RUSSIANS are famous for their vodka, Germans for their beer, French and Italians for their wine. What beverage could represent Slovakia? There is no unequivocal answer, as all three are produced here and a substantial amount of each is consumed as well.
However, over the last decade Slovakia has seen a widening availability in this area. Local and regional drinks are being complemented by world-famous products that were previously difficult to find.
One of the contributors to this trend is Belvédere Slovensko, a subsidiary of the Belvédere company based in Beaune, France. Belvédere was established in 1991 to import quality French wines and spirits to countries where these drinks were relatively unfamiliar. At present, the company has more than 30 subsidiaries around the world, especially in the countries of central and eastern Europe, Japan, China, the US, and South America.
“Last year our company sold about 100,000 bottles of French wine in Slovakia, “ said Michal Halag, Belvédere’s regional director. “The bestsellers among the French wines were those from Bordeaux and Burgundy, as Slovaks are the most familiar with these wine areas. Also relatively well represented are vins de pays, which are the most accessible price-wise.”
The Belvédere group proudly claims that its basic principle is high quality. Therefore, they select suppliers with a long tradition and global reputation for their broad range of branded French wines, wines from around the world, and spirits.
Thanks to the quality its products and services, Belvédere Slovensko has gained a good reputation during its short presence on the Slovak market and at present its products supply the country’s most famous restaurants and hotels. The company’s wines are also represented at the most prestigious banquets and events across the country. Does this mean that the interest of Slovaks in French wine is growing?
“It is certainly growing, and I think that after Slovakia’s accession to the European Union there is still potential for the import of several good wines. However, one needs to bear in mind the sale strength of wines from other EU countries, states of the former eastern bloc, and last but not least there are wines from the new world, the import of which is growing as they are very popular,” said Halag.
And does Belvédere Slovensko offer any extraordinary products or special vintages?
“France is a country where you can find really excellent wines and, above all, there is a huge number of them. There are nine wine regions, plus Cognac and Armanac, which are regions for spirit production where grapes are also grown. For ordinary AOC [a rigorous certification denoting the highest quality] wines we import the vintages that the producer has in store. For Grand Cru [the next level of quality] wines there are interesting vintages. For example, Belvédere Slovensko imported the Petrus 1988 and 1995, Chateau d’Yquem 1989 and 1990, and many others,” said Halag.
Moreover, Belvédere also distributes some Slovak products produced in cooperation with France, including Štefánik Vodka, and Móric August Beňovský Vodka and Borovička gin, all named after famous figures from Slovak history.