a very touristic town (3-hour drive). Visitors who come in Lviv, can take a countryside break of 2 or 3 days in Zakarpattia. There is also lack of money to finance the necessary investments.

How would you comment on the high acidity of Transcarpathian wines, considering the fact there is a lot of sun in the region, and the summer is hot?

The climate is typically continental there and even with hot and short summers the terroir remains cool, particularly at night and the wines have a good acidity especially the whites. This acidity makes the wines very pleasant to drink. The global consumer demands this type of wine that is easy to drink, fresh and light. Climate change can alter everything – wines could lose this acidity and alcohol degree could increase.

Black Sea wine region

A month ago, you visited the Black Sea wine region for the first time. What are your impressions? 

It was not the first time on the Black Sea shores, I enjoyed, but it was the first time in the Mykolaiv area. I know well wines from the Black Sea (Odessa, Georgia, Russia, Moldova…) and I work with some of these countries.

What do you think, what are the prospects for the region? How did you assess the local wines – which, in principle, would be worth making in the Black Sea region?

I discovered this part of the Black Sea vineyard that I didn’t know before. There is a great potential in this part of Ukraine. There are already some very good wines such as Beykush or Slivino and many others. And some interesting and historical Black Sea varieties such as Odessa Black, Saperavi or Rkatsiteli… With a good technical management, these varieties and some international such as Syrah, Merlot or Cabernet can allow wineries to produce great and original wines to go abroad in the global market. Some wineries from the Black Sea region are already ranked. Wines are in Mediterranean style, especially reds.

This region can also produce modern sparkling and fortified wines for the global market, not of the “Soviet old fashion style”, but light, well balanced, easy to drink and dry. To go abroad, wines must be not too heavy and without a lot of sugar. A new young drinker doesn’t appreciate this type of wine anymore. This land can also produce great white and rosé wines.

The Black Sea region is still a touristic area, so wineries can develop business models with original wine tourism offer, to grab visitors they need new, local activities in the nature. With tourism, the consumer is coming to you, you don’t have to look for markets and buyers, they come to you to buy and spend money, you just should promote your destination, open your winery, and welcome people with a nice proposition during their vacations. It’s a cool way to sell wines!

Stéphane Badet Georgia


“Personally, I go to other countries such as New Zealand or Australia to analyse other technical and business models in order to come back to France with new ideas.”


And what should be paid attention to?

In the Black Sea region, we must pay attention to climate change. The climate is already warm and dry, and there is a risk to be warmer and dryer in the next years. And wines from this region could be too rich in alcohol, too heavy, not well balanced, with too few acidities, not really on the line with consumer expectations. Winegrowers and winemakers will have to be vigilant in the next years and adapt their technical managing to this risk (choice of the good grape varieties, watering…).

Stéphane, back in 2019 you planned to invite winemakers and employees of Chateau Chizay to practice in Bordeaux. Which wineries in Bordeaux do you work with? 

Thanks to my numerous students, I am lucky to be able to teach and work with many wineries in France. And as an international expert for the French Ministry of Agriculture, I work with many wineries, universities, local and national authorities all over the world. One of the specificities of agricultural education in France is that each school, whatever its level, has a winery to practice and learn in the real life and not only in the classroom. For example, in my high school, we have a total of 120 ha of vineyard around Bordeaux to produce and to train our students. I also advise some French and foreign (Ukrainian, for example) wineries especially on business, tourism, marketing, technical choices… So, everybody is welcome in Bordeaux or in another wine area. Sharing technical, business models, tourism choices is really very important to progress. Personally, I go to other countries such as New Zealand or Australia to analyse other technical and business models in order to come back to France with new ideas. We learn, we progress all our life in wine sector. Nobody can say: “I know everything about wine.” We hope to have some Ukrainian winegrowers, winemakers, and owners in the next weeks in Bordeaux to share experience and work together. Bordeaux is the world wine capital, and you can find a lot of very different technical and business models. Everyone can find what they are looking for to improve their professional skills.

Stéphane Badet


“As I always say, teaching wine in the classroom is good and necessary but teaching and training wine in the vineyard, winery or wine tasting room is better!”


What does practice mean? 

To be a good winegrower, winemaker, merchant… For all wine jobs, you need to train and practice. As I always say, teaching wine in the classroom is good and necessary but teaching and training wine in the vineyard, winery or wine tasting room is better! You need to practice in order to be a good wine professional. My students and I are harvesting, pruning, pumping, selling, sharing with consumers in our wineries.

Have you thought about sharing experience with other wineries in Ukraine as well?

When I am in Ukraine, or in Georgia, in Madagascar, it’s not to earn money, it’s to share experience and knowledge, practices… That’s why we are in Ukraine to help to reboot the Ukrainian wine sector. This is our mission with the French embassy.

Stéphane Badet Madagascar

What do you think Ukrainian wines lack in order Ukraine worthily bears the title of “Wine-making country” in the world?

To have the title of and be known in the world as a “Wine-making country”, Ukraine must produce high quality, trendy, original and ranked in the world-famous contests wines each year. Ukraine has also to promote the wine sector abroad, for example, due to its participation in all the international fairs (Vinexpo, Vinitech, Prowein, London…) and help to export wines abroad, to the EU, for instance. But it’s a long way and it must be a collective target. Probably for 10 years. At last Ukraine must be a state member of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV).

Stéphane Badet at Vinitech


“To have the title of and be known in the world as a “Wine-making country”, Ukraine must produce high quality, trendy, original and ranked in the world-famous contests wines each year.”


Stéphane, please, share the latest trends in wine marketing in France and the world with the Drinks+ readers. What is topical now?

The latest trends in wine marketing are numerous: for example, original wines, very original labels with a lot of colours, shifted messages, new conditioning such as wine in a box, in a can, in a tube… Everything looks to be possible to be different! New moments and forms of drinking wine: wine in trendy places, wine for the aperitif, cocktails with wine. New types of wines produced to satisfy new consumption tendencies, for example, wines with less alcohol or no alcohol, hand crafted wines, wines from forgotten grapes, wines with original aging places (under the sea, under the snow, in caves…). New ways to communicate about wine: wine and food (pairing), wine tourism, wineries in social networks… Old fashioned red wines aged in new oak barrels for months or years (except for the Bordeaux or Burgundy first growths) and classic labels are completely over!

Stéphane Badet


“Wines that please more a winemaker than a consumer [are unacceptable]. The best wine is the one that pleases a consumer who after the first glass wants to finish the bottle.”


What impresses you personally, and what is unacceptable for you?

All wines of all levels, all prices, and all origin in the world have my full respect if they look sincere! What is unacceptable for me is to see artificial wines manufactured in the industry or with flaws. I think also that prices in French restaurants are unacceptable, as well as frauds, counterfeits, misuse of protected brands. Wines that please more a winemaker than a consumer. The best wine is the one that pleases a consumer who after the first glass wants to finish the bottle. Wine must be a natural result of the fruit, the terroir and the winegrower’s work, with the origin guarantee. This is what the drinker should find in the glass.

Can you predict which wines, which styles and of which countries, in your opinion, will become the leaders in demand soon?

For the next 10 years, we know well the new consumption tendencies. In the next years, the new consumer will drink more “green” wines (organic, natural…), less alcoholic wines, light (0 sugar), fresh, easy to drink (for example, for afterwork), more and more sparkling and rosé wines. Reds, not too full bodied, but rather fruity, well rounded, and easy to drink wines. In restaurants, the big trend is that wine will get stronger by the glass. The consumer no longer wants heavy, too oaky, with a lot of alcohol and sugar wines.

Wine is an expensive beverage, so of course, in the next 10 years, the big markets will be the USA, the EU, and Asia (China, Japan). In the longer term, think to bet on India, other South-East countries, and some African countries. Probably, also Mexico, Brazil… All the big countries with large populations will be getting richer in the next 20 years.

Stéphane Badet with his son

What has changed in your workflow during the pandemic, what insights came to you during the lockdown?

During the lockdown, we had a lot of digital activities and courses with the students and foreign countries not to have to stop the international cooperation projects. For example, for the Chizay Academy, we made a webinar on the rosé market. I also worked in 2 wineries (Château Dillon and Giscours) with my son and some students to help them because part of staff could not work during the pandemic. I also wrote articles about the consequences for the wine market and consumption, about the current situation in post-Soviet countries and Zakarpattia. I was finally very busy, and it allowed me to do things I had no time to do in normal times!!!

Stéphane, one of the areas of your activity is food and wine tourism. What exactly do you do in this area? In what projects and in what status did you participate?

I teach and train the managers and the next managers. I advise wineries and help them to develop their wine tourism sector. I also create some original wine tourism events or propositions.

For example, at the beginning of July, I organised a show jumping in château Giscours, grand cru classé Margaux, to match wine with horse sport, with jazz concert, classic cars… (you can find pictures on my Facebook page). Or I worked with some of my master students (as a study case for them) for château Dillon (Haut Médoc), château Luchey-Halde (Pessac-Leognan) to find some original solutions to make stronger their touristic proposition.

château Giscours

Considering the situation in the world, tourism turned out to be one of the most affected industries by the pandemic. What recommendations do you have for the restoration and development of this direction in Ukraine and in the world?

Thanks to vaccination, the restart of tourism sector is currently being done in some countries, especially in the EU, and will require at least 2 years to return to the previous levels. There will be a “tourism revenge”! But you will have to be patient! In the next months, it will be necessary to target visitors from your country or neighbouring countries. Not from far abroad. We call that “nearcation” for nearby vacations. After the lockdown, people want to have outdoor, nature, sport vacations. In the wine sector, we have a lot of possibilities to answer this need, for example biking, hiking in the vineyard to discover landscapes, biodiversity… Or workshops. Cooking, pairing is another tendency we must target. Wine sector can be a winner of the tourism revenge this summer and the next year. We should grab this opportunity to develop some original trendy wine tourism propositions. Promotion and communication, storytelling and sharing experience will be also important to catch visitors.

Stéphane Badet


“Tourism is a new profit centre for wineries, a new job, a new business way to sell wines, to promote brands, and to earn money.”


By the way, Drinks+ Media Group, with the support of a number of reputable international organizations, has established a global initiative to contribute to the restoration of world wine tourism – the Wine Travel Awards. These are the awards of a new educational format. The Wine Travel Awards are focused on wine guides, ambassadors of wines and wine regions (both influencers and associations of winemakers, brewers, farmers), the Wine Routes facilities themselves – Wine Museums, wineries, restaurants, hotels and tasting rooms, distilleries, and other establishments that form tourist routes. We would be very grateful if you would comment on this project: we know that there have been many awards for a long time, including for wine tourism, or for wine bloggers, or for hotels that work quite successfully. But our main feature is to unite all wine tourism operators into a single community – from the facilities themselves, to guides and bloggers. Our goal is to give them in their hands not just prizes, but educational programs and a year-long advertisement campaign for each of them. It would be an honour for us to hear your opinion and comments.

Yes, there are many awards in many main wine countries for a long time, in France, USA… so, of course it’s a great idea! We always say to our students or to the wine owners: “Tourism is an opportunity for wine and wine is an opportunity for tourism”. Wine and tourism sectors must go together in the same way with the same goal. Develop a collective tourism game! As I said before, to develop tourism and wine tourism, you should promote destinations and to communicate with some targeted markets. So, this initiative looks to be THE GOOD IDEA for the Ukrainian wine and tourism sectors! Tourism is a new profit centre for wineries, a new job, a new business way to sell wines, to promote brands, and to earn money. So, let’s do it! My only comment concerns the targeted markets. We must make Ukraine known as a destination for the EU visitors. Many people from Italy, Germany, UK, Scandinavia, Israel… can be interested in vacations in Ukraine. Putting forward its heritage, the Black Sea, Nature, gastronomy, wines… (and even why not a Chernobyl visit) means to promote. These markets are very close, the visitors from them can be the first to come and to help (re)start the tourism sector. And to conclude, if you are looking for the jury members for the next awards, I can be one of them!

Stéphane Badet is an amazing, extremely important, and skillful specialist not only in the development of world winemaking, but also in our Ukrainian viticulture. Apart from that, Stéphane Badet is now a member of the jury of the new international Wine Travel Awards, co-organized by Drinks+ Media Group.

Giovanni Mantovani: Vinitaly 2022 for targeted and face-to-face business meetings

In his interview for Drinks+ magazine, Mr. Giovanni Mantovani, CEO of Veronafiere and Vinitaly, shared updapes on Vinitaly Opera Wine, Vinitaly Special Edition Preview and Vinitaly Special Edition, as well as the new “Vinitaly Plus” online platform.


OperaWine and Vinitaly Preview in Verona organised by Vinitaly-Veronafiere hallmarked the resumption of shows attended in-person after fifteen months of compulsory stops when only digital events could take place. What are the specificities of resuming offline activities? Did you face any difficulties with the organization or getting back in the game?

Vinitaly OperaWine and Vinitaly Special Edition Preview were the first events attended in person for the world of wine and among the first overall after more than a year of forced closures. Italy had reopened its borders only one month beforehand to allow arrivals by foreign citizens vaccinated or with a negative swab. The two events in June marked the return of producers and buyers in complete safety. Success went beyond all expectations, and it was a chance to assess the current state of markets, intercept signals and trends and reconnect personal and business relationships. Veronafiere has organized events for more than 122 years in various sectors ranging from agriculture to food and construction. It consequently has the know-how needed for organizing events and recently our strong point was the ability to adapt layout and services to meet the constantly evolving context.

In the course of these months of pandemic, we have worked alongside producers – who were no longer in direct contact with buyers – and received confirmation that business also needs socializing and that trade fairs, while embracing digital innovation, are based on personal relationships and contacts. 

Veronafiere

The Grand Tasting usually precedes Vinitaly’s inauguration day and presents some of the finest Italian wines. Who selected the wines to taste this year? And what was the criteria and procedure of the selection process?

The main objective of Vinitaly Opera Wine is to promote the high quality and variety of Italian wine. For ten years, the editors of Wine Spectator have been exclusively responsible for selecting producers and wines. Every year, wine cellars from all over Italy are invited on the basis of several criteria, ranging from historically significant producers to the protagonists of Wine Spectator’s blind tastings and realities representing specific grape or terroir. The only constraint requested by Vinitaly-Veronafiere is that every region in Italy should be represented.

After 15 months at a standstill, and on the tenth anniversary of the event, it was decided to invite not only the wine cellars of the 2020 edition postponed because of the pandemic but also the participants of all previous editions of OperaWine.

Opera Wine 2021

Mr. Mantovani, what is the audience of Vinitaly? Does it vary from event to event? Who was presented at “Vinitaly Special Edition Preview” in June?

Vinitaly is the largest international exhibition specifically for the world of wine and spirits. First held in 1967, it is scheduled every year in the Veronafiere Exhibition Centre – attracting almost 5000 exhibitors, about 15000 wine labels and tens of thousands of buyers from all over the world. Over time, the event has developed from being trade fair into a network system that brings together forty international initiatives in Italy and abroad under its brand: guides, competitions and events specifically for the entire wine community, from producers to professionals, the press and wine lovers. Vinitaly Special Edition Preview was attended by companies keen to seize immediately the chance to resume business through an in-person event with Italian and international buyers and interface with the trade press.

vinitaly


“Vinitaly Special Edition aims to achieve a further step towards Vinitaly 2022 for targeted and face-to-face business meetings.”


Vinitaly Special Edition, the first full-scale trade fair event dedicated to the wine sector, is scheduled 17-19 October. Tell us more about this event – what audience does the event target, what is its peculiarity? Since the current situation is not stable again, do you consider the offline format along with face-to-face meetings or as a plan B?

Vinitaly Special Edition is an exclusively professional initiative complete with courses and events focusing on catering, hospitality, entertainment, wine stores and large-scale retail. In responding to requests from the sector, it will only take place this year. It is an edition of Vinitaly created to strengthen contacts between supply and demand in the world of wine in the run-up to 54th edition scheduled 10-13 April 2022.

The keyword for the Special Edition in October and the 54th Vinitaly itself is and will be business, thanks not the least to intense promotion and incoming of international buyers from the main target countries in collaboration with the ICE Italian Trade Agency. 

Vinitaly Plus


“The keyword for the Special Edition in October and the 54th Vinitaly itself is and will be business…”


It is stated that the new “Vinitaly Plus” online platform will also be available to subscribers. What features and innovative solutions does this platform propose? 

Vinitaly Plus is the multilingual virtual venue designed and developed by Vinitaly to keep up-to-date and do business 365 days a year where producers and operators in the sector can meet virtually and exploit the advantages of the digital world. Vinitaly Plus allows users to consult more than 15,000 technical data sheets for wines and spirits in ten languages, search for wines and companies by geographical area, production, sales channels, price and exports, as well as many other functions. For example, registered users – in addition to accessing search functions – can also take advantage of chat messaging to establish direct contacts. During the trade fair as such, Vinitaly Plus will help boost the event experience. The platform app is essential for scanning entrance tickets as well as extremely useful for exchanging information in contactless mode: from virtual business cards to viewing fact files of the wines on show and capturing the QR code of the bottle with a smartphone. Lastly, geo-location functions also mean that the Vinitaly Plus app helps you find your way around the stands.

Since Vinitaly Special Edition is an exclusively professional occasion, what aim is pursued due to gathering of professionals in catering, hospitality, entertainment, wine bar and retail distribution sectors?

Vinitaly Special Edition aims to achieve a further step towards Vinitaly 2022 for targeted and face-to-face business meetings. The high profiling accelerates the opportunity to generate valid contacts for companies that after two years of stop&go have had little chance to plan meetings and expand their customer portfolio.

Vinitaly Special Edition

Mr. Mantovani, tell us a little bit more about the partners of Vinitaly Special Edition which will take place at Veronafiere. How do you plan to enable incoming arrivals by selected international buyers, especially from Europe, the United Kingdom, the USA and Canada? What activities and areas are planned at the venue?

Veronafiere, ICE Italian Trade Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation have worked to allow arrivals by international delegations in compliance with all safety regulations and travel restrictions imposed by governments because of the pandemic. In particular, the “Taste&Buy” programme of across the table b2b meetings is dedicated to incoming buyers with a series of guided tastings to discover the best of the trade fair has to offer.

Vinitaly

As far as we understand, within the framework of this event, the main focus is on Italian wines. How many wineries are participating in this event? Will there be an emphasis on individual regions?

As of early September, more than 300 companies and important promotion consortia have registered, with a forecast for reaching about 400. At the same time, the wine2wine business forum, an in-depth event for professionals in the world of wine and the Special Editions of Sol&Agrifood (quality agro-food exhibition) and Enolitech (technologies applied to the wine supply chain) are also scheduled. Vinitaly Special Edition is a “streamlined” event featuring a straightforward layout with pre-fitted stands.

We have also thought about certain new features, including – for example – the area dedicated to mixology to propose mixes and cocktails using products presented by companies, the section dedicated to organic wines and a structured calendar of conferences and tastings in specific areas set up in the show halls.

Vinitaly

The Vinitaly Special Edition is likely to gather many people at one place. How are you going to maintain safety and proper sanitary conditions?

To ensure maximum safety for all exhibitors and visitors, we have adopted a specific safe business protocol developed in compliance with all Covid prevention provisions. We have installed temperature scanners at the entrance gates, 400 cameras capable of signalling any crowds, continuous sanitation of facilities and air conditioning systems. Veronafiere has also successfully completed the 20-point GBAC STAR TM accreditation programme – currently the most advanced standard in cleaning, disinfection and prevention of infectious diseases.

Entrance to the event obviously is only allowed on presentation of a Green Pass and we have also made rapid swab points available to all users.

Photo: Ennevi

In his interview for Drinks+ magazine, Mr. Giovanni Mantovani, CEO of Veronafiere and Vinitaly, shared updapes on Vinitaly Opera Wine, Vinitaly Special Edition Preview and Vinitaly Special Edition, as well as the new “Vinitaly Plus” online platform. OperaWine and Vinitaly Preview in Verona organised by Vinitaly-Veronafiere hallmarked the resumption of shows attended in-person after fifteen months of […]

Radoslaw Fron: “Polish wine has confirmed that this is not a temporary fashion, but a real revival of wine culture!”

Radosław Froń, a Polish lawyer, judge of international wine competitions and author of the blog paragrafwkieliszku.pl, deeply studied the issue of winemaking in Poland and shared his expert opinion with D+.


How difficult is it for a small winemaker to obtain a license for the production and sale of wine? How long does it take for registration? And how much does it cost?

Vineyard registration in Poland is not a big problem. Winemakers who produce up to 1000 hectoliters of wine from grapes from their own vineyard are given a number of privileges. The requirements are relatively low, and the formal costs are low. The main problem is outdated anti-alcohol laws. They came from the distant 80s of the last century. The spirit of the law of the time is in no way consistent with today’s economic, social and technological situation. The problem lies, among other things, in the prohibition of advertising and promotion of alcoholic beverages, the difficulty of delivering alcoholic beverages to the buyer, which hinders the development of online commerce.

And what about the cultivation of grapes – do you need a license, is there an opportunity to buy land for private ownership, are there any restrictions (by area, varieties, or some other kind)?

Poland is free to create new vineyards and we currently have 329 commercial vineyards registered in 2020. There is also no closed list of grape varieties that can be planted for wine production. We apply the general EU rules, which is why we plant varieties grown in other countries of the Community or included in the international list of grape varieties maintained by the OIV. The purchase of more than 1 hectare of land in Poland is mainly limited to trade between farmers. Otherwise, the consent of the state authorities is required. Unfortunately, this is a major barrier to entry for new farmers interested in viticulture.

Is there a nationwide association of small winemakers, or are there only territorial ones, by voivodeship? What issues do such organizations solve?

As a matter of principle, we do not single out small winemakers in Poland at all due to the fundamental shortage of large winemakers. The largest Polish vineyards cover just over 30 hectares. The joint activities of winemakers are predominantly local in nature and are concentrated in associations operating in the wine regions. Their main tasks include training, technical assessment of young wines, promoting local winemaking and organizing local events. Coordination and lobbying functions are mainly assumed by the Polish Institute of Vine and Wine, an organization that participates in public consultations on changes in legislation and acts as a co-organizer of the annual Congress of Polish Winemakers. The Foundation for the Development and Promotion of Winemaking GALICJA VITIS deserves special attention. This foundation was founded by Roman Myslivets, a senior specialist in Polish winemaking, who currently runs the largest Polish school for training winemakers (Subcarpathian Wine Academy), organizes one of the largest wine competitions in Central Europe (International Wine Competition GALICJA VITIS®).

Radoslaw Fron

Do Polish winemakers strive to unite in order to jointly lobby for legislation, advance on the world market, or is it every man for himself?

Polish winemakers are trying to unite around common goals, although they still focus mainly on the Polish market. The relatively small volume of production (14,361 hl in 2020) is far from providing even the domestic market. Of course, some winemakers actively sell wine on foreign markets, but this is by no means a priority or even a significant need. Shortly before the pandemic, a presentation of Polish wines took place at the Polish Hearth Club in London. «Let’s Taste Poland» met with a very warm welcome and keen interest. Unfortunately, Brexit and recent restrictions have somewhat cooled the dynamics of established contacts.

What are the benefits of micro-winemaking?

Winemaking in Poland grew out of the hobby of amateur winemakers who, over time, acquired the necessary skills to start commercial production. In addition, now many farmers and representatives of agritourism seek to invest in the enotourism that is fashionable today, thereby standing out in the market. As a result, Polish winemaking takes the form of a small family business or additional economic activity. However, there are also projects of a purely business nature. This structure of Polish winemaking brings obvious benefits to consumers. The offer of Polish wines is extensive and rich in many different wine styles. Small farms produce wine with respect for nature and with minimal use of technology, which is highly valued in Poland.

Detailed Guide to Vineyard Registration and Wine Production Procedures

Are small winemakers afraid of being absorbed by large industries?

There is practically no risk that small vineyards will be taken over by large companies in Poland. For years, the European Union has produced large surpluses of wine. Thus, few large producers have a chance to achieve significant profit margins – especially considering the costs and risks associated with doing such an activity in Poland. The profitability of the industry in the EU is also largely based on subsidies associated with the cutting of vineyards. Obviously, small craft projects are profitable, but their scale is not very attractive for potential acquisitions. Large producers in our country base their activities mainly on the production of wine products such as fruit wines or ciders, as well as on the bottling of wines imported into Poland from other countries. They create their own vineyards, but their main goal is more of an image one.

Has the “Wine of Poland” brand been formed in Poland, what is the attitude of winemakers towards it?

There is no separate Wino Polskie brand, but in fact Polish wines enjoy a good reputation among domestic consumers. Many of them make a purchase decision based on the origin of the wine from Polish vineyards. Our wines are appreciated for their natural approach to production and low production volumes.

Book about Polish wine

Is there an opportunity for Polish winemakers to export their products, are there organizations involved in programs to promote Polish wine?

Polish wines are attractive abroad due to their individual origin. But as I have already said, the volume of production currently does not allow expanding the export offer. Moreover, Polish winemakers do not feel the need for this since we have a very active domestic market.

Polish wine has confirmed that this is not a temporary fashion, but a real revival of wine culture.

P. S. Radosław Froń has prepared a “Detailed Guide to Vineyard Registration and Wine Production Procedures” which supports those wishing to implement a wine-making project. Radosław Froń offers novice winemakers the preparation of all the necessary documents and assistance in registering the official production of wine from one’s own vineyard.

Radosław Froń, a Polish lawyer, judge of international wine competitions and author of the blog paragrafwkieliszku.pl, deeply studied the issue of winemaking in Poland and shared his expert opinion with D+.

Rodolphe Lameyse: “I am expecting that we are going to take back a normal life in 2022”

In his interview, Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO at Vinexpo, shares with Drinks+ readers the company vision, future project concepts for forums Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris, Vinexpo Bordeaux, the WOW! Platform, Vinexpo Shanghai and Vinexpo India.


Long time before the pandemic, you were preparing a global reorganization: first, the merger of the two exhibition organizations Vinovision and Vinisud took place in Wine Paris, which was further developed in 2020 thanks to the alliance with Vinexpo. As a result of the merger of three companies on the world market, a new expo operator emerged – Vinexposium. Please comment on what the main goals were pursued during these mergers and how the audience was distributed between the planned exhibitions?

Vinexposium is the new leading global organiser of wine and spirits events which aims to play a pivotal role between wine regions and international markets. The new company capitalises on Comexposium‘s expertise and global reach, as the world’s third largest event organiser, and internationally renowned brand Vinexpo which specialises in organising wine and spirits trade events on the three main wine consuming continents. It will draw on France’s excellence and expertise as the world’s second largest wine producer and consumer and leading exporter by value to boost the industry’s trade relations worldwide.

We will do everything in our power to ensure that Vinexposium is a preferred partner for industry stakeholders across-the-board in the coming years. The current crisis situation underscores the relevance of this alliance and makes Vinexposium an agile, resilient facilitator of global trade in wines and spirits. We constantly liaise with our clients and partners and are ramping up our ability to adapt and offer them as many opportunities as possible.

Vinexpo 2019

Forums Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris, planned for June this year, will take place from 14 to 16 February 2022. Please tell us about the differences between these two sites. And what unites them?

Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris is actually a one and single event since the creation of Vinexposium, there is thus only one site to talk about with of course different areas covering wine regions all of France and a large presence of international wine regions as well. The event also includes the Be Spirits area, entirely dedicated to the world of spirits and mixology with the longest cocktail bar in the world called «The Infinite Bar».

Vinexpo Paris and Vinexpo Bordeaux. How are the roles assigned, will the Bordeaux exhibition focus solely on offering French wines to international buyers? Is there a risk that Vinexpo Bordeaux will become a regional event?

The format of Vinexpo Bordeaux will be totally different as of its next edition in June 2022, maybe more like a business convention vs. a traditional fair. The work is still in progress at the moment, and we cannot develop it all here, but 1. it will be complementary with Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris and 2. It will address both French and International wine professionals.

Business Vinexpo

WOW! The platform, created by Vinexpo in 2017 for organic wine producers, has logically grown into a separate exhibition and will be held in February 2022. Could you name the countries and individual regions – the leaders in organic wines which are most actively involved in your special events?

In a global market where production and consumption of organic and biodynamic wines are constantly on the increase, the WOW! Meetings will bring together supply and demand under one roof. This unique location will fulfil the needs of producers and an increasingly diversified array of buyers. Major international buyers and European supermarkets, but also wine merchants and restaurants will benefit from ad hoc business meetings.

Our challenge is to meet the needs of the industry and to align as closely as possible with its expectations. The challenge surrounding organic products is such that we felt compelled to create this dedicated business event. Organic is no longer simply a trend, but a full-fledged industry driver. The Wow! Meetings will provide organic wines with a business meeting platform on the eve of our major Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris exhibition.

Organic wines will also be showcased as part of the WONDERFUL programme during Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris where producers will have stands and there will be opportunities to take the floor and host dedicated tastings. And the WOW! area will continue to form an integral part of Vinexpo events internationally. The World Wine Meetings umbrella brand, which hosts business events worldwide, will continue to gain traction internationally and starting in 2022 will provide new events on markets with high potential for growth.

In addition, WBWE Asia will be held in the little-known city of Yantai – what is the specificity of the place and the event itself, what packages of participants are offered? For what volume of beam production can this forum be cost-effective? Wine material from which countries and which places of origin is especially popular in the world today and, in particular, in China? Are there any numbers that could illustrate your position?

According to the latest IWSR-Vinexposium Report, while domestic wines account for 89% of consumption, imports have been gaining significant ground against a faltering locally produced still wine segment. In 2019, the first 5 countries from which China imports wine are, by order: France (15,5 million of 9-litre Cases), Australia (13,7 million of 9-litre Cases), Chile (8 million of 9-litre Cases), Spain (6,3 million of 9-litre Cases), Italy (4,7 million of 9-litre Cases).

Business Vinexpo 2019

Perhaps, the intention to hold Vinexpo India for the first time in such conditions, which will be held in New Delhi from 9 to 11 December 2021 in partnership with the Indian exhibition company Sial, can be considered a very bold step. Your argument for this decision is that Vinexpo’s mission is to open up new markets and be a guide to the future. We have a saying about this: He who does not take risks does not drink champagne! And since we are talking about champagne, for which categories of wines, in your opinion, do you intend to open the Indian market (which is more popular in this market: still, sparkling, sweet)? Wines from which regions of France are popular in India?

According to the latest IWSR-Vinexposium Report, wine is increasingly popular in India, especially with women and the spirits markets mainly concerns whisky, rum and brandy. Wine consumption in India increased by 3.9% in 2019, with value even outpacing volume growth at 4.5%. Wine growth is driven principally by the growing middle class in the major cities of Mumbai, New Delhi-Gurgaon and Bangalore, with important additional volumes in Goa and Pune. This is being reinforced by increasing take-up of wine in Tier Two and Three cities (although not always an easy proposition given the minefield of regulation), as well as a growing female consumer base for whom wine is seen as an acceptable drink.

Judging by your interviews, you are planning to combine wine and spirits at Vinexpo India. Are there separate venues planned for these two types of drinks, like Be Spirits? Perhaps, special presentation formats have been thought out for strong alcohol, is there any specificity for a presentation in the Indian market?

According to the latest IWSR-Vinexposium Report, most of the India’s wine market consists of local products (81%). Most imported wines come from Australia (37%), followed by Italian wines at 15%. In 2019, Chilean wines pushed forward, taking share from both French and Spanish products. In 2019, total imports grew by +4.3% to 0.5m nine-liter cases, driven in large partly by still wine (+4.4%) against a slower sparkling wine segment (1.5%).

Business Vinexpo 2019

In 2020, did Vinexposium have any experience of hosting a Shanghai exhibition on an online platform? What are your impressions and what is the feedback from the participants? Are you ready to transfer all exhibitions online in the context of a lockdown and how do you see the future of wine exhibitions in general?

With Vinexposium Connect, which we are launching at Vinexpo Shanghai, we are adapting to a very challenging environment and officially rolling out a powerful tool that can be used by industry members who need to network and source information and quality services. With a keen sense of the needs of its clients and partners, Vinexposium is demonstrating its ability to adapt by launching Vinexposium Connect. This will allow it to continue to provide unfailing support for trade relations and business between wine regions and international markets.

Vinexposium will be rolling out a raft of interactive digital solutions in order to diversify its proposition for the global wine and spirits industry. The new range of content, officially launched by Vinexpo Shanghai, will be available online 24/7 worldwide and will address every strand of the industry through Vinexposium’s powerful network.

Active international trade buyers with Vinexposium and members of the wine and spirits industry across-the- board will be invited to join the live sessions online (subsequently available as replays) free of charge. The new scheme prioritises Chinese wine market professionals but will expand its audience through broad-ranging promotion and content available on the Vinexposium Connect platform.

As a rule, exhibition companies have their own analytical departments that monitor the market and make forecasts. Does Vinexposium have a team of analysts, or do you use a partner research (which company is this)? Name, if possible, 3 main trends on the world alcohol market that seemed especially interesting to you personally and why?

Vinexposium partners with The IWSR Institute which produces 5 years forecast for us every year.

Organic, Biodynamic, Low Intervention is one of the key trends and we are monitoring it closely, as well as the no/low alcohol trend: there is indeed a global trend towards a reduction in alcohol consumption, particularly on mature markets; and last but not least, there is a clear craft trend in spirits that is now top of consumers’ minds going forward.

Vinexposium

What makes you confident about this exhibition site at such a time: the growth of the beam, more reliable partners in China, something else?

The last 18 months have demonstrated that the exhibition and face to face meetings are up most important to help the Wine and Spirits industry to develop their business. If indeed we have learned to work with more digital interaction, we have developed e-tasting, our product, which is liquid cannot be experienced if only done through a laptop or a mobile. Our products are changing from one year to another. Every element of a tasting matters: smell, colour… which can’t be perceived online.

At the same time, since January, the demand from the Wine and Spirit industry to resume trade shows is important. Of course, we can see that the sanitary situation is very different from one continent to another, from one country to another. This is why, through our series of event worldwide, we are able to offer secure and safe events to our clients. We will start in Asia, with Shanghai, in October and close the 2021 in Amsterdam for our show dedicated to the bulk wine industry.

In 2022, we are going to be back in Europe (Paris), America (New-York) and Asia (Hong Kong) in the first semester. I am expecting that we are going to take back a normal life in 2022.

This is one of the most affected industries by the pandemic. How does Vinexposium plan to adapt to the current conditions, what are the plans, new formats, directions?

Of course, we have been extremely impacted by the pandemic. Who could have imagined that we would be forbidden to work everywhere in the world? We had to adjust, reschedule, rethink how we could deliver value to our industry partners. Of course, we have made significant effort to go on the digital side through our Vinexposium Connect platform. Our platform is here to supplement our face-to-face events. We deliver market intelligence, voice of CEO, women, who matters in the industry, come and explain their views. But we are very eager to resume our events. This is what we do, what we live for!

In his interview, Rodolphe Lameyse, CEO at Vinexpo, shares with Drink+ readers the company vision, future project concepts for forums Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris, Vinexpo Bordeaux, the WOW! Platform, Vinexpo Shanghai and Vinexpo India.

Javier de las Muelas: “Bars are the perfect scenography for real relationships”

Drinks+ Editor-in-chief interviewed one of the world’s famous cocktail masters – Signor Javier de las Muelas. He shared his bartending career path from his first bar Gimlet to Dry Martini The Academy, discussing perspectives, inspiration sources, and personal preferences.


Why did you choose this path? Where did you study? Could you tell us, if possible, about your childhood? What are the most vivid memories of the little Javier? Your parents were not involved in the bar industry, were they?

My passion for the bar and restaurant trade began when I was about three years old, on the early Saturday morning visits to the Boqueria Market in Barcelona where my parents would do our weekly food shopping. As a treat, we would have breakfast in Bar Pinotxo, presided over by the great Juanito. Joan Bayeu, known to one and all as Juanito, a wonderful person, a magnificent professional, with a charmingly flirtatious compliment for any woman who sat on one of the stools or walked past his bar. Though neither of us knew it at the time, he was my first mentor.

My passion continued to grow when at the age of six, I would spend hours and hours after school in the wine shop opposite our house, Can Tarafa, helping the owner to sell wine. If I close my eyes, I am back there again: the smell of the wooden barrels, the call-and-response conversations. All these experiences left an indelible impression on me, one that has stayed with me right up to today.

My parents were not engaged in the bar industry. My father was a master shoemaker; he made shoes to measure, shaping the finest leather on wooden lasts with supreme care and attention. He taught me to appreciate and value the importance of small details, the true significance of a trade and its unpretentiousness. In my opinion, shoes say a lot about the person wearing them, about their way of being. Shoes are a sign of one’s identity. Wearing well-polished, impeccable shoes is both a pleasure and a mark of distinction.

In one of the interviews, I have read that you were going to become a doctor. The professions of a doctor and a bartender are not similar at all. Unless there is something in common with psychiatrists 🙂. 

Yes, I have started my career as a medic. My chosen course was medicine, and there I took my first steps in psychiatry (or rather the anti-psychiatry that was all the rage in those years). At my 18, I used to go to Boadas, a very famous bar on the most well-known street in Barcelona. It was a very small place owned by a barmaid who created a magical ambience. She was always there preparing the drinks with a lovely attitude and presentation. What concerns me, from that time I understood the importance of working with clients, to serve them, to provide with a good service in some creative way.

The things that I find the most interesting about bars are the atmosphere created in them and their potential as catalysts of human relations. Bars are the sets for life’s films, in black and white, or in colour. Bars are the perfect scenography: so many love stories begin there, after the classic: ‘Why don’t we meet for a drink?’

Gimlet


The service in bartending is very important, how you work at the bar, how you serve the cocktail – so the main things are the client and the service, the openness and benevolence. I always work behind the bar with 100% positive emotions, because client is 100% important.


One afternoon, I had the idea of looking for a place in the Born which in those days was the most bohemian district of Barcelona. As luck (that essential ingredient in life) would have it, that same afternoon I met the owner of a bar who was about to retire and wanted to sell the license and lease of his premises. That place became my first bar Gimlet.

We opened with no money, with a single cocktail shaker, with no stools, with none of the brass-buttoned white Mao jackets that I loved so much, but with an immeasurable stock of optimism, enthusiasm, and passion, with the energy of twenty-somethings and the support of our friends who turned customers. And we struck just the right note with our version of the classic viewed through modern eyes. True, back then we had no idea how to make cocktails, but we studied, practiced, and practiced again, and from the day we opened the cocktails were impeccable. And here I must thank another of my mentors, Epi Vallejo, who wrote a marvelous book from which I learned the art of mixing: Manual del Barman.

I would like to mention that nowadays not many bartenders understand what creativity is, there are too many professionals in single labels. But what is important, it is the base, the classic cocktails. The service in bartending is very important, how you work at the bar, how you serve the cocktail – so the main things are the client and the service, the openness and benevolence. I always work behind the bar with 100% positive emotions, because client is 100% important.

Ah! And what about the career in medicine? The idea just dissolved away like a lump of brown sugar.

Javier de las Muelas

In 2019, you became a member of the Catalan Academy of Gastronomy and Nutrition and in the same year received two major awards: from FEBE Federación Española de Bebidas Espirituosas and HELEN DAVID LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD (the highest award in the cocktail world, presented at the 13th annual gala SPIRITED AWARDS THE TALES OF THE COCKTAIL in New Orleans, the world’s most prestigious cocktail competition). It seems to me that a good deal of mixologists must have goosebumps when they hear these words. All this is very honorable and prestigious! How did you achieve these awards, were they given for specific projects or contribution in general?

Actually, I am very happy to take part in such events and be commended for these achievements. But for me personally it is not very important, it is dedicated to my team with which I work with. To our clients, to everything that I do working behind the bar.

Cocktails and Food

The bar culture is developing more and more intensively every year; there are a lot of competitions – local, international, thematic. Firstly, how often have you participated in such events? What kind of contests were they? Secondly, have you ever thought of the idea to create a competition from Javier de las Muelas?

I am not found of these types of events, and I am not too much in it. It is more important for me the future of the Bar as a project that could work for many years and has its own history. For me bar is a very social thing where people are talking and living a part of their lives. The main thing is the long life of the bar. Bars are a part of people’s lives. I understood this one day when I was having a coffee at a bar and another customer came over to me and asked if I was Javier de las Muelas. ‘I’d like to thank you because the bars and restaurants created by people like you are a part of Barcelona. I’ve laughed in them, I’ve fallen in love, I’ve cried and now I take my children there. You’re part of my life.’ We hugged each other and I smiled and thanked him.

Who are the students of Dry Martini The Academy? Are there any student selection criteria?

The Academy for us is the space connecting with Dry Martini where we do trainings for our own team and for our clients – food & beverage companies. This is our creativity space where we meet and train many companies, managements, and teams. I pay a lot of attention to the trainings and developing the professional auditory in food & beverage all over the world. The education is a future of a bartending and food & beverage sector.

Why Dry Martini? How did you get the idea of managing this bar?

That is all about the latest time – the revolution in bartending of 70-80th. In 1978, I discovered the Dry Martini bar and connected with the creator, Pedro Carbonell. A few months later my friends and I opened our own place, Gimlet, with very little experience. After a bit of success with Gimlet, I approached Mr. Carbonell about taking over Dry Martini if he ever decided to stop working with this bar.

The instant I opened the imposing wooden door and pushed through the heavy green velvet curtains I was utterly captivated. I fell in love with the bar and its mise en place in which the sole and exclusive rite was the mixing of Dry Martinis. Liturgy, service, style, and ambience. I became a habitual worshipper. Pedro Carbonell, sagacious and discreet, had a little room with a bathroom in the back of the Dry Martini bar where the Speakeasy private rooms are today, and he often stayed there to think and rest. He would pace to and from the stockroom, listening to Classical music on his Walkman and noting down cryptic formulas on the walls with ideas that he alone understood. He was the first mentor with a theory and an ideology of his own whom I had the privilege of knowing. His passions were the Dry Martini, music and Barcelona 🙂.


I think the hotel management is the best way to go forward with the brand. It is the best location to expand the brand and work with it.


One night when I had had a couple of Martinis, I summoned up enough courage to ask if it would be possible to go through to the back room and talk to him. It had been quite a while since Don Pedro had stopped serving. Since he felt he was no longer agile enough, and as I knew he had no children, I asked in all sincerity and humility whether one day he decided to retire, he would think of me to continue his work. He said nothing and I left without knowing what to think.

The answer came two years later, one afternoon when I was in the Dry Martini, and this time it was he who asked to speak to me. I entered the sanctuary of his office and he said, ‘Javier, the time has come to do what you proposed some time ago. I have brought the Dry Martini this far, but you are the person who has to take it to new heights.’ He added that if I did not accept, he wanted no-one else to continue his work. He would close the bar and lease the premises to a bank. We concluded the operation in 48 hours. His generosity was extraordinary: with the bar I inherited, among other things, the artworks dedicated to the Dry Martini and the collection of antique bottles he had been accumulating over the course of a lifetime. We sealed the bill of sale with a few Dry Martinis in the office of my friend Bartolo Masoliver, the notary. That day the streets were awash with rain, but the Martinis were perfectly dry. I gave him a set of keys so that he could open his home whenever he wanted. He never used them, but he still kept coming every day to his bar (the Dry Martini) to stretch his legs, have dinner and chat.

In Dry Martini I would like to transparent the modern way but always thinking about the classic – beginning with cocktails and finishing with a dress code of the barmen and music. But the base is a famous classic cocktail Dry Martini.

Speakeasy-bar

Personally, I have several allusions on Dry Martini: of course, James Bond 🙂 who, as you know, is a big fan of this drink, and George Clooney, who once said “No Martini – No party!”, by the way, Hippocrates noticed that white wine mixed with artemisia flowers and star anise (almost Martini) has medicinal properties and used it to treat digestion and relieve stress…

Yes! It is a very good statement and I agree with you and Hippocrates 🙂! There is a connection with medicine, as also any spirits, wines and beer were used in a medicine and as, for example – gin as clean and with a tonic water. However, I would like to share my opinion with you – do not drink too much and if you drink, only a quality drink! When you drink too much, it is dangerous not only for your health but for the culture of drinking.

DROPLETS

Tell us, please, about your DROPLETS. This is a unique 100% natural product. “With a few drops of DROPLETS, you can reinterpret cocktails and dishes…”, – they write about it. Just a miraculous elixir! How was the DROPLETS line developed? On what principle were the tastes selected – for specific cocktails or focusing on a hypothetical sum of tastes? How does DROPLETS work? How did you get the idea?

This collection is nonalcoholic and natural of 12 flavors and it was very important to create it like this. It could be used not only for cocktails but sauces and food. When I spoke to the audience, I would like to say that there are not only cocktails in your life, but also the natural ingredients and healthy life. So, this is my own collection of flavors. It’s been a while that in Dry Martini we were looking for a product able to create a new category offering endless new possibilities and sensations.

With a few drops of Droplets we can reinterpret cocktails and dishes always aiming innovation and creativity, mixing different shades of vegetables, spices and fruits, obtaining uniqueness and consistency in all our creations.

Its usage is limitless: cocktails, teas, gin & tonics, hot and cold sauces, vinaigrettes, dressings, juices, flavored oils, etc. They blend easily, don’t contain alcohol and are 100% natural.

Droplets

You often collaborate with the world’s leading hotel chains. What advantages do you see in this from the point of view of the bar business?

I think the hotel management is the best way to go forward with the brand. It is the best location to expand the brand and work with it. I work with the famous chains all around the world and of course every time look for new locations.

You have created a series of cocktails with Freixenet. Sparkling is perhaps not the easiest drink for cocktails, what do you think? How long did it take to work on cocktails, which was the most difficult and why, and which became your favorite?

It was not so difficult to work with sparkling, there are a lot of classic cocktails based on sparkling. For me it was a new opportunity to work with a new brand and have a new cocktail in my collection. In my opinion, it is more difficult to work with beer. Now we are working with Lavazza, and it is a new opportunity to сombine espresso and cocktails. 

What are some of the main trends in the bartender world today?

I think it is more important the cocktail base. I always think about the future of the ingredients. We have a lot of classic cocktails, and we thirst of all think how to impress the clients, how to work with them…

Cocktails and Food

What can you say about the most popular cocktails?

For me it is a classic. Around these forty years the classic is on the top. Negroni, Martini or some Sours. Some other cosmopolitan cocktails are also on the top because of marketing ways…

Your cocktails, without exaggeration, are works of art. When I read the list of ingredients that are included in one or another of your cocktails, I want to try it immediately 🙂 and also to ask the question: how does Javier de las Muelas work on them? Where does he get ideas for such masterpieces? And for such spectacular visual feeds – do you develop the design yourself or is there a designer working on their appearance?

I try to check out and be informed about new ingredients and references around the world, I work with my team on new ideas. We have The Academy next to Dry Martini where we work together to look for new collections and flavours.

I like creating, investigating, and re-inventing constantly. For this reason, the idea of arranging marriages of food and cocktails first came to me years ago. For me, eating is an exceptional experience, something I have learned and internalized in the course of my life.

In the last few years, my team and I have taken on the challenge of gaining a place for cocktails in the world of gastronomy and introducing them into luxury hotels all over the world. Because, if bars are perfect meeting places, then hotels are the absolute paradigm of this condition. That is what I am here for: to carry on creative settings in which people can make unforgettable films of their lives.

It always seemed to me that the world of cocktails is like a universe with countless galaxies with their countless planets and stars… The cocktail world is endless. What was the recipe for the most unusual cocktail you have ever made? Or maybe have tried with someone?

I believe in the classic cocktails but always try to taste new ingredients, we go forward with new ingredients in our Excentric cocktails collection.

Jim-let Fox-trot

A successful bar – why does one place become a favorite and you no longer want to visit another? What’s the secret? Who else except you know the answer to this question? Your bar has been nominated in the list of 50 best bars in the world for seven years in a row. Could you arrange in descending order of importance: location, range of cocktails and drinks, charisma and talent of the bartender, design and atmosphere, something else?

In my opinion, the secret is making the bar the clients’ home, to feel as at home. I always say bars are places where films are record. To my mind, the order would be the following: service, location, design and atmosphere, range of cocktails and drinks.

How much do you like and drink cocktails yourself? Or do you prefer wine? Strong alcohol? What’s your favorite alcoholic beverage?

I drink with responsibility, and I am not a fluent drinker, I love to taste what is appearing in the business.  Carnyvore

And what solution do you see in the future – after all, the pandemic is predicted to last until 2022? This is a big blow to HoReCa – to business, to people. Perhaps, do you have some ideas or advice for our audience – many of them are bartenders, bar and restaurant owners.

This are difficult moments for the food and beverage industry, we required estate support which has not been arriving.  We should stay positive and look for new ways to adapt and arrive to our customers.

Drinks+ editor-in-chief interviewed one of the world’s famous cocktail masters Signor Javier de las Muelas. He shared his bartending career path from his first bar Gimlet to Dry Martini The Academy, discussing perspectives, inspiration sources, and personal preferences.

Marco Sabellico: «Gambero Rosso is a long story started at 1986 from a column on a daily newspaper»

Marco Sabellico, Senior Editor of Gambero Rosso, the leading platform in the Italian Wine Travel & Food sector, told about unique format, his excellent team and shared his impressions about Ukrainian wines.


What is your impressions on your first visit to Ukraine, what do you like or don’t?

First of all, I was really surprised how many people were at the event. My master classes were packed. I received a lot of questions regarding Italian wines and food. There was a very positive attitude towards me and my colleges, we were very pleased. Therefore, we are planning to come back in the future to organize more events because we understand that Ukraine can be an important partner to Italian food and wine cultural exchanges.

Everyone knows how the Gambero Rosso team works, but everyone is interested in who these shrimps are, tell us about the team, about the editorial staff which develop the Gambero Rosso as a brand.

We grew up a lot, Gambero Rosso is a long story started at 1986 from a column on a daily newspaper then become a weekly page and then become a monthly supplement. That is the moment when I joined the team – it was already a well-known monthly supplement of a daily newspaper. After one year, in 1992 we became independent – Manifesto sold Gambero Rosso to a big editorial group, after few months it was sold again and it was bought by our founder and director Stefano Bonilli. Finally, we started on our own without being a part of a group. We stayed independent until 2010, when the founder left GR and unfortunately in a few years later died. So, the new ownership is represented by our actual president Paolo Cuccia who has been managing the company for a couple of years. Now it is a publishing company, but we have a wide range of activities, such as TV, web & social media, schools, organizing the events all around the world. Then we entered in another big group Class Editori, which is a huge editorial group, an owner of a lot of magazines and newspapers and where we present one of the food and wine lifestyle sections. Recently 1,5 year ago very important Pegaso Online University entered in the ownership of Gambero Rosso. We will develop this part of the owing and be a part of this project because they are the main online university in Italy. They specialized in a modern tool of online teaching.

Marco Sabellico and Kovach

Could you, please, tell more about your team?

Oh, yes, my team, my pride… because it is five of us in GR office in Rome but we control 70 contributors around Italy which are the fundamental tool to make a wine guide. I am in charge of making a wine guide, and this requires a lot of work with contributors which are spread around the country, from North to South, from Piedmont to Sicily. Some of them are writers, some of them – only tasters, but all of them have a very deep knowledge on Italian wines, it’s a real pleasure to work with them. We have carefully selected them through the years and now I can say it is a very valuable team. I am the editor-in-chief of a wine guide but I also have two colleagues which are freelancers (long time contractors) and they do the wine guide with me. One is Gianni Fabrizio, he lives in Piedmont and he is a fantastic wine expert, very well known in France, Germany, Switzerland and in many other countries, a real talent of wine tasting and has an encyclopedic knowledge on Italian wine scene. The other one is Giuseppe Carrus, he joined us only in 2020, but he comes from the GR school. 15 years ago he took a course in food and wine journalism organized by GR for one year after the university. He was the brilliant student and worked a lot as a freelancer and little by little we gave him more responsibilities on the organization of the wine guide and now he is experienced enough to be an Editor-in-chief like me and my colleague Gianni. So these are three of us at the top of the organization.

Marco Sabellico and Olga Pinevich

Please, could you be so kind to clarify how the work with the online project is now going on, what international programs you have implemented, how to participate and how much it costs?

My colleague Lorenzo Ruggeri is in charge of the international projects. He is also the editor of the Top Italian restaurants guide which is available for free on gamberorossointernational.com, in the restaurant section. In this period we have been working a lot on the net and therefore on the new international website which now hosts at least 4/5 news items a day. We also have a digital magazine that comes out every two months, also this for free, which is called Wine Travel Food, while in recent weeks we have launched a free newsletter called Gambero Rosso Weekly, sent out every Friday. It deals with topics concerning food and wine with a strong focus on Italy. All this is in anticipation of being able to start again with international events all around the world as early as June.

How does the selection take place, the first and the second. Is there an advertising campaign and you yourself apply, tell us the internal mechanism. How are the judges selected, who are they?

The wine world knows about the GR event and we cooperate with the producers’ associations (consortiums) and they collect the samples. So, they know that we have a big event in April at VinItaly where all Italian wine world participates, where we also could meet new wineries. From the local Chamber of commerce, we collect all the samples and after VinItaly at the end of April, we start the tasting. Some of the areas send samples to Roma and we start the wine tastings with wine professionals: journalists, wine collectors, wine writers etc., even bankers and doctors with the passion about wine. And everyone who developed enough experience in wine tasting through the years can join us and taste in our team. We have tasters from all over the world. I select the tasters and we are interested to have a lot of them: the more we have, the more objective our work is.

How can one get into your pool of tasters? This is a hint 🙂

We invite every year one or two colleagues which we have met in our events during the year to join us for tastings…

How does the tasting in technical aspects looks like?

Wines, which got the highest score in the regional tasting sessions, go to Rome. In the final tasting, we decide (the Editors-in-chief) who will get the Bicchieri. Actually we have 4 scales for the guide: 3 Bicchieri, 2 Bicchieri, red marked – these are wines which were invited to Rome but didn’t get 3 Bicchieri, and other 2 Bicchieri marked in black which were not tasted in Rome, and one glass. Besides these tastings, we have a number of special awards.

How do you work under these conditions now? Only offline or do you usually organize meetings? How did you make the decision? Do you travel to the regions or gather around the table?

In this situation we all work online, I receive a lot of samples from the wineries, my colleagues do the same. We have a lot of video tastings and a lot of viewers. One of the video project was a TV program: 7 chefs were cooking the receipts with the same ingredients and I was the one to pair wines in the end. We did everything from home with families, made videos and connected with each other by phone. Now we are focused on a project called “Stappa con Gambero Rosso” which is a seriest of short videos (6-7 minutes) shot in Città del Gusto Roma where I present a winery and taste a wine. And all these tastings are then put online on the social media.

What was the hardest?

Yes, it was, because I use to travel everywhere and being for such a long time home was hard. But lockdown is the only way to resist the problem and of course the vaccination. But we were lucky enough last year. We could travel a lot in June, July and August through the regions and we had small commissions, mostly three tasters, to respect the rules of social distancing. Hope everything will change soon. Big news: I had my first dose of vaccine, so from May 3rd I’ll be on the way for the new tastings… The 2022 edition of the Guide is about to take off… It will be our 35th edition…

In incomplete 2020, a team of 70 experts working for Gambero Rosso has tasted more than 46 thousand wines. This is an impressive number. How many wines do you taste per day?

Usually, when we work for the Guide we taste 100 wines per day. My favorite time starts at 9.30 until 14.00-15.00. I never make big pauses, it is more complicated to start again the tasting J. But it depends on timetable, the area, the zone… It is not a rule but we try to taste at list 70-80 wines per day, otherwise we cannot make it. And I never drink coffee during the tasting. I try not to eat even any biscuits or bread, and drink water as minimum as possible.

Tell us about the tensest (hard) and funniest episode in this selection process.

I can tell you about the special things how we work together with my colleagues. After the tasting we collect all the texts and in August work together in the office. We correct and check the Italian language, grammar, insert everything into the database. That is a time when everybody is out of town…  We work in a big hall, 5-6 people together. I take my hi-fi equipment, we make cocktails, we cook, organize dinners together, but we work for 8-10 hours a day. We live somehow like a family, nevertheless we work very hard! We do three times proofreadings and at the end I need to read every single page of more than 1200 pages in total. What can I say, 4 eyes are better than 2 and 6 are better than 4, so that is why I have my 2 very experienced colleagues.

I am a very paper person, and I prefer to work with paper, and proofreading is in paper. They criticize me, but I am old-school 🙂 I need to see a printed page in front of me.

I know what you mean! 🙂 But it’s also a pleasure – I’m not talking about proofs – to hold a print edition in your hands! High-quality paper, fonts, shades, design details – digital is more ascetic. And the print suits to the wine 🙂 We see how GR is supported and trusted by so many producers. But at the beginning of the journey, you were very small.

Little by little we became big, and it was a winning decision to organize events outside of Italy and since the beginning the guide was translated into English and German, and that was very important. Then we have Chinese and Japanese markets which are growing and we make a translation also into these languages.

How did your publishing house get the support from such a huge number of producers, consortiums? Certainly not comparable to our producers and our magazine. Our markets are radically different.

People need to know what winemakers produce, what they do and they need partners to explain people what’s new, what’s good, what’s going on. The more you do, the better you do, the more people trust you. Little by little we build the trust, it took us 35 years with a Guide.

You have a GR international Events office. What are your plans in this direction?

We have Tiina Eriksson in charge of the international projects. Develop the international is our main issue and I hope we will increase as soon as it is possible. The Italian producers are asking us to organize such events and we need to do it. And as soon as possible we are back on the track.

You have tasted a wide range of Ukrainian wines. What are your impressions?

My impression is that you have a very interesting terroir, Odessa area. I saw young producers aware of what it takes to make wines of good quality, entrepreneurs that want to invest in this business. They all seemed very professional. What they lack is experience, maybe, but little by little this experience will come. But this start is rather interesting, and I am very positive. I think Ukraine should develop the wine industry. You have what it takes. A suggestion? Don’t follow too much the international style. Try to develop also local styles based on local varieties more than Cabernet, Merlot etc. You have them. You can do it.

Photo: wineandspirits.com.ua

Marco Sabellico, Senior Editor of Gambero Rosso, the leading platform in the Italian Wine Travel & Food sector, told about unique format, his excellent team and shared his impressions about Ukrainian wines.

George Skouras: «We are a winery that loves education, and the passion for good wine holds us strongly together»


Dear Mr. George Skouras, in March 2015 you were elected the President of the Greek Wine Federation and you have been holding this position to this day. With what mission were you nominated for the Presidency?

As a wine producer for almost 40 years, I had the opportunity to be a part of the modern Greek wine history, that is closely related to the presence of the Greek Wine Federation. I felt I had a duty to offer to my colleagues and to the Greek wine, a small token of appreciation of the many things I learned from them throughout all these years. My priorities included creating and developing regional councils for the protection of PDOs, modernizing the Greek legislation governing the wine industry,  and ensuring growth of the national vineyards; however, unexpectedly, it was enforcement of the excise duty on wine and a fight against it on both political and legal grounds, has become the priority of my presidency.

Domaine Skouras

Please tell our readers, how nomination of candidates for such a position took place. What is the voting process, how many applicants? Who are judges?

The election of candidates to hold the positions as members of the administrative council takes place every two years at the general assembly meeting . The council consists of 11 members. The 5 of them represent the 5 districts of Greece: North Greece, Central Greece, Peloponnese, Crete, and Aegean islands. The members of each district are to cast their votes for or against these 5 candidates. As to the remaining 6 candidates, all members of the Federation are entitled to cast their votes for or against them. The administrative council consists of the candidates who got [the required number of votes] and their positions in the council are decided by the voting during the first meeting after the general assembly meeting.


The 120 wineries, which are members of the Federation, are the companies with a long history. The last decade we are very happy to witness more and more new wineries starting their business.


How much time do you spend, performing your presidential duties? How do you manage to combine this work with your global project Domaine Skouras?

Being the President of the Greek Wine Federation is a challenging assignment that needs time, concentration, energy, patience, knowledge, passion, and ambition. The same things are required when I am working in the winery. Coping with both duties would be impossible without the support I get from my colleagues in the winery and the Federation. Thankfully, the Federation has Prof. Theodore Georgopoulos as General Director, who is an international expert in the wine law, with a deep knowledge of the area, which he has gained while collaborating with the Federation for many years. The administrative staff and experts working for the Federation are also of great help in achieving our goals.

DOMAINE SKOURAS

Domaine Skouras

What are the main responsibilities of the President of the Greek Wine Federation and the main functions of the Federation?

The Greek Wine Federation represents all private Greek wineries, promotes the Greek wine globally, and elaborates laws governing the wine industry. The President and the administrative council have been working in the interests of the Greek winemakers and for the purpose of ensuring a high quality of the Greek wine. At the same time, I am working with an amazing Board, composed by 10 colleagues who have gained a vast experience, have fresh ideas and are sharing our common dream for the Greek Wine’s future. A real dream team! I have been enjoying tremendously working with them for 6 years.

The Federation has about 120 members. What is the process of accepting new members, how long does it take and what are the terms of membership?

The 120 wineries, which are members of the Federation, are the companies with a long history. The last decade we are very happy to witness more and more new wineries starting their business.

A winery that intends to become a new member has to file an application with the secretary of the Federation. This application needs to be also signed by two current members of the Federation. The Board has to approve the application, whereas it is up to the General Assembly to approve membership during its annual meeting. In terms of criteria, the most fundamental one is an absolute  respect to the wine laws and promotion of the values of the Federation.

vineyard DOMAINE SKOURAS

What does the membership in the Federation grant? Please list the main benefits. Perhaps you keep in touch with some international organizations?

The Greek Wine Federation is the official organization for private Greek wine industry. It is a member of the CEEV (“Comité Vins”), the largest European organization defending the wine industry’s interests. Being a member of the Greek Wine Federation means that you get continuous updates about everything that is going on in the wine industry and get support if you face a problem. As concerns the issue: how important the Federation is, it may be proved by the fact that it managed to offer real legal help to its members when the excise duty was suddenly imposed on wine and to resolve serious problems that our members were facing.

SKOURAS

Studying the information about you, we came across the fact that, as it turned out, you did not plan a winemaker’s career, but wanted to become a doctor. However, when time came to enter the medical university, doubts began to plague you and as a result you missed the deadline for passing the exams… Moreover, having changed your mind about the future, you entered the Faculty of Oenology in Dijon, Burgundy. What made you change your profession so dramatically? Who opened the world of wine for you?

Actually, after I had arrived to France for my Chemistry studies, my teacher of French introduced me into the French culture and he started with vines, wines, and Chateaus. This enchanted me. I fell in love with wine and I thought that Greek wine would have very good prospects. It was not a common secret that Greece was very much related to the wine production, though for many years this relationship was neglected. The idea of making quality Greek wine stroke me as a lightening and the next day I went to the university and changed my major to Oenology studies.

SKOURAS barrics

After six years of education, you created your first wine project after taking a bank loan. If it’s not a secret, how much money did the Skouras winery have at the very start and how quickly did the project pay off? Tell us about your first winemaking experience. What prompted you to take such a risky financial step?

Before establishing my own winery, I had gained experience in other wineries and that resulted in my understanding, what were the correct steps that had to be taken to start my business. Taking a bank loan was a risk, of course, but this is what a businessman has to deal with on a daily basis.


The idea of making quality Greek wine stroke me as a lightening and the next day I went to the university and changed my major to Oenology studies.


After you had returned to Greece and started a small production, how did your business go? What difficulties did you face, and who supported you?

All new businesses usually face difficulties at the very start. My greatest difficulty was to balance my wine mentality with Greek market’s needs. Not only did I have to be a good oenologist, but a good salesman, too. Throughout all these years, my wife and I have been working together in order to be achievers in this field.

team

Who tasted your first wine and what were the professional reviews?

I can recall many reviews about my first wine but the most important was the one dated back to 1993.  This happened when the first wine competition ever took place (it was called “Wine America”): my first wine Megas Oenos was considered to be the best in its category, having won a gold medal. The panel of judges was chaired by Mrs. Mary Mulligan (MW) and the reviews were very flattering. This was my very first medal.

technology

Today, you are called a pioneer of the modern era in the Greek winemaking. You were one of the first who introduced the innovative technologies and practices in winemaking. When the Drinks+ team visited Domaine Skouras in Argolis, near ancient Argos, we were impressed by the technical capabilities and innovative technologies to create terroir wines of the highest quality. Tell us, please, how you choose the equipment: who gets the information about new products, who supplies it? What funds are invested into the production as a percentage of profit?

Every year, we spend about 20% of our profits in order to improve the facilities and machinery that will fulfill our needs and help to maintain our standards. Depending on our needs, we have been collaborating with the companies providing us with the best machinery. We are trying to get updates about all technological evolutions in the field of winemaking and we love dreaming and experimenting with wine.

How often do you replace the equipment and where do you acquire technical innovations? What are the most recent acquisitions that you are particularly proud of?

Replacement of the equipment depends on the winery’s needs. Usually, our technical innovations come from France or Italy. Recently, we have added a new machine that helps us avoid oxidation while we press the grapes by using nitrogen.

wines

Domaine Skouras winery is one of the leaders among Greek wine companies, especially, as we presume, in the field of advanced technologies applied in winemaking. For example, your Peplo Rose – tell us about ​​this blend: whose idea was that to create this wine? Are there any new ideas regarding other blends?

In our winery, we are proud to collaborate with a team of talented oenologists and viticulturalists and we have an R&D department conducting researches related to such new ideas. These past 40 years, after numerous experimental vinifications, we have gained a vast experience with our grape varieties.  At the same time, collaborating with young scientists gives as an excellent combination of experience and enthusiasm.

Peplo Rose

Peplo was a result of continuous research and vinifications. In order to create a modern rosé, it was important for us to emphasize its freshness and acidity. In order to achieve this, initially, the vines had to be the vines gathered at a high altitude (over 650m). Then, we had to choose a grape variety. Through the experimenting vinifications, we decided that Agiorghitiko needed to be fermented inside barrels made of acacia and sur lie, so that it would get the appropriate structure and texture and at the same time not to have too much oak. Mavrofilero is a very aromatic grape which we skin-fermented to get the most out of it and also improve its structure inside amphoras. Last, but not least – we chose Syrah to balance the blend with its lovely fruits and flowers which was fermented in stainless steel vats to preserve its delicate aromas and freshness.

We never stop experimenting with new ideas and inspiration in this winery. At the time being we are more concentrated on wines with mono-varietals.

wines

In addition to the technical equipment at the highest level, it is necessary to draw attention to your laboratory, which, in addition to studying and monitoring, has been conducting active experiments described in the protocols in cooperation with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Tell our readers about the latest research. What kind of experiments are being carried out?

Above all, we are very passionate scientists who try to control every single parameter we can think of, to guarantee the consumers’ health. We work with ETS in California, where we make all the analysis needed. It should be also pointed out that during these past few years, we have made investment into the allergen analysis to guarantee the safety of consumption.

Our readers are a professional wine audience, which also includes the Ukrainian winemakers who are newcomers to the industry. Could you give some recommendations to them, perhaps, share information about the most interesting ideas in the field of technologies, and the world’s most fashionable wine techniques available nowadays?

There are no recipes for success. For us, a modern winemaker has to be up to date with every new technique in the field. Respect the tradition and work hard in the vine yards and with the wines! The world’s best winery or wine cannot do anything without people behind them.

barrels

Today, you are teaching winemaking to the second generation of the family business – your two children. How do they help you at the winery? How do you share the responsibilities?

The second generation is on business and are already fulfilling numerous responsibilities. My daughter who studied economics and marketing is the manager of the marketing team and my son who has studied Wine and Agriculture takes care of winemaking and bottling. All of us do our best to keep our quality standards and we always try to become better.

Where do your children study and where would you advise, as a matter of principle, to study winemaking? In Greece, in France – at the universities or in the real-world terms?

My daughter has studied economics in Greece and did a Master’s [degree] in Marketing in Scotland. My son, who is a winemaker studied in France, but he has already worked and gained experience in different winemaking regions of the USA and Europe. Working hard, loving your job and being open to learning are the guidelines to become better.

Tell us about your team – who are these people: what education have they gained, how old are they, what is their work experience, interests?

My winemaking and agriculture team consists of 6 people who take care of the wines and the vines. All of them studied oenology or agriculture in Greece, Italy or France. They are the people who from 28 to 50 years old, that either started their work experience in this winery or have travelled and gained experience worldwide. We are a winery that loves education so all year around, my team and I take part in seminars or webinars that can make us better. The passion for good wine holds us strongly together.

How is your working day going? How often do you conduct working tastings, with whom do you consult?

My working day begins early in the morning. Every task is a pleasant challenge. Solving problems, making wine, and working on marketing. On a daily basis, I have to cooperate with all winery’s managers in order to achieve the best results and have wine tastings with the oenology team to ensure a high-quality production and make future plans for the wines.

In the interview to our Drinks+ magazine, Jancis Robinson noted that she is a huge fan of Greece: “The country produces highly distinctive wines from a rich array of indigenous grape varieties that we are still discovering”. And the Ukrainian sommelier, who is now the Head Sommelier at the London restaurant Hide, in his commentary on the trip along the Nemea wine road said: “I tasted Mavrofilero and Grande Cuvee Nemea wines – and these are the best that I have tasted during this trip”. What is going on now in the Greek winemaking? What, in your opinion, has changed over the past 5 years?

Greek winemakers are focusing more and more on the indigenous varieties that are found in each region. I am proud to say that in Greece, the knowledge of vineyard management and of the winemaking is a combination implying an excellent job done. Practicing modern techniques, but at the same time respecting our tradition has led to the creation of unique wines that cannot be found or replicated anywhere else in the world. This is the biggest advantage we have so far. We have a better understanding of the macro and micro climates of each region and we are aiming at producing high quality fruit, which, at the end, will become a high – quality wine. I would also like to mention that the international varieties cultivated in our country, are not only complimentary, but they are showing the dynamics characteristic of our land: to create the memorable wines. A very good example of that is our Viognier Eclectique, which has gained many prizes from international competitions and can be now found in many prestigious places across the globe. Nothing of the above, of course, would have happened without investing heavily into marketing and promotion of Wines of Greece, in general, and our brand, in particular.

What is currently being done to popularize the Greek wines? Don’t you think that nowadays, the promotion is lagging behind the high- quality level wines? Quite recently, it seems to us, the situation was exactly opposite.

Promoting Greek wines in the exports market is a very difficult task. Nonetheless, in recent years and especially during the economic crisis, the winemaking sector in Greece has shown great resilience and has gained the respect of the wine trade globally. While other sectors of the Greek economy recessed, we continued investing into marketing and supporting our clients. There is no denying that because of the COVID-19 the priorities have changed. But, during the last 10 years the higher-valued wines have not dropped in sales, on the contrary, they are selling more. That means, that all the work we are doing has positive results and it is still growing. The perfect example of that is Qatar Airways, one of the most expensive and well-known Airway Companies, who selected last year our Nemea Grande Cuvee among many wines, from different countries, to offer it to their first-class customers.


The world’s best winery or wine cannot do anything without people behind them.


At the same time, according to our observations, the prices for Greek wines have been reduced, despite their quality enhancement. Is it a real fact?

We believe that we have become more competitive on the global wine stage, but we are always having in mind the uniqueness of our products. We know that we cannot compete with traditionally strong countries like France, Spain and Italy, but we are gaining more and more attention. In general, we believe that we have a better understanding of the global wine trade and we act accordingly, proving that boutique wines may be equally charming.

You are actively working with autochthons: you have planted small experimental vineyards with Greek varieties that are on the verge of extinction. Tell us more about these varieties. Are there any programs to promote these wines in the world markets?

Authochthon varieties are a part of our country’s wealth and history. My team and I are working the last 13 years with Mavrostyfo variety. The results are impressive and the abilities that this variety offers to us are numerous. Thankfully, there are many programs promoting Greek wines and its particularities.

Are climate changes perceptible for wine styles? Which variety, in your opinion, is the most susceptible to modifications, changes? Which of the Greek autochthonous varieties is gaining special attention in the world market? Which one is underestimated, in your opinion?

Climatic changes are real, but we haven’t felt their strong impact yet. Saying that, we are actively looking to find ways to slow down that effect, such as increasing the plantings at higher altitudes, searching for clones that are more resilient in dry and hot conditions and changing the canopy management. Agiorghitiko is definitely a variety that offers many possibilities. It can give amazing results in different circumstances and therefore, for us, it is a great tool. On the other hand, Moscofilero, like every aromatic variety, does not like big changes and is more difficult to adapt. Assyrtiko has gained most of the attention in the world market and it deserves it. It is an amazing variety, which has become very famous among the wine lovers and professionals, due to its high quality and uniqueness, especially when it comes from the island of Santorini. Nowadays, you can find amazing wines from the mainland, too. For many years we were feeling that Agiorghitiko had not gained the fame and the attention it deserves. But we are happy to report that this is changing now. The demand for this variety is higher than ever and continues to grow. It is such a dynamic variety, that can be used to produce various wines: from amazing every-day drinking wines, up to age-worthy and memorable bottles.

Domaine Skouras

Domaine Skouras produces 700,000 bottles of wine per year. About 40% of them are exported to the world market. What are the main importing countries? Will the distribution change due to the pandemic?

Actually, our annual production is now around 850,000 bottles and it is almost 50% that is exported in more than 20 countries. USA, Belgium and Germany are traditionally the biggest markets for us. The distribution has expanded during the pandemic, as many opportunities arose in the countries to which we haven’t exported before. Also, as the purchase of wines has also changed (restaurants closed) we focused more on retail and the impact of COVID-19 was much less for us. We believe that this trend will continue to grow after the pandemic because people have noticed that it is an easy, convenient and undoubtedly quick [way of purchasing].

Are you considering steps to promote your wines in the Eastern European markets?

The Eastern European market is a market that we have been looking at for many years now. In the last couple of years, we have started collaboration projects in Ukraine, Romania and Estonia. We have found opportunities in other countries such as Lithuania, Bulgaria, Poland and Latvia and, of course, Russia, which is always on our radar. We believe that more opportunities will arise in the next few years, as the interest is growing and more activities are taking place such as wine fairs. It should be also emphasized that the Greek authorities based in these countries are doing a great job promoting the Greek products.

George Skouras, the owner and founder of Domaine Skouras, one of the true pioneers of the modern Greek wine renaissance, President of the Greek Wine Federation in an interview with Drinks+ talked about the principles of the federation and the development of Greek winemaking during the pandemic.

Maksym Voloshyn: «Winemaking may become Ukraine’s most prominent trademark»

A little more than a year has passed since Maksym Voloshyn 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+: Maksym, 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?

Maksym Voloshyn: 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.

cotnar

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.

vineyards

D +: What are your long-term and medium-term goals?

Maksym Voloshyn: 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.

cotnar winery

D+: Maksym, what changes in production are we talking about?

Maksym Voloshyn: 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?

Maksym Voloshyn: 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.

grapes

D+: Maksym, 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?

Maksym Voloshyn: 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!

The Drinks+ columnist asked the CEO of Cotnar Maksym Voloshyn what changes had taken place in the company during this period and what to expect from the renowned Transcarpathian winery in the near future.

Vinos de La Luz and Kolonist: passion for wine and its future

This conversation between two winemakers, who are renowned in Ukraine and abroad, was contemplated a long time ago, when I watched, how passionate these people were when they told each other about their life’s business: winemaking🙂. And the idea was implemented after Dr. Ricardo Nunez, Head of Vinos de La Luz, had visited the Odessa winery Kolonist.


We arrived to these lands on the unique ancient holiday: the Day of Trifon Zarezan – which is brightly celebrated on the fourteenth day of February in the Danube Bessarabia.

I was lucky to see with my own eyes, for the first time in my life, the preparations for this holiday, the sincere atmosphere and hospitality of the local residents, who eagerly shared their tradition with the guests.

Alla and Ivan Plachkov

The owners of KolonistAlla and Ivan Plachkov – not only organized a friendly reception of their guests but, a warm, family-like, and sincere meeting. Having learned numerous interesting historical facts that Ivan Vasilyevich generously shared, having heard interesting stories about this region from Alla, I firmly decided to continue our acquaintance and present a part of our conversations in the format of an interview, on the pages of our media partner, Drinks+ magazine.

Ricardo Nunez

Comments by Dr. Ricardo Nunez:

When Natalia Burlachenko had told me about the idea to record an interview with the owners of Kolonist for Drinks+, I recalled our first meeting with Ivan Vasilyevich Plachkov. I met him at the 2nd Wine & Spirits Ukraine exhibition in 2019, where Kolonist had its own stand, just like Vinos de La Luz. There, we met with Ivan for the first time.

Nunez and Plachkov

We agreed to meet again in Izmail. During that visit, I was able to get to know Alla and Ivan better, could get understanding of their vineyards and the production of both wines and other products from grapes.

Due to this trip, the idea of an interview had been contemplated and thereupon, the interview was conducted by Natalia, a columnist for Drinks+ magazine and Brand Ambassador of Vinos de La Luz. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see Alla and Ivan again, so I asked Natalia to allow me to accompany her on her journalistic mission🙂.

Finally, I must admit that I had a “personal problem” with Ivan: our passion for what we are doing made us constantly talk about wine. And each of us wanted to tell more and faster than the other🙂. And so, due to the interview, I solved this problem: I could finally silently and carefully listen to Ivan. Earlier, I began to respect him for his wine and passion. Now, I also respect him for his deep knowledge of history, politics, philosophy, religion and … even for the grape seed oil that the Plachkov produce🙂.

with a magazine

I would like to extend my gratitude to Natalia Burlachenko for the opportunity to do this. I am going to read this material in Drinks+ magazine, sipping red wine from two glasses alternately: one will be filled with La Luz and another one with Kolonist. Triple pleasure!


Natalia Burlachenko: Let’s start with what is probably already known to many of our readers, but kindly remind me: what brought you into winemaking, when you decided to create your own wine?

Ivan Plachkov: In the late 90s – early 2000s, the Danube Bessarabia was one of the most depressed regions of Ukraine: the economy did not work, the social sphere was not funded, and the people living here did not see any prospects for their future. The idea of ​​implementing the Kolonist project was, first of all, aimed at showing the potential of our region as a wine-producing region (wine was produced here yet at the times of the Ancient Greece), opening up the capabilities of people, the region and the country in general. Moreover, the Bulgarians (and I am an ethnic Bulgarian) have the love of the vine engraved in their genetic memory.

Talking

Natalia Burlachenko: Please define the stages of development of Kolonist in chronological order: from the beginning of operations after the enterprise’s foundation, to the present day.

Ivan Plachkov: In 2020, we were celebrating 15 years of Kolonist’s operations.  If we conditionally divide the history of Kolonist into 5 stages, then the first one was comprehension of the idea, creation of the team, planting of the first three hectares of vineyards and production of the first 2500 bottles. The second stage: completion of the construction of a winery in compliance with the modern European technologies, planting another 10 hectares of vineyards and purchase of the up-to-date European equipment for production of the volume up to 100 thousand bottles. The third stage: beginning of collaboration with the renowned French oenologist and consultant Olivier Doga and his wife Kathy Sokazo, and entering the European market with wines of “High Gamma” category.

The fourth stage: beginning of the production of sparkling wines using the classic method of champagnization, as well as release of grape seed oil and balsamic vinegar. We have just begun to implement the fifth stage: it consists in planting another 50 hectares of vineyards to fully provide our production line with our own grapes. Today, we buy up to 30-40 per cent of the grapes from our partners: the adjacent wineries.

 Alla and Ivan Plachkov

Natalia Burlachenko: Kolonist is a company that strives to gain from grapes everything that this amazing berry can give. Tell us about the principles of production, about working with grapes.

Ivan Plachkov: We are confident that a good wine begins yet in the vineyards. We plant only Ukrainian seedlings. The terroir and the location of our plots on the slopes of the largest freshwater lake in Ukraine Yalpug allow us to minimize the treatment of vines with reagents against diseases. The grapes are hand-harvested, and it takes no more than an hour from harvesting to entering the production facilities. Subsequent processing and fermentation of grapes are carried out, using the most up-to-date Italian, German, and French equipment. Wine bottling is done via sterile cold bottling line. Wines are aged in French barriques made of the 150-year-old French and American oak, using both traditional toasting method, and modern ceramic and hydroceramic toasting methods.

But the main component of our success is personnel possessing the highest level of organization, responsibility and professionalism.

Plachkov

Natalia Burlachenko: You say that now the time has come for the wines of the “New Old World”. What exactly do you mean by this concept?

Ivan Plachkov: Until recently, wine experts have divided the world’s wine regions into three main parts: the Old World (Europe), the New World (USA, Chile, Argentina, Australia, etc.) and the New “New World” (China and Vietnam). However, nowadays, the regions, where wines have been produced since the times of the Ancient Greece, Rome, and Byzantium, are attracting much attention. Unfortunately, during the period of Ottoman domination, the culture of winemaking was lost. And during the Soviet era, the wines, which were the products of the then industry, were produced. And it is only now, when the potential of the incredible terroirs of the countries of the Black Sea region is being discovered. This region is called the New “Old World”.

Natalia Burlachenko: For what reason, Ukraine, which had such deep traditions, virtually disappeared from the world’s wine-producing map at a certain point in time? What grape variety can bring Ukraine to the forefront of the world’s winemaking?

Ivan Plachkov: As I said, the continuous Ottoman domination, during which all local autochthonous varieties, except for one – Telti Kuruk – were lost, and the Soviet-era period, when a huge amount of “industrial” wines were produced, are the main reasons behind the loss of the culture of viticulture and winemaking.

As concerns the potential Ukrainian grape varieties, first of all, I would distinguish “Odessa Black” and “Sukholimansky White”, which were bred by the Ukrainian vine selection breeders in the 60s. On the basis of these varieties, Kolonist creates the brand of “Ukrainian wine”. Wines from these varieties have already been highly appreciated by the world’s leading wine experts. And we believe that these varieties will help Ukraine enter the family of the world’s wine-making countries.

Natalia Burlachenko and Alla Plachkova

Natalia Burlachenko: 2021 will be a historic year for the entire generation: Ukrainians will finally be able to own land and vineyards. How, do you think, will this fact affect the wine industry’s development?

Ivan Plachkov: This will certainly give a huge impetus to the development of viticulture and winemaking. First of all, due to the planting, on a long-term basis, of the vineyards with very high-quality planting material. [It will also imply] transition to the processing of vineyards, using the most up-to-date equipment and the most advanced technologies.

Natalia Burlachenko: Do you believe in the so-called Denominations of Origin? If so, do you think that Ukraine should have its own appellations? Which ones would you distinguish at the national level and how many appellations can Ukraine have? What, in your opinion, variety or varieties is, or are capable of becoming the base one(s) for appellations?

Ivan Plachkov: Yes, I do believe! As of today, seven main regions have already been identified in Ukraine for wine production. And the creation of controlled names of origin should be initiated by the producers themselves, as soon as they realize that it will bring them economic benefits. And in no case should this be done in the form of orders. However, there is no doubt that within a fairly short period of time, Ukraine will develop and implement a classification of wines following the example of the European PGIs (“Protected Geographical Indication”) and PDOs (“Protected Designation of Origin”). As for a number of levels in the classification, well, I presume that only three would be enough or a start – “Wine of Ukraine”/PGI/PDO). Nevertheless, the question regarding permitted varieties remains open: additional research needs to be conducted.

Ivan Plachkov

Natalia Burlachenko: The small French town of Beaujolais once invented the festival of young wine, which is now celebrated around the world every year on the third Wednesday of November under the slogan “Beaujolais Nouveau estarrive”. Argentina has declared April 27-th as Malbec Day and is hosting government-sponsored events through its distributors and embassies in various countries. Don’t you think that Ukraine deserves to have its own flagship grapes? Which day and variety would you choose to call it the “Day of …”?

Ivan Plachkov: We are confident that the flagship grape variety in the Ukrainian winemaking is Odessa Black, and it deserves celebrating the “Odessa Black Day” in our country. We are grateful to you, Ricardo, for sharing with us the idea of establishing a holiday dedicated to the Ukrainian variety. We decided to establish this holiday on May 5-th, which would be the “Odessa Black Variety Day”, and from May 1-st to May 10-th, we would organize celebrations in honor of that variety.

Ricardo Nunez: You asked me the question, which I would like to answer right now: “Why did Vinos de La Luz decide to conduct this interview with the head of Kolonist?” The answer is pretty simple: because we respect you personally and see in you and the team of Kolonist the avant-garde part of winemakers, we see the future of Ukrainian wine in you!

Text: Natalia Burlachenko, Brand Ambassador of Vinos de La Luz, sommelier.

The conversation between two winemakers, famous in Ukraine and abroad, took place after Dr. Ricardo Nunez, Head of Vinos de La Luz, had visited the Odessa winery Kolonist.

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