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The Warsaw Voice » Business » February 23, 2012
Business & Economy
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Spirit of the Times
February 23, 2012   
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Mirosław Pawlina, owner of the M&P Wine & Spirits Company, talks to Elżbieta Wrzecionkowska about building a new Polish brand and about expansion plans.

For many years you have imported and promoted quality wine, cognac and whisky from abroad. Did this involve scouring vineyards and distilleries across Europe in order to find the best products?
I think that we indeed managed to make Polish people familiar with many interesting brands of wine, some of them coming from small family-owned vineyards. Among our latest discoveries are Indian vineyards, which are still little known in Poland. For several years we have regularly been to the most important and largest wine fair, Prowein in Düsseldorf. This is where we had an opportunity to taste Aryaa wines for the first time. Aryaa is a European selection of grape varieties, but the aromas are quite un-European. Apart from juicy fruit flavors, these wines also have a wide range of herbal and vegetable overtones. The vineyard where the wines are made is located in Nashik, India’s best wine-growing region. The producer, Mercury Winery, exports these relatively young wines to the United States, China, Dubai, Japan, Norway, Italy and, since November last year, to Poland. Our firm is the exclusive distributor of Aryaa wines in Poland. The wine is a perfect match for Indian cuisine, which is gaining popularity in Poland. And it is an important element in our new project of partnering up with restaurants.

Since last year we have held presentations and the tasting of wines from these countries in Portuguese, Indian, Spanish and Italian restaurants in Poland.

A new vodka brand bearing your name was launched on the market at the end of last year. How did the idea of building your own brand originate?
We thought of creating our own product for a long time. While traveling around the world and visiting wineries, and champagne and whisky-makers, when we said we were from Poland we would always hear: “Aah, Poles, Polish vodka.” We are not a wine-making country. Whether we like it or not, Poland is where vodka originated, as proven by historical and ethnographical studies. The earliest mention of vodka in Poland comes from the 15th century. The first record known to contain the word vodka—“wódka” in Polish—is a court document from Sandomierz province dating from 1405. Over the centuries, vodka production in Poland has acquired legendary status and has become part of national tradition, history, literature, customs and social life. The production process was refined to achieve a high level of quality. I think that for Polish people vodka is still what whisky is to Scots and champagne or cognac to the French. This is why, relying on centuries of experience and having access to family recipes, I decided to produce my own original vodkas. One of them indeed bears my name, Pawlina. The other is called Dwór Polski (Polish Manor). The name alludes to the former tradition of vodka production in small distilleries on the estates of the Polish nobility.

What sets the vodkas you produce apart from the dozens of other varieties sold in Poland and other countries around the world?
First of all, my vodkas are labeled with the name of a specific person. There is no large producer behind them, which would diffuse responsibility. It is like visiting a friend for a birthday party and being served his homemade liqueur. The liqueur is made of the best ingredients. And the host not only offers it to his guests, but also savors it himself in the evenings. Pawlina is made of select rye grain. It is distilled three times and is a product of guaranteed quality. We position it in the premium vodka class, which is reflected in its price. The bottle has been designed exceptionally carefully by an art agency. The Dwór Polski line, as I said, is inspired by the tradition of vodka production on the estates of the Polish nobility.

We want the bottles to feature pictures of specific country houses of the nobility. Inside the packaging, consumers will find a leaflet describing the history of a given estate. I hope this will contribute to spreading knowledge about these beautiful, old and often forgotten sites.

You want to enter international markets with your vodkas. What regions and countries are you interested in?
Initially, until October last year when we held our annual festival, we did not think of exporting our product. Last year, our business partners from different parts of the world—and we work with over 70 firms across the world—arrived in Warsaw to take part in our National Wine and Spirits Exhibition. Tasting our vodka, they suggested that we should start exporting them. Also, statistics show that the consumption of vodka is on the decrease in Poland. Plain vodka is no longer attractive to Polish people. These days, expensive vodka varieties, made—like ours—of the best ingredients and properly distilled, are selling increasingly well. And I think that only this kind of vodka has a chance of succeeding on foreign markets. We have already sent the first batches of vodka to Canada. A promising direction is South America: Brazil, Chile and Argentina. These are still virgin markets where domestic beverages reign supreme, but vodkas and European alcoholic drinks are sought after. For the time being, with the help of our partners, we are studying the market. At the end of the year, we will be able to sum up the results. For now, we are happy that the two brands are selling well on the Polish market.
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