Food

Diary of a Passionate Wine & Spirits Sales Executive: Part 1

At The Wine Rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, October 04, 2018

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Wine professionals flock to our shores each year to visit existing distributors, identify new distributors, conduct tastings and waitstaff training; plus, a host of other activities.

I had the opportunity to attend one such wine tasting conducted by Pascal Bony, one of the most passionate sales professionals in the business. Bony is the sales director Latin America & Caribbean for the Provence Rosé. This Frenchman has spent a total of 22 years, including 13 years with Hennessy Cognac, and nine with Moët-Hennessy dedicated to the Caribbean markets. His enthusiasm for his craft is contagious; it's an exercise in futility to taste his wines and not want to buy them all from him!

I sit down with him to understand how the man who contributed to building the Hennessey name in Jamaica plans to replicate same for rosé wines...

 

Chris Reckord (CR): You were once the Moët-Hennessy Caribbean trade marketing manager. If you could, please identify one key component that made Hennessy so popular in Jamaica?

Pascal Bony(PB): To build a brand almost from scratch in a country, you first have to understand the country, the people, their culture, and respect it! This is what we did at that time with a great and continuous field work. Participating in local events (British Linkup, Black & White party, Flute & Flames, Passa Passa, and many others) was integral. (I personally attended many of them; I have several full Passa Passa nights and a British Linkup to my credit…). As well as rum shop after rum shop, bar after bar, the sales force was on the road every day all year long to promote the product, to speak about it, and also explain the quality and the making process in order to make the professionals understand and accept the upmarket price. We also conducted a lot of training seminars that included training of the sales force, training of bartenders and F&B professionals (from low-end to upmarket accounts). Indeed, people sell better when they feel comfortable with the product. Obvious, but not always the case, unfortunately. Identifying the key accounts (key account does not mean necessarily an expensive hotel or trendy bar; it can also be a popular rum bar where people like to go and have a drink or a shot, or buy their flask for the day). Major parishes like St james, Kingston, St Ann or Westmoreland were part of the strategy. We put in place incentive programmes for the best cocktail, the best bartender, the best salesperson, and last but not least, we were also very close to the Jamaican dancehall influencers [at that time]. This allowed us to make the first Hennessy Artistry a success in Kingston. A great memory for me! I invited many Caribbean professionals. I also used Jamaica as a “best practice” market.

 

CR: As you are preparing to come back to the region with a totally new category of products, where do you see the opportunities and challenges?

PB: This time the product is very different, but still made from grapes, and still high-end! This is not a spirit, this is a wine. It's neither a red nor a white; rather, a rosé. This is not a sweet rosé; this is a dry rosé! So there are many challenges to face in a region where rosé is perceived as a pink, sweet, low-end wine! Fortunately, Jamaicans appreciate luxury products (they like to drink “the good stuff”, as they say), they gravitate towards trends and, indeed, are themselves trendsetters), so I'm very confident that they'll see an interest in consuming the international fastest-growing category of wine. Actually, rosé wines from Provence (Provence is a region located in the south-east of France, at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, near Italy, with cities as famous as Saint Tropez, Marseille, Nice and Cannes) have been enjoying huge success in the US these past years (exports of Provence rosé wines to USA have multiplied by 40 per cent in less than a decade), and the island tropical climate, (which is the climate of the Caribbean) is the best climate to enjoy this specific category of wine which is dry, fruity, elegant, light yet medium-to full-bodied, fresh, simple to technical, to be enjoyed cool: the perfect wine for the perfect climate!

CR. Can you give us an overview of the portfolio that you manage now?

PB. Provence rosés wines are the cream of the crop of the rosé wines in the world in the way that Champagne is the very best of the sparkling wine category, rosé de Provence is the very best in the rosé wine category. Provence is divided in several designations of origin, but we produce only two types:

Protected Geographical Indication Mediterranean: though good value for money wines, are the entry level of the range. Provence-style wines made with grapes coming from several “parishes” of the French Mediterranean Basin.

Protected Designation of Origin Côtes de Provence: the top of the range Protected Designation of Origin in Provence.

Our group is composed of five châteaux located in the heart of the Provence region, but we export only eight wines from Chateaux: Château de Berne, Ultimate Provence Estate, Château des Bertrands and Château Saint Roux. The portfolio of wines on offer include:

1 Château de Berne ESPRIT - Protected Geographical Indication Mediterranean

2 Château de Berne ROMANCE - Protected Geographical Indication Mediterranean

3 Château de Berne INSPIRATION - Protected Designation of Origin Côtes de Provence

4 Château De Berne - Protected Designation of Origin Côtes de Provence

 

It's very important to note that today, the Château de Berne welcomes wine lovers to an exceptional, luxurious setting: a five-star Relais & Château hotel with 27 rooms, a spa, two restaurants including a gastronomic restaurant awarded a Michelin star in 2017, a cooking school and 1,235 acres of magnificent natural scenery dedicated to discovering Provence). With 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, an annual rainfall of 600 to 800 mm and 50 windy days per year (over 50 km/h) Château de Berne boasts an environment particularly conducive to wine growing.

 

5 Emotion - Protected Designation of Origin Côtes de Provence is made at Château de Berne, but only available for American markets notably the United States of America, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America.

6 Ultimate Provence Estate -Urban Provence in Protected Designation of Origin Côtes de Provence is a very different style of wine, although it's a true PDO Côtes de Provence.

7 Château Des Bertrands wine (in Protected Designation of Origin Côtes de Provence of course) is the expression of the best of wine making of our group. This gastronomic rosé wine is perfect for upmarket restaurants, wine and food pairing and connoisseurs who like to please themselves.

8 Château Saint Roux wine (in Protected Designation of Origin Côtes de Provence) is a European organic certified wine (European certification has been obtained after two years with one more year to go to obtain the US organic certification).

 

“Chris, Please allow me to offer the McConnell family my most sincere condolences on the death of William “Billy”, a true gentlemen and great businessman whom I really liked a lot.” — Pascal Bony

 

Part 2 continues next week

 

Christopher Reckord is a wine enthusiast and CEO of Managed IT services provider tTech Limited. Send your questions and comments to creckord@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord

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