One day in early 2010 Víctor Fernández de Manzanos and his girlfriend Laura Mateo received a call from Azagra (La Rioja) in London, where both were studying, he Finance and Business Management at the London School of Economics, she Translation in Westminster. A relative told Victor: "Come, your father is sick." I was not sick He had died. He was the oldest of two brothers and was then only 20 years old (the other one, David, who started at the company in 2014, was 16). He could not go back to London. He had no choice but to take over the management of the company family, a small winery founded at the end of the 19th century in which 10 people worked and which invoiced a little over one million euros.
Although he was preparing to one day succeed his father, Víctor Fernández, who would later finish his studies in London from Spain, I did not have any executive experience Not much knowledge about the status of the firm. The first surprise came when it came to paying the employees' payroll: there was no money. "We had to use the money from my father-in-law's life insurance to pay salaries," explains Laura, now Víctor's wife and general director of the company.
Eight years have passed and the small winery, which then sold in bulk, has become a group, Manzanos Wines, with 10 wineries in La Rioja and Navarra, with 120 workers and a turnover of 30.4 million euros. With 1,525 hectares of vineyards (300 owned), the company produces about 400 different wines. Among its brands include Siglo, Castillo de Olite, Gonzalo de Berceo or Las Campanas, with some very award-winning products. The Peñín Guide includes 13 of its wines, with 90 points.
1890 The Fernández de Manzanos founded Azagra, a winery with a capacity to produce 50,000 liters.
1950. They created the Viña Marichalar winery, the first one assigned to the Rioja Qualified Denomination of Origin, which exceeds 1.5 million liters of capacity.
1990. In this decade, Víctor Fernández de Manzanos Pastor, fourth generation, joined the family business, after studying Chemical Engineering and taking a master's degree in Viticulture and Enology. He is the first member of the family with training in viticulture and oenology. Build the Marqués de Butrago winery.
2010 Brothers David and Víctor, together with his wife, Laura, take over the company.
The group, which operates under the umbrella of Manzanos Entreprises, has companies such as Mineraqua (water, with three springs) and Porsche Pamplona, acquired in 2015, among others. "We bought it because we saw that there were many synergies between the concessionaire and the wine company, the same segment of the public, the events …", points out Laura Mateo. Overall, the group reached 41.4 million euros of sales last year.
What was the secret? "The first years we were able to survive, since we had 100 hectares of vineyards, which allowed us to obtain credit from the banks," he explains. With a fully designed roadmap, Víctor Fernández, the CEO, began to transform small SMEs. The first thing was to abandon bulk sales, create brands and export their products. "Our wines were of good quality," says Mateo, "but we sold them in the local market, because my father-in-law, who did not speak English, had never tried to export." As they did not have money to recruit commercials, both began to travel abroad, to the United States, the United Kingdom, China … and little by little they began to place their wines abroad. They are now in 60 countries and have offices in London and Shanghai.
And, as customers wanted variety of assortment, in 2014 the company began to acquire wineries, both in La Rioja and in Navarra, where the Fernández Manzano family originates from. That year Bodegas Castillo de Eneriz bought, in 2016 the Grupo Luis Gurpegui Muga and Berceo (five wineries) and in 2018 Bodegas Campanas, before Vinícola Navarra and Siglo; some acquisitions that raised the debt to 30 million euros and that, says the executive, "forces us to be awake, to sell more". "We have been lucky, the banks have behaved well with us. They have trusted in the management capacity of Víctor ", which represents the fifth generation of the family, admits Laura Mateo.
The diversity of the wineries of the group, as well as the abundance of vineyards, scattered throughout the area, allow Manzanos Wines to focus on its customers: "We offer them even to make wines to taste, unique, very fashionable now, with the mixes they want ", Add. The company continues to take care of retail sales and marketing, especially the relationship with its importers and attendance at fairs. "We have 24 commercials that are always traveling," he says. "In addition, we present ourselves at about 10 international fairs each year."
In Manzanos Wines they assure that, at the moment, they will not buy more wineries. "We are focusing on consolidating and reinforcing our high-end products," says Mateo. But the projects have not stopped. The company has embarked on an ambitious wine tourism plan, so it has acquired the Tejada Palace (five buildings of 1710), in the center of Haro, a project in which it has already disbursed eight million euros. The space will house a luxury hotel, a wine museum, an auditorium and a bar. And also wineries, of course.