Victor BOSTAN is the CEO of Purcari Wineries Group, one of the largest wine and brandy producers in Central and Eastern Europe. He has over 35 years of experience in the wine industry and, before starting his own business, he visited over one hundred French wineries located in the Bordeaux and Burgundy areas. In Italy, he had the opportunity to learn about the competitiveness of producers there and how much effort goes into producing premium quality wine.

 

Purcari Wineries, one of the leading wineries in Central and Eastern Europe recorded a strong growth during the first half of 2021. Which are the main elements that have boosted sales and how do you anticipate the business’ evolution for the whole year?

 

Listing Purcari Wineries at the Bucharest Stock Exchange was a decisive step in reaching our strategic objectives, among which becoming the leader in Central and Eastern Europe in our sector. Purcari Group development strategy focuses in 2021 on organic growth. Our main objectives are maintaining the exceptional quality of our products as well as pursuing our effort to ensure the premium level for Purcari portfolio mix of products. We also wish to develop our presence on the international markets and to strengthen our leading position on the Central and Eastern European markets. In 2021, we plan to expand our range of products, as we are fully equipped with all the tools we need to reach this goal: all of the Group’s wineries have been already retrofitted with high-performance technological equipment, and the vineyards are qualitatively superior, well maintained and taken care for.

Purcari Group manages over 1,300 hectares of vineyards and runs four production platforms of still-wines, sparkling wines and cognacs in Romania and Republic of Moldova. The most famous brands of Purcari portfolio are Crama Ceptura [Ceptura Winery], Bostavan, and Bardar.

The Group’s products can be found in over 30 countries worldwide. The Purcari Wineries Group portfolio includes several premium wine and sparkling wine brands, as well as other quality products. Purcari is currently the largest wine exporter in Republic of Moldova.

We are confident that the business will perform this year as well.  Our forecast remains unchanged from what we stated at the beginning of the year: both in terms of organic sales growth and profitability.

Among the elements influencing this growth are: long-term market, brand and product development strategy, cost discipline, a strong team and, last but not least, an increased focus on product quality.

And, I would like to draw attention to the last mentioned element, namely the quality of the product. I would like to stress that it is precisely the quality that defines our Purcari products and it earns every year more and more medals for Purcari Winery. This year our winery became the most awarded winery in the world at the most important competitions. For example, over the past six years Purcari has won the highest number of medals, 103, at the Decanter Wine Olympics in London. This is possible thanks to our production process, which is set in such a way that the wines’ flavour is constant, regardless of grapes, rain or other external factors. The quality is also proved by our star product Negru de Purcari [Purcari Black], appreciated year by year by the best sommeliers, ranking among the top 1% in the category of best wines on Vivino.

 

Almost two centuries old, Purcari is currently the leader in the premium wine segment in Romania and the largest exporter in the Republic of Moldova. Which are the “ingredients” consolidating such performance?

 

People, Quality, Dedication, Patience, Perseverance, Consistency.  Purcari is Purcari. Not since today or yesterday. Since 1827.

Our goal, our purpose is to make people’s lives more pleasant, more beautiful, more flavourful. Wine itself is a pleasure, a flavour and our goal is to perpetuate it.

We have a vision. We know what we are doing, and how and where we are going.

While most wineries during the pandemic period chose just to survive, we, at Purcari, made a strategic decision: we invested in new production lines, marketing and again, quality.  Clearly, we have not chosen the sacrificial path, but have carefully calculated each step in order to develop. As a result, the most severe year for many, 2020, was for Purcari a year with a positive track record, which is a success with a particular flavour for us. 2021 is the year in which we continue this approach even more intensely. Our new ideas and products created during lockdown are taking shape. We are talking about a completely new collection, Nocturne, which was first launched here, in Romania.

Last, but not least, we are talking about the implementation of the new line of Vintage Sapiens, a product that has already started to conquer prestigious international awards.

 

What is the profile of the Romanian consumer compared to customers in other countries in the region where you are present through exports?

 

We pay attention to what unites all Purcari wine consumers, namely the wish to enjoy a quality product.  Purcari wine is more than a mere grape beverage, Purcari wine has the charm to reunite families, to tie friendships. Purcari is the wine that springs from history. 

10-15 years ago, Romanian consumers preferred sweet or semi-sweet wines, nowadays the situation has changed a lot in favour of dry wines. People choose quality over quantity. The local consumer is starting to experiment – today they want to taste a Chardonnay, tomorrow a red blend with Malbec and Rară Neagră, for example. The trend towards a healthy lifestyle has also contributed to this over the last few years, and we really support this through our activities. For instance, in the Republic of Moldova Purcari is co-organizer of the Purcari Wine Run, which took place, for the fifth time, on September 12, in our vineyards.

I have noticed, for example, that in Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) dry wine lovers are only taking the first steps along this path.

In China, red wines are preferred. We can certainly say that it is a distinctive feature of the Chinese market.

A major role in this paradigm is played not only by consumer preferences, but also by the rules imposed by each country we export to. For instance, in the Baltic States it is practically prohibited to advertise alcoholic products, wine is considered an alcoholic product there, while in the Republic of Moldova it is a food. Therefore, in these states, it is impossible to broadcast such commercials on TV, radio, or even visual advertising, street advertising included. These restrictions became a real challenge for Purcari, and frankly speaking, we are proud of the solutions we found. We launched there a range of non-alcoholic wines.This gave us access to all types of advertising, and in this way we let people know about the possibility of getting quality wine!

 

How do you anticipate the evolution of the local wine market in the upcoming period? What opportunities does the market offer winemakers and what are the biggest challenges industry players are facing?

 

The local market is ever more educated in terms of wine and wine making. Consumers choose quality wine, research the product from various sources, try pairing it with dishes, are curious and experiment.

This behaviour leads to increased demand in the premium market segment, while poor quality wines gradually disappear. The average price segment is on an upward trend which is certain to continue.

As for risk factors, they could be different: pandemic, climate change, unfair competition from local players, etc.

 

The group you lead is listed on the Bucharest Stock Exchange and is backed by a number of top investors. What are the main development directions of Purcari Wineries in the short and medium-term?

 

Listing Purcari on the Bucharest Stock Exchange was a necessary step to reach our strategic objectives, namely to become the champion of Central and Eastern Europe in our sector and to support the consolidation of the fragmented wine market. The Purcari Group development strategy focuses, in 2021 as well, on organic growth.

The Bucharest Stock Exchange represents an additional guarantee of the fairness and transparency that characterises the processes backing the success of Purcari Group.

When it comes to winemaking there are almost no such things as short-term investments. A new vineyard bears fruit after a minimum of three years, and quality awards are won after some other several years of care. The winemaker is a visionary: they must be able to sense in this year’s must how the wine will evolve in a year, two, ten or even more. We have a tremendous responsibility to our shareholders and consumers. In fact, we want to do what we do best: produce quality wine.

 

Interview by Ioan Dornescu