All in the family: Marsovin on 100 years of winemaking

Helena Grech - 27th June 2019

"As time goes on, people are learning what quality in the wine world is all about, and they are automatically up-scaling their purchases to match", says Marsovin CEO Jeremy Cassar

When you consider the brands that have the most clout in Malta, Marsovin doubtlessly comes to mind. Established by Anthony (Tonin) Cassar in 1919, it has grown to become a household name and one of the most successful examples of family succession in Malta’s business history. The fact that Marsovin is currently celebrating its centenary year is no doubt testament to the many family members and their teams that have pulled together to make it a success over the decades. Today, CEO Jeremy Cassar is the one heading the team, and it is his vision driving the many changes that the company is taking to ensure success in this milestone year, and to secure its position into the future. “The wine-making sector has changed so much over the last 10 years,” Mr Cassar tells me.

“Ours is a slow-moving sector, so change doesn’t come every couple of years as it does in some businesses. However, our focus has been on moving our wines even further up the scale of quality, as quality is what people are looking for more than ever. This is only set to continue further, and now it is a question of trying to give excellent value for money with Maltese wines.” Asked about Malta’s wine sector as a whole, Mr Cassar says this is moving in the right direction, whereby indigenous Maltese varieties are more valuable than they used to be.

All in the family: Marsovin on 100 years of winemaking

“This is the result of years of investment,” he continues, “as we introduced wines that were specifically produced using indigenous varieties, alongside our wines produced using international varieties. We have been broadening the range, maximising on varieties, and have found that both sets now produce very good wines and have a good quality/price ratio. Our focus now is to keep working on this so as to further establish Marsovin’s quality standards within the market.” Of course, one of the related challenges is the fact that Malta’s wine market is an open market – with plenty of importation competition, as well as high consumption rates. “Thankfully this is becoming more of a quality market, and isn’t just about volume anymore,” Mr Cassar says.

“This is a natural cycle. As time goes on, people are learning what quality in the wine world is all about, and they are automatically up-scaling their purchases to match. They want to spend a bit more, and are looking forward to trying a different variety from a country they haven’t tried before, so it is all the more experimental.”

Now, with 100 years of Marsovin behind him and the future wide open, Mr Cassar highlights how the long-term substance of the company will depend on the team’s ability to break the barriers of quality. So, he is making it his mission to always raise the bar higher and higher, and to stay ahead of the game. “We don’t just look at Maltese wineries,” he says, “but consider our biggest competitor wines to be from Italy, Spain and France. We have to compete on that level playing field, and we are continuously working very hard to remain competitive.” But heritage – and the fact that Marsovin is now 100 – is big news for the industry. “Heritage in wineries is a big deal; some of the most prestigious wineries in the world have been around for centuries, with some of them producing for 14 generations,” Mr Cassar says. “We’re not quite at 14 generations yet, but we do understand the commitment needed for us to be able to keep building over the years.”

All in the family: Marsovin on 100 years of winemaking

“We respect the culture of wine and we will strive to carry it forward for as long as possible. As a family, it feels good and satisfying for us to be able to lead the winery into its 101st year. I am focused on ensuring that, in my tenure, the winery continues to improve and to grow, not just in terms of business success, but more so in terms of its richness in heritage and culture.” With this in mind, Mr Cassar says that he, the family and the Marsovin team are constantly working on new ideas for what they might like to produce in four or five years’ time. “We are obviously working with new varieties of grape and keeping in touch with what is most popular and what’s not. The past five years have been dedicated to working towards our anniversary and producing our special anniversary wine that is now available – and it has been very well received.”

“Going forward, we’re looking more and more at organic wine, and trying to grow that further, among other things. It’s not easy but, as an agricultural business, we have to have the best techniques and right philosophy when it comes to working with nature. We need more farmers too, as there certainly aren’t enough as it stands. So one of our biggest challenges over the next five years will be to continue to incentivise farmers to work in viticulture, and to then work in a culture that focuses on quality.”