Montenegro Bottled: Plantaze Winery

 

 

Founded in 1963 Plantaze Winery deals in the production of table grapes, wine, peaches, grape brandies, catering along with retail outlets to service that production. Interestingly enough they also happen to have a fish growing operation, Californian Trout. Of course some of these items do not traditionally fall within the confines of a wine producer, however, it does offer a glimpse into what this company provides to its nation; a unique business aimed at placing not only Montenegro on the world map but also a strong & diverse exporter in a country in dire need of offsetting its trade balance. This last component is of significant importance when you consider that the company represents nearly half of all of Montenegro’s agricultural exports. 60% is the number, the percentage of their wines that are destined for foreign markets, primarily to neighboring nations but spanning as far as Russia, China and even the United States. The latter of which represents a true market opportunity for their premium wine offerings.

 

When we sat with the company’s Executive Director, Mrs. Verica Maras, a woman emanating elegance with an astute pulse on market trends she noted the importance of the American market, “The most obvious market for our premium wines was in nearby European Union states who have traditional tastes for great wines. However, following the recession we took notice that their consumption was down dramatically but interestingly, the United States consumption was increasing as early Millennials began developing a more refined taste as their careers blossomed leading to stronger purchasing power.”

Now, the wine market in the United States is not an easy one to access. But when you consider their broad line of award winning products consisting of 22 wine and natural grape brandies codified in accordance with NATO standards, ISO 9001, 14000, 22000 & HACCP adherence and the fact that this journalist had the cruel task of touring their facilities and tasting their incredible wines for an afternoon one quickly realizes they’ve got the goods. Moreover, they’ve got the operational capacities and passion to be a potential contender as strong market entrant and I for one am happy to act as a catalyst within our investor community to help facilitate that.

By the way, when I mention awards I mean the 2013 Gran Gold Medal at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles for their superb Vranac Barrique; and when I mention capacity, I mean they own the largest vineyard complex in ALL of Europe with over 2,310 ha with 11 million grapevines. When an operation of this size exists it requires incredible organization and supply chain management. What’s interesting about Plantaze Winery is the fact that their entire chain, from grape to glass, is all accomplished within a single compound mere minutes from the capital city’s international airport and under an hour to seaports on their magnificent Adriatic Coast. When expressing my shock about having a winery within a capital city but feeling as if I’m in a green laden paradise, Mrs. Maras, stating coyly yet with a prideful ambiance, “Well, That’s Montenegro.”

And she’s right, to a local it’s just that; but to a visitor Montenegro is beyond impressive nearly rendering the country’s slogan, “Wild Beauty”, an equally impressive understatement. Our time with Plantaze was short but one thing is certain, they are integral to the country’s development and image and if Plantaze Winery through Mrs. Maras’ vision is any indication of what Ambassador stewardship entails the country is in good hands. She reconciled this fact by noting that, “Montenegro is ranked as one of the Top 10 tourist destinations in the world. Our core interest is to do our part in maintaining this status and also to become a top wine-tour destination in the world. When one thinks of Montenegro they must also think of food and wine.”

Ultimately their story is not as simple as selling wine to loyal consumers, but rather it is through that very wine in which they are promoting the very Best of Montenegro and its bountiful natural ambiance. They accomplish this additionally through stellar wine tours of their compound, pinnacled by a former military aircraft hangar turned world-class wine cellar [photo inset] and host to major events, including US Embassy activities. Compounding this notion further is that 20% of their wine is destined for the tourists themselves entering Montenegro and bringing that taste back home with them, thereby, perpetuating the country’s positive image.

All of this leads to a responsibility normally not bestowed upon a company. However, as majority state-owned operation this responsibility may come as a prerequisite; but rest assured, there are no Ministers making this wine or turning the wheels. They leave that to the professionals and the company has proven its resilience during a worldwide recession by maintaining a profit and at the same time reaching efficiencies with a full-time workforce of over 700, a huge figure in a nation with only 600,000 people.

In the end, they are doing great work; offering a tremendous domestic “Montenegrin” experience for tourists and a fantastic line of fine wines for the foreign consumer. For those that haven’t had the privilege of sampling Montenegro’s Plantaze Winery products then consider yourself lucky; it’s a rare thing these days to discover anything new, let alone an entire country. Let Plantaze be that little held secret only you think you know about, relish in that anticipation of something great at your fingertips by considering Montenegro as your next destination and Plantaze’s wine as your forbidden fruit. In the end though it may be prudent to let the wine speak for itself, “The best way to brand Montenegro and reach the masses is through the palate,” a sentiment shared by Mrs. Maras and one in which she must have held well in advance of our meeting. Because believe me, this glowing review couldn’t be without first a preceding sampling of their wines that day. In fact, I’ll admit it right now: I am under the influence of their famous 2008 Vranac Barrique as this article is constructed. Is this cheating? Was Mrs. Maras buying me off? If so, I’ve never felt so guilt-free; this time a sentiment I’m sure she shares with me!

 

Personal Message: “Simply stated, I’d like Montenegro to be known as a destination of world class tourism and, to quote Mr. Federico Castellucci, President of the OIV*, ‘A small nation of great wines’”

* International Organization for Vine & Wine

 

 

 

 

 

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