Robert Mielzynski: the wine world’s great cultural entrepreneur in Poland

Nella splendida traduzione dell’amico Jeremy Parzen, pubblicata sul suo seguitissimo wine blog Do Bianchi ripropongo, anche in inglese, l’articolo sul grande importatore in Polonia di vini di qualità (molti anche italiani) Robert Mielzynski e sul suo eccellente omonimo wine bar ristorante a Varsavia pubblicato la scorsa settimana.
Trattandosi di un imprenditore del vino di livello internazionale come Mielzynski e di una località che ormai fa parte della wine scene mondiale come Varsavia, ho pensato di riproporre l’articolo (lo ripeto reinventato più che semplicemente tradotto da Jeremy) anche nella lingua ufficiale del vino, l’inglese. Buona lettura!

Two months have already passed since a fantastic couple of days in which Franciacorta and her bubbles played a starring role in the Grand Prix organized by the most important wine publication in Poland, Magazyn Wino. A splendidly executed event that has help to introduce the wines of Franciacorta to the country that gave the world Chopin.

It has also fostered greater awareness of the quality and potential of Brescia’s DOCG sparkling wines among enthusiasts, wine writers, and trade (restaurateurs, retailers, and importers). Like a trampoline, the event has launched a new perception of these wines, including coverage in issue 54-6 2001 of Magazyn Wino, whose editors have devoted ample space to Franciacorta, its leading figures, and to those who have strived to bring these wines to Polish wine lovers.

Today, I’d like to talk about the special lady, Elisabeth Babinska Poletti, who has been hailed by the magazine’s editors as “ambassador of Franciacorta” and Italian wine culture in Poland.

But beyond the Franciacorta event and the subsequent impact it had had, I’d also like to take this opportunity to talk about someone I’ve been meaning to feature here for some time: one of the most important figures on the Polish wine scene, someone whom I met for the second time during the Grand Prix event and whom I’d already met the first time I visited Warsaw, a city that has found a place in my heart and home to friends I’ve had the great fortune to make after only a couple of visits.

I’m talking about someone who brings together a wide variety of interests. An enologist by training, a great wine lover and connoisseur, one of the most important wine importers, but also the creator and owner of one of Warsaw’s “cult” restaurants, a place that you absolutely need to visit when you visit the Polish capital and wish to feel the pulse of the wine market there and to fathom consumer attitudes and new trends.

His name is Robert Mielzynski, a name he shares with his business and restaurant and wine bar.

His background is just as interesting as he is. He was born into a family with noble origins in Toronto, Canada, where his parents had immigrated following the second world war. His family and in particular his father Peter G. Mielzynski-Zychlinski started a successful wine and spirits importing business called PMA Agencies. Evidently, Mielzynski already had wine in his blood when he received his degree in enology at California State University in Fresno.

After completing his studies, he set out to gain experience in the field, working for wineries in France, Austria, and Germany. He later became the manager of a winery in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Hillebrand Estates, which produced the area’s first ice wine and became its pioneer and flagship by encouraging other winemakers to follow in its footsteps and develop an area now with its own appellation.

But as happens for every Pole who heeds the call of the motherland, the desire to return to Poland was strong. And so the athletic Robert, an avid hockey and rugby player, and a confident young man who had seen the world and possessed an innate sense of class, decided to return to Warsaw and launch his own business.

Naturally, in the light of his experience and personal history, and considering that in the meantime, many things had changed profoundly in Poland — from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the communist regime and the rise of democracy and a new market economy that fostered the consumption of fine wines, Robert Mielzynski decided to become an importer of wines and other classic products of the Mediterranean that he loves: olive oil, pasta, and balsamic vinegar.

Today his company is one of the leading businesses on the vibrant Polish wine scene. He imports and distributes in Warsaw (the capital of Poland’s wine market) and in the rest of Poland. His portfolio includes select wines from the Old World (France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, and Hungary) and the New World (Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, and California).

Italy has an important role is his offerings, which include wineries like Marco Felluga, Castello di Buttrio, Oddero, Saracco, Dal Forno, Tedeschi, Nino Franco, Hofstatter, Cordero di Montezemolo, Costaripa, Villa Calcinaia, I Collazzi, Siro Pacenti, Caterina Dei, Tenuta Rapitalà, Giuseppe Gabbas, and Castello Monaci.

But Mielzynski didn’t just limit himself to carefully selecting wines to import to Poland. He understood, as did other importers like Maciej Bombol owner of the Enoteka Polska, that it’s fundamentally important to teach the end consumer about their products, thus allowing them to build consumer confidence by allowing consumers to taste and try the wines paired with food — the ultimate test.

And so, not far from the historic downtown of Warsaw, in an easily accessible area (Stara Fabryka Koronek), he renovated a wing of an abandoned factory with a spacious internal courtyard and garden. And for the décor, he decided to do something truly unique.

Imagine an elegant but informal space, where young people would immediately feel comfortable, with a youthful, well trained, and enthusiastic waitstaff.
You arrive and stroll around the salesroom floor, where you can chose your wine from endless cases of wine from all over the world. You can take one or more bottles home or you can taste them at the Mielzynski Wine Bar and Restaurant that the ever entrepreneurial and congenial Robert opened a few years ago.

A reservation with ample advance is recommended, especially in the evening. The venue has become one of the leading cult destinations in Warsaw where wine lovers, intellectuals, and artists all gather in celebration of Bacchus.
They come to learn more about the object of their passion and to try wines ranging from Austrian and German Riesling, Australian Shiraz, Rioja, Barolo, Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone della Valpolicella, or a Chiaretto del Garda. And let’s not forget Moscato d’Asti, Negroamaro from Salento, Tokaij from Hungary, or a great Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Champagne. The portfolio spans nearly the entire arc of the world of wine.

The winebar-bistro-restaurant formula is a winner: open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 12:45 p.m. to 6 p.m., it’s ideal for a simple aperitif and snack or a light meal with just one course accompanied by a few glasses of wine.
Or, as I have done every time I’ve visited Warsaw, you can have lunch al fresco, seated at one of the small tables in the garden when the weather is nice; or dine together with the other happy guests, soaking in the vitality, energy, and electricity of the restaurant, enjoying a menu that changes nearly every day and offers guests a rich assortment of dishes, many meat-based (excellent) and offering a happy blend of traditional Polish cuisine and a modern, healthy approach to cooking.

Whatever you order, you can’t go wrong. I remember a wonderful bone-in steak and a good “mozzarella” produced in Warsaw in May. And in November, I had pumpkin soup with a fantastic dish of goose with vegetables (Poland is one of the top producers of geese in Europe and is one of the biggest exporters of geese). But wild duck is always a favorite as are the first courses and vegetable-based soups and fish.

The response to the 600-meter-squared Mielzynski Wine Bar over the last year — with its tastings, presentations by producers, concerts, and wine conferences — has been so positive that Mielzynski has decided to build a similar venue the city of Poznan, where he has already enjoyed great success.

The day after I spend an evening with Elisabeth Babinska Poletti and Tomasz Prange-Barczynski (editor-in-chief of Magazyn Wino) — an evening in which we were served Alsatian wines, Barolo, Bordeaux, Austrian and German whites, Australian and Spanish reds in a healthy and sociable environment without unnecessary fuss, affectation, or complication — I met Mielzynski and we participated in the Magazyn Wino Grand Prix evening event, which included more than one wine imported by him.
And the next day, we attended in a seminar on Franciacorta conducted by Tomasz and then a tasting of 16 Franciacorta wineries with a market presence in Warsaw.

With Elisabeth’s encouragement, Mielzynski was the first to import Franciacorta to Poland. He was then followed by other importers who — I am sure of this — had watched him taste, take notes, and then ask the producers about their wines. Mielzynski will shortly add at least one Franciacorta winery to his portfolio.

And thus, Franciacorta and its sparkle will find its place in the magical city of Warsaw and its youthful, sparkling, vibrant, and contemporary wine market, thanks to an expert who offers already offers his guests Champagne and Cava, a wine lover who knows how to understand his clients tastes and attitudes, an ever enthusiastic connoisseur who recognized that Franciacorta deserves its place here.

If you visit Warsaw, I can’t recommend Robert’s restaurant, wine bar, and shop highly enough. And I can’t wait to get back there myself to see my old friends and make new ones and celebrate 2012 in the name of Bacchus.

translated by Jeremy Parzen

Robert Mielzynski Wine Bar
Stara Fabryka Koronek
Burakowska 5/7
Warsaw, Poland


5 pensieri su “Robert Mielzynski: the wine world’s great cultural entrepreneur in Poland

  1. Da quanto scrive JP emergono alcune parole chiave, a cominciare dal titolo – “great cultural entrepreneur” -, e poi giù giù per tutto il testo, da cui si comprende bene il ruolo che ha avuto la conoscenza (unita alla passione per il suo lavoro) nell’affermazione di sé stesso e dei prodotti che questo brillante signore importa in Polonia. Ma salta anche subito all’attenzione (almeno alla mia) il momento che sta vivendo quel paese, così diverso dall’opaco attraversamento che noi invece stiamo compiendo, qui in Italia e nell’Europa occidentale. Bello capire che un paese che ha vissuto, in anni non remoti, oltre la Cortina di Ferro, riviva una stagione piena di vitalità. Mi veniva da scrivere “crescita”, ma a costo di essere banale sceglierei un altro sostantivo, per esempio “miglioramento”: poche velleità accompagnate dalla sensazione che – anche nel mondo del vino e dei cibi – sia il tempo di ‘meno, ma meglio’.
    Fa davvero piacere che un signore così non dia l’idea di contare i soldi che sta accumulando, ma di fare qualcosa che gli dà soddisfazione. Illuminante.

  2. L’importatore del quale si parla,è un profondo conoscitore di vino,importa grandissimi vini,e anche se facesse e ripeto,facesse come primo obbiettivo il denaro,non sarebbe così male,perchè i vini che ha la possibilità e le p…e di importare sono vini di grande cultura ai quali il mercato polacco ancora non è pronto,e non importa anche vini scadenti come fanno tanti altri….quindi chapeau……
    Non sono d’accordo con Menchov,il commento non è imbecille,perchè quello che scrive biasuttik,non vale per l’importatore in oggetto,ma per altri sicuramente si……….

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