Branka Slaveska, CEO, Tikveš

Conquering Global Markets With Premium Offers

The Tikveš Winery has established itself as the strongest and most serious “wine player” on the regional market, while simultaneously conquering the world

This company works daily to create unforgettable experiences through its exceptional wines and spirits. Speaking here in her first interview with the Serbian media, Branka Slaveska, new CEO of Tikveš Winery, exclusively discusses the company’s dedication, global market trends and why quality is paramount.

As a symbol of wine tradition around the region, Tikveš Winery creates, nurtures and promotes values, placing quality first and distributing wine to 25 countries around the world. How is a true brand built; and how does one develop a business amid serious competition?

— Tikveš Winery has a clear mission to which it is committed devotedly. We are here to create outstanding wines and spirits, memorable experiences, and to lead sustainable wine production while respecting our vine growers’ heritage.

Positive energy, intelligent and capable individuals with excellent qualities and ideas, as well as attention and love in the working process, are all crucial elements in creating a top-notch wine. We have incorporated science and digitalisation, which are essential in today’s world, along with high-quality raw materials and skilled oenologists, to achieve results reflected in wines that rival the world’s best, as evidenced by numerous awards. Building a real brand requires perseverance, continuous investment in production and quality, setting high standards and striving for better results.

When discussing quality, I must say that producing high-quality wine is an imperative for Tikveš Winery. High-quality wine requires high-quality grapes, which result from fertile soil treated and protected in modern ways. Traditional protection methods are not always sufficient in times of climate change – science must apply and predict risks, and set criteria and standards. We therefore invest in constant progress, continuously introducing innovations in vineyards, even using artificial intelligence to protect vines, thus ensuring high-quality grapes. We generously share all this with our partners, winemakers, and other wineries with which we work.

Does this path lead to awards?

— The quality of our wines is recognised worldwide and has been awarded the highest ratings by the most renowned wine critics. The authenticity of Tikveš wines has attracted the attention of the world’s most respected wine critics, like Robert Parker and his “Wine Advocate” team, who have given high ratings – 93, 94, and 95 out of a possible 100 points – to as many as eight of our wines. Tikveš is the only winery from Southeast Europe to have achieved such high ratings. The first high rating, 94 points, was awarded by Parker in 2012 to the “Bela Voda” premium red wine. Just two years later, Parker and his team rated this wine with an impressive 95 points.

When it comes to awards, Tikveš wins about 100 of them annually. It’s important to note that having a high-quality product is a key condition for winning awards and entering foreign markets, and that’s only achievable by setting standards and defining a system of geographical indications.

How important is it to keep up with trends in viticulture?

— Our vision is to fully keep pace with trends in the wine industry and to be recognised as pioneers of authentic wine. The number of premium wine labels has increased since 2003, when the M6 investment group became the winery’s majority owner, leading to our winery becoming known for its high quality. During this period, we invested around 45 million euros in upgrading and modernising facilities, renewing vineyards and introducing the best viticultural practices in the region, which placed us at the top among the wineries of this part of Europe.

We invest in constant progress, continuously introducing innovations in vineyards, even using artificial intelligence to protect vines, thus ensuring high-quality grapes

Quality, technology and production with minimal sulphur have positioned Tikveš among wineries that care about the health of consumers. Our top wines come from the Domaine Bela Voda, Domaine Babuna and Domaine Lepovo locations, but also the Château de Gourdon estate in France. All these locations form the Tikveš Châteaux & Domainеs brand platform. These wines come from specific micro locations that are cultivated in the most modern ways, allowing for exceptionally high-quality grapes that produce authentic wines with rich and sophisticated aromas.

What does the world demand today; and are you able to satisfy those demands?

— We strive to do so. As the leading winery in the region, Tikveš has the obligation to push the industry forward towards higher quality and more sophisticated tastes. We are proud of our terroir, which is now featured in the best hotels and restaurants worldwide. The global wine elite seeks refinement and a unique offer, and we are working on that. Of course, the modern systems mentioned in the production process have contributed to this and have propelled us to the top of the pyramid. Consumer tastes and times change year by year, and you lose the race if you don’t keep up.

You work intensively on environmental protection, social responsibility and responsible corporate governance (ESG). What has Tikveš done in this segment, and when can the first report be expected?

— As a winery, we demonstrate clear commitment and strive for sustainable development and the enhancement of our company performance in environmental protection, social impact and corporate governance. The implementation of ESG principles is a significant step forward; it’s a lifestyle and work culture.

Being the first winery in the region to adopt ESG practices, we set an example with our goals and inspire changes that will bring substantial positive outcomes and redefine standards in the wine industry. The compiling of our first ESG report is underway, marking the beginning of Tikveš’s transformation into a completely green winery.

You keep pace with market needs and organic wine production. What is the scope of the current portfolio and what can consumers expect soon?

— The first wine made from certified organic grapes is “Domaine Lepovo Chardonnay”, from the 2021 harvest. This direction was assumed as part of the strategy, given that we follow contemporary global trends in the cultivation of organic grapes, in wine production, sustainable development activities and the green transformation of the winery. New generations are becoming more aware of organic production and are seeking everything that is produced in accordance with nature. We also apply specific practices, such as reduced vine yields and nighttime harvesting, which contribute to a higher concentration of primary aromatic compounds in the grapes. We have introduced special oenological processes, including wild yeast that naturally matures in the grape berry, wine aging and maturation in special concrete vessels and amphorae that allow wines produced in this way to have exceptionally unique characteristics, which are an indicator of premium wine. We have produced 80,000 litres of organic wine over the last two years and are continuing to increase production.

Year after year, attention is increasingly being given to regional cooperation among the Western Balkan countries. To what extent do events like the Kopaonik Business Forum contribute to this?

— For us, the Kopaonik Business Forum is a place where we exchange experiences and opinions in the field of economy and the development of the Western Balkans. We believe that we, as a company, provide a significant contribution to the development of our region: by recognising the brands we launch into the world, we strengthen cooperation between countries and improve relations, so that Europe, as well as the rest of the world, can see us as future partners.

I expect the Kopaonik Business Forum to provide improvements and bring new collaborations, and to be successful and productive for all participants. It is extremely important that regional cooperation among the Western Balkan countries continues to strengthen, because only together can we represent a strong player able to compete at the global level.

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