Mtevino - The Path from Hobby to Big Business

On the way to Kakheti the vineyards of Nika Zautashvili can be found stretched over 10 hectares in the village of Khashmi, Sagarejo Municipality. Construction of a factory, hotel and wine cellar nestled in the middle of the vineyard are set for completion this year, and by the end of next January, nearly 700,000 bottles of wine will start ‘conquering’ local and international markets. The founder of Mtevino is a typical entrepreneur. Winemaking, once launched as a hobby, currently represents his unique business model as do large-scale plans and goals.

After consulting with his spouse, who wholly supported his ambitions for success, Zautashvili decided to buy a relatively small plot of land in Khashmi. He then went on to integrate the experience he had obtained while working for international companies and managing private business in his own project.

The San-Francisco Model

Viniculture and winemaking are particularly wide-spread and respectable activities in Georgia. There are dozens of wine varieties produced in the homeland of wine, while hundreds of thousands of wine bottles are exported to various international markets, including Eastern and Western Europe, China, Japan and the USA.

Zautashvili decided to engage in that successful winemaking sector. Two years later, after purchasing the vineyards, he decided to build a factory.

“My wife and I started everything together, went through all the bureaucratic levels and prepared all the necessary documents. The construction process is run by X2, the successful building company belonging to my friends. I feel confident in my choice and was happy to hear of my brother’s decision to go back to private business and leave politics. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Levan Zautashvili, the former governor of Mtskheta-Mtianeti]. He has exceptionally impressive experience in business management and I am sure that he will also be successful at winemaking.”

The chateaux of San-Francisco represent a business role model for Nika Zautashvili. Multifunctional buildings in the middle of vineyards, integrating hotel, degustation area and wine cellar. Along with winemaking, a chateau is an interesting destination for tourists, offering them the chance to taste wine and local cuisine and spend a night in comfort. Zautashvili’s hotel will boast 12 fully serviced rooms and will host each visitor with wine of local production.

Khashmi Saperavi

The village of Khashmi is the homeland of the famous grape variety Khashmi Saperavi. Prior to building the chateau, thanks to Zautashvili, the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia added Khashmi Saperavi to its list of Georgian wines, envisaging protection of that wine variety in accordance with all the international agreements and conventions that Georgia has signed or is attached to.

MTEVINO – The beginning of a new life in Khashmi village

Nika Zautashvili is to start producing eight different wines, including Khashmi Saperavi, Kindzmarauli, Rkatsiteli and more, by the end of January. And he has other plans too.

“We own 10 hectares: half of that is vineyard that will be harvested this year. At this stage we have nearly 18,000 vines. However, we are not only focused on our own grape, we also plan to purchase and are in active communication with local villagers and neighboring vineyards and will use their grape to launch the enterprise,” Zautashvili says.

It seems his business has revived the local winemakers and a number of neighbors have recommenced working on their previously defunct vineyards.

Major Aim – The US Market

“We plan to produce approximately 700,000 bottles of wine from this year’s harvest, 80% of which will be allocated for the international market, with the remainder for distribution in Georgia,” Zautashvili says.

“We have been striving to ‘conquer’ large markets from the very beginning, including Russia, China, Europe, as well as the US. The USA represents a lot of work for us. We have enough contacts from the US who have visited Georgia and seen the process of construction and full equipping of the factory with Italian machinery.”

The US market is divided into the ‘American’ and ‘Ethno’ categories. The ethno-market envisages Georgian restaurants and small-businesses operating in the US. Covering a typical American, large-scale market is quite difficult, but it is, Zautashvili says, achievable. “American wine marketing is completely different – from packaging to sales locations.”

“Although Georgian wine has been exported to the US for years already, I think the potential of the market has yet to be fully assimilated. Exporting 300,000 bottles of wine to the US, a country with a population of 330 million, is not a satisfactory result to my mind. We aim to improve this figure,” he says.

Working on the label design is already complete, with Achiko Gogelia, a friend of Zautashvili’s, as the designer. The company’s team is supervised by Lela Kobiashvili, Zautashvili’s wife and the co-founder of the company, who also holds the position of Director General of Mtevino.

“Our staff boasts the best employees, much contributing to the fast success of the company. We have a brand ambassador, logistics manager, marketing manager, viticulturist, and commercial director. I expect to come out on top with this team,” Zautashvili states.

“The right management is paramount for success. I see no risks. Georgia currently represents an ideal platform for starting a business. I’m sure I will launch a product which will be tradable and in high demand in Georgia, as well as the rest of the world.”

Originally printed in Entrepreneur Georgia magazine.

By Ketevan Kvaratskheliya

Photo: Nika Zautashvili

26 August 2019 18:37