Granovia Founder: Wine Investors Need Good Soil, Professionals, and a Free Economy
Today Mr Alvin Granoff, a lawyer, hotelier and former Texas politician, is proud to have the first 40,000 bottles of his own Moldovan wine brand in storage and ready to start selling. The businessman calls his company Granovia Wines SRL and sees his brand as a top quality Moldovan wine brand that with the right marketing will help grow the reputation of Moldovan wines across Europe and the world. Granovia Wines is just starting but in 2017 it already got the critics’ choice gold medal in Bergamo, Italy, for a 2015 Merlot. The founder and CEO of Granovia Wines SRL hopes his products are some of the finest and most interesting wines Moldova has to offer. Mr Granoff shared his experience in an interview with Mold-Street.com.
Mr Granoff, it looks like you’ve made it. You now have a company in Moldova and many bottles of Moldovan wines that you are about to sell. Is it correct to call you a Moldovan wine producer?
We are a Moldovan wine brand that works with different Moldovan wine producers to have just the wines we want for the Granovia brand. We are choosing and creating wines that we believe will sell both in Moldova and internationally and enhance the reputation of Moldovan wines around the world. I am not sure it is right to call me a producer until I go to the expense of building my own winery. But we are most definitely a wine brand and use only hand-picked high quality Moldovan wines which we choose and perhaps blend and then we arrange to have bottled with our unique Granovia label and then take our product to market. Over the past two years I have spent a lot of time traveling across Moldova and have met with many wineries and wine experts and am thankful for all the help and support the people and wineries and the Government of Moldova have given me as we get this new business rolling and our wines ready for sale.
Can you tell our readers about the wines you have for sale under the Granovia label? Have you found the Moldova red grail you were looking for?
As of today Granovia wines has almost 40,000 bottles in our own storage facility in Moldova from various grape varieties. We have 10 different wines at this time including 7 with primarily one grape and 3 that are blends which we call cuvée to use a term that is easily understood across Europe. We now collaborate with three wineries and expect to work with others in the future. Sometimes we get the grapes from one winery then may ask for it to be aged with wood for a while at another winery or blended with another grape and taken to a 3rd winery to bottle, so we are getting more and more involved in the art of production. I am also using Sommeliers in Italy where I presently live to help me with some of the tasting and blending ideas. In general however I am very impressed by the quality of wine experts in Moldova that we can call on and the excellent wineries in Moldova we can work with. I only hope our efforts will help spread the understanding to many countries of just how good Moldovan wine can be. As for the red wine grail well you know I love Feteasca Neagra and I am happy to say we now have a good Feteasca Neagra among our wines. But I also have come to love the blends or cuvée that use both the French varietals in concert with regional varietals that are not well known outside Moldova and Romania. I think the taste of these red blends is just wonderful and the potential for marketing quite exciting. I expect to expand blending like this in the future.
Let me get a little back in time and ask you as a foreign investor what do you feel should be written about “doing business in Moldova” and what are your impressions about the business regulations and regulation process?
Moldovan bureaucracy is not as complicated as one might think. It feels like walking in an unknown territory before you learn how things work. I’ve not experienced any major constraints worth talking about; perhaps some technical issues needed some in-depth study given the fact that the modern wine industry is based on technology and rules which producers have to follow in order to become successful.
Of course as we would say in America ‘the jury is not in yet’ meaning we still have more to do in dealing with regulations but 'so far so good'. In some countries I know the foreign investor is discriminated against and given a hard time by local bureaucrats to protect the local businesses from competition, but so far we have not encountered this problem in Moldova and hope we don’t in the future.
There are complaints that Moldova isn’t really a haven for business. Would you agree on that?
I have not found Moldova bad for business so far. We can agree it is a small country and given the Soviet style former government and the massive paperwork that system used there is a history of a big and slow bureaucracy. I would guess Moldova still needs improvement in this area to compete in the free world better. But I have not had any real problems so far and have had great help from Maxim Popov and the good people of MIEPO who have made the paperwork requirements much easier to understand.
For me the big risk is political. Will Moldova stay a free democracy oriented towards free trade with the EU or will Moldova seek closer ties with its eastern partners. I see great potential in the business community and certainly hope Moldova looks west and towards a free economy and liberal democracy for its future. I will respect whatever decision the people make in a free and fair election but of course it could impact my plans on further investment. I certainly am not interested in investing in a country that is not a free and open economy.
I’ve noticed an unusual label design for your bottles—a wine stain, right? How did you come to it?
The design idea was first developed by a designer in New York who came up with having a different concept. I liked this idea and then we actually bought the right to produce the stain from another designer. We now also work with a local company to develop the design into different motifs.
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At first we were using wine color stains on each of our wines. Red looked great on a white label and the Rosé was ok using rose color stain on a white label but the white wine stain on a white label didn’t really look good. We needed to do something to change it but we were totally confused on what to do. It was when we were visiting the label production line of Finpap in Chisinau that I saw a shiny gold color being used to make a Prosecco label for an Italian winery. That’s when the thought came to me to use the shiny gold color for the label and make the glass stains be in white, a reverse of what we do with red wines. At first everyone said that was a crazy idea - but they also said my whole idea of setting up a wine company in Moldova was crazy! I stuck with my idea for the shiny gold label over my advisors objections and now I am happy to say everyone seems to like it. On the shelf I believe our white wines will catch the eye along with our red wines and the look of Granovia Wines will be very different from other wine labels from other companies. We will stand out - and that’s a good thing.
You mentioned the Granovia wine project has received some support. Can you elaborate on this?
First the study tour organized by MIEPO for me two years ago was extremely helpful. If it were not for that visit and the excellent help MIEPO and the Ministry of Agriculture gave me I would have never gotten involved investing in Moldova. MIEPO also helped organize 3-4 additional follow-up trips for me to Moldova over the last few years setting an agenda that was often exhausting. But through these trips I met the wine specialists and producers who have been so helpful to me even until today and some of whom we are working with to produce Granovia brand wines. I have also developed a group of sommeliers and wine shop friends in Italy who have also been very helpful in advising me and tasting for me and helping me select the best wines to bring to the EU market with the Granovia label. Some including the sommeliers who tasted our gold medal for a 2015 Merlot have suggested the wine is so good it should mature another year in the bottle before it is sold. So that wine we have put away for 2019.
Like many Moldovan wine makers your business is at the mercy of nature.
In addition to the problem you mention in your question there is also global warming which all but the most ignorant politicians know is quite real. Global warming is changing the wine season and impacting wine production around the world in addition to regular weather and disease patterns and may be increasing all those problems. But the answer is there is not much we can do outside of looking at finding wines from other countries. Quite frankly political problems can cause that also. But let’s pray that Moldova keeps producing great quality grapes as well as educating talented wine technicians.
What is your marketing plan?
Truth be told we are learning about how to deal with marketing as we move along. First we needed to know we had good wine to sell - and we have accomplished that: are very happy to have 40,000 bottles of 100% Moldovan wine in our warehouse now. We will actually begin our sales in Moldova and move out from there to Romania and then into Poland but we are very intent on entering the EU market in the northern EU non-wine producing areas. At this time, Moldovan wine is almost unknown in many of these areas but I see that as a challenge not a brick wall. We will join other Moldovan producers in marketing campaigns into Asia and will be looking at markets from Singapore to Seoul and of course China. But I believe we will probably base some of our wine storage in Northern Europe and I may personally relocate from Italy to the Northern Europe area to personally direct a North Europe sales effort. As for the USA we are not looking at marketing there yet. We believe establishing our reputation in Europe first is the best way to later sell into America.
By the way we just entered our 2nd wine competition and received our second medal in Berlin which gave us a silver medal for our Rose wine which will soon be on the shelves in Chisinau. It is a wonderful Rose made exclusively from Merlot grapes that grow so nicely in the Moldovan soil. We also got what is called category 4 for our two other entries which means they were silver or gold medal quality but the competition ran out of awards! It is good news to find other wine lovers who like our wines as much as I do.