The prudent businessman sarcastically said that the year has come to an end, and with it the splendor of celebrating its 40th anniversary since Grupo Eulen’s founder father, David Álvarez, bought Vega Sicilia, a winery group that closed a record 2021. says. figures: 41 million euros turnover, 14% more and sales of 308,804 bottles, 11% more, at a price of 119 euros, 3.5% more. on the urgent agenda pablo alvarez (Bilbao, 1954) There are several tasks for the next year. The first is to look for a general manager for the group. Tempos Vega SicilyIn addition to launching the Deiva winery, the latest project where, after the recent departure of Antonio Menéndez, the Álvarez family will relocate to Galicia, where they bought a 24-hectare plot of land in Tea County in Pontevedra. But in addition to that, she is the group’s president replacing her sister Marta Álvarez, tasked with handing over her position as CEO to the next generation of the family. He explains all this in one chat. Five daysat the Hotel Rosewood Villa Magna in Madrid last Friday.
What did these forty years mean for Vega Sicilia?
It happened so fast, I’ve dedicated my whole life to it. Now when I’m 70, I’m retiring from my managerial position. I have to give way for the new generation to do new things. My balance is that I tried to give my best and when you reach a certain age it is best not to retire and retire at the top.
But he remains president.
This is what the family is discussing. My sister Marta remains a consultant. I can contribute with the experience and prestige I have gained over the years. I will continue to be linked but I will not post.
At what stage are you relocating as CEO?
We are in a slow process. Everything needs to be agreed upon and it takes time because it is not easy to come to an agreement in families. There are currently no candidates and they will be the first to apply and be interested. For this, we will get help from an expert who evaluates the best candidate objectively, because the family cannot decide who is the most suitable.
Do you have a child to take care of?
The eldest, Pablo, is knowledgeable about the world of wine, but the important thing is that it’s worth it and he wants it. Because I’m not hiring a wife in this family business. It’s not easy for your family to control you all the time. They have to do good things to earn the respect of others. Being a son is not easy. They will always compare you even though you have to give them a vote of confidence. I didn’t know and I found out. The process will be resolved next year. It is important that large wineries are in the hands of families because in the world of wine you always need to know who is behind them. There must be a special world, a soul.
The previous CEO recently left the company, are you looking for a replacement?
I am looking for a general manager with the help of a headhunter because it is not easy to find him. That’s why we had to refer to this figure because for every 100 top positions, 70% fail. It’s a complicated situation, you have to live in Valbuena de Duero, you have to work with your family, which is never easy. It is important to us that those who work with us stay with the company and not be part of their curriculum. We want people to like the company, not be more interested in celebrities. You have to love what you do and always be there. Our company is not run from Madrid, we have to earn people’s trust. We believe we will solve it in 2-3 months.
Is it a well paid position?
A well paid profile, well paid. Everyone who works with us gets a good salary. People have to be paid, and we pay above average. You must be generous. We have a CEO, but we also have other CEOs who have been with us for a long time.
Have you been wrong many times?
Some. I was wrong, but you learn from mistakes. Every day I ask myself if I’m okay because I like to improve in every way. And the set is not bad. I’m worried that new people coming in won’t be trapped in the world of wine. The last people I hired were from other industries because I think they can add something different. And this is not easy. My grandfather used to say something that I always repeat, it is easy to paint a pigeon, the difficult thing is to plug its beak and feed it.
Apart from these open fronts, what goals do you have in front of you?
Heal what we have. Businesses are not just about the money they give, you should also calculate when you need to make money. In the wine world, you have to be patient. You can’t start a business today and even less on wine so they can make money yesterday. 70% of wineries don’t make money, but as with all businesses, you have to be patient. You can make money in the wine world but only in the medium and long term.
There is a fashion for expensive wines. Eventually Vega Sicilia will be a cheap wine.
This happens more in Spain than in any other country. There is a race to see who owns the most expensive wines. It is said that wines with a thousand bottles are not seen in the world with that amount at the end. You need to set an amount to mark, these are wines with footnotes. It is fashionable to have an expensive wine because it helps to sell the troop. In our case, we have a demand that far exceeds the supply. We have a demand for two million bottles of Vega Sicilia and we have 400,000 bottles. We have also witnessed the great development of wines in restaurants in recent years. We are present in 150 countries and in most cases we cannot give what they want from us. And we cannot increase production. We have lands that are not suitable for improving the quality of wine.
This means that Vega Sicilia can no longer grow.
No, it cannot grow any further. But we can grow by establishing or acquiring new wineries. For example, with our best selling wine, Alion, we cannot produce more than 320,000 bottles, which is the same number we did in a year of good production like 2000. you’re working with a living creature and wineries can’t work miracles. Wine is born in the vineyard and that is what matters. They also noticed in the United States or Australia that at first they thought the bond was a story and now they are trying to tell its story. terror. The technique makes it possible to make good wines and it is within the reach of everyone, but they have to be made to have the spirit, to be special.
But is your wine expensive right now?
They are expensive wines, but not overly expensive. Wine has ceased to be a food product to be a cultural thing. Each wine adapts to its own possibilities. I always remember going to Robuchon, who was the best chef in the world at the time, with some friends when I was 40, and the sommelier told me that taxi drivers went to the restaurant to eat, they saved money to go, and it was a cultural thing. , aspirational problem. What happens in the wine world is that there is a tendency to see who owns the most expensive wine. There are people who want wine because of its price. I think there’s a lot of nonsense, something to do with the senses. Wine is in fashion, but we must not forget that it was not always like that.
What is it referring to?
In Burgundy, for example, tens of millions are paid for an acre of vineyards and you won’t be able to make it profitable until the day you sell it. It’s like a Picasso you hang on the wall and make money the day it’s sold.
By the way, you have an important contemporary art collection.
We started a long time ago when we started using a box we always buy to make our magnum size labels. Every year we would take one to the market and buy a painting. At that time, there was a company affiliated to the Reina Sofia Museum and many companies including banks and electricity companies were involved in this company and we became partners. We put money in and there was a committee of advisers who selected us and advised us on contemporary works. Now we can have about 60 pieces. Many and others are on display at the Patio Herreriano in Valladolid. They were the promoters of this, my father was alive then. Our final thought was that Vega Sicilia has an artistic legacy and we have consultants for that. The idea is not to acquire works by established artists, but to select newcomers, to support new ones.
They immediately opened a winery in Galicia and opened the previous one in La Rioja, what are they doing in this area they entered with the Rothschild family?
Is everything ok. For example, when we entered Ribera del Duero with Alion in 1982 there were about 14 wineries and it was slowly booming and now there are 307 wineries. Instead we came to La Rioja, a sect with much more historic, more advanced, prestigious wineries, and it wasn’t that easy. In La Rioja, things have progressed more slowly and getting a place is more difficult. It is different, the climate is different, the soil is different, the grape is different, and it takes a process. The winery is solidifying. Our maximum production in this area is 300,000 bottles and gradually wine is starting to become known. Despite the prestige, it is not so easy to chart your way. And these last names help. The Rothschilds sell a lot, whether it’s toilet paper or wine.
Are there many legends about Vega Sicilia?
It is a world of the senses, and it is in accordance with the existence of the senses. For example, it is a myth that I have a table in all restaurants in the world because I am from Vega Sicilia. The only thing is that even though I travel a lot and I’m shy, they know me. There are people who admire me, but I am not an entertainer in the wine world. I’m prudent I travel a lot, more than 100 days a year. He had 130 days scheduled in 2020.
In recent months, there have been two major robberies of restaurant warehouses, as it is known.
There is a substantial frenzy for the wine and the price. It has become fashionable, there are many very rich people in the world who do not know what to buy. And the wines have become a cult object, and you pay everything for them.
Are you considering an IPO of the winery?
All wineries opened to the public in Spain were segregated. Results are slow in the wine world and this is incompatible with the Stock Exchange. Working with shareholders is not easy. Consumption per capita in Spain has fallen by 50% in recent years, but wine has never carried so much money.
Finally, what would you recommend to your successor?
That he loves what he does. In addition to professionalism, it is important to be taken lightly.
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