Wine Pour with Rhys Campbell

At The Wine Rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, October 05, 2017

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Rhys Campbell has held leadership positions at companies in at least three different industries and countries, from his days at Jamaican tobacco distributor Carreras, British American Tobacco in Trinidad, back in Jamaica with JPS, over to Bahamas with the Bristol Group and now as commercial director at leading wine & spirits distributor CPJ.

Chris Reckord (CR): When we met many years ago, you were responsible for placing very different products on the market. Share with us your journey into the wine & spirits business.


Rhys Campbell (RC): From as early as 2000 I found myself trying new wines and seeking out wine education opportunities. I did a few sessions with DeVine Wine Services and realised that there was so much more to learn in the world of wine. Thereafter, I experienced several wine tastings in Costa Rica, Miami and London, which proved to be major game-changers for me.

After several years in corporate affairs and economic development sectors, I switched gears when I was head-hunted by the Bahamas' largest distributor of premium wines and spirits. My tenure there was fantastic, but after living outside of Jamaica for almost a decade, I really missed home, and so earlier this year I returned to be closer to my family.


CR: What is the most exciting part of your new job?

RC: It was an easy decision to join CPJ, as their distribution portfolio is truly premium in wines, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages. No two days are the same and I am truly enjoying working with my retail sales and marketing teams in changing the way we eat and drink in Jamaica for the better. And, within the company's ambitious vision and expansion strategies, we are consistently challenged to be innovative.


CR: Let's say a reader and a new wine drinker went into CPJ Market in Kingston to start a wine collection. Recommend a mixed (red/white) 12-bottle case for them.

RC: I love challenges like these! I would take the consumer on a journey around the world — from bottle to bottle — because a way of expanding their wine knowledge is to taste portfolios from multiple terroirs. Below are my global picks for an impressive case of vino...


France: Laurent Perrier Rosé Brut - crisp, full of life and refreshing, with a long-balanced finish

California: Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon - big, bold, luscious and rich

New Zealand: Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc - lots of grapefruit with hints of gooseberry and pineapples

Spain: Marqués de Cáceres Rueda Verdejo - crisp, refreshing and great for a poolside pour

California: Sonoma Cutrer Pinot Noir - easy drinking

Argentina: Pure Malbec - full-bodied, an interesting twist on a traditional Malbec


CR: Some people are casual wine drinkers until they have that 'aha' moment when they taste something magical and catch the wine bug. How was yours?

RC: I remember the exact time and context. I was at the Steak House in San José, Costa Rica, where my boss at the time ordered a delicious Carmenere. We had paired it with a filet mignon, and when the flavours came together I was blown away!


CR: What are you mostly disappointed by when you dine out, and how would you remedy it?

RC: We could do so much better as a country and as region if we'd only enhance our levels of customer experience. We have a special team here at CPJ that partners with our corporate clients to provide wine training for their staff. And we always remind service professionals that anticipating the needs of their guests is still the best way to ensure that the dining experience is a memorable one.


CR: What is your style of wine? And do you have a favourite?

RC: I'm what you call an equal opportunity drinker as I appreciate all styles and varietals. However, I have a particular interest in pinot noirs coming out of Oregon because the terroir there gives the varietal a unique character and a taste that can be easily paired with many a dish.


CR: Sitting in your current position, what needs to be done to expand the reach of wine in Jamaica?

RC: As the industry evolves, we are noting the consumer trends pick up for wines. The more people try different varietals the more they'll realise that wine can be paired just as easily with local dishes. Similarly, local restaurants should offer interesting by-the-glass options beyond a moscato, and encourage trial among diners!

CR: Here in Jamaica most wine imports push the same products into supermarkets and restaurants. In the advanced wine markets there is a clear separation of products sold into the on-premise/on-trade (restaurant and bars) vs off-premise/off-trade (supermarkets). When will we practise more separation here?

RC: Consumer purchase patterns typically influence this separation. In more advanced markets, there is a wider selection in on-premise markets to cater to mid-priced, premium and super-premium accounts. In smaller markets, however, there is a tendency toward more premium and super-premium consumption, which takes place predominantly at the homes of consumers. This therefore changes the dynamics, as oenophiles here are more comfortable finding mid-priced to premium options at their local supermarkets that also have the added convenience of longer business hours.


CR: You visit your producers occasionally. Who have you visited recently? What was your biggest takeaway from the trip? What was the most amazing wine tasted?

RC: The Jackson family wine group is one of the largest family-owned vineyards in California. We recently attended their harvest symposium for the Americas, where distributors, restaurateurs and sommeliers from Central America and the Caribbean were invited to visit 14 wineries in Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

We tasted a Californian Sauvignon Blanc Galerie. It is hands-down one of the period's most elegantly crisp must-haves and is coming soon to the CPJ portfolio!


CR: What are some of the hidden gems in your portfolio that wine lovers should be trying?

RC: There are three options that you'll perhaps only find in Jamaica at the CPJ Market: The Fortress Cabernet Sauvignon, the Batasiolo Gavi Di Gavi, and the Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino.


CR: What are your thoughts on the local wine scene? If you had a magic wand, what changes would you make?

RC: I wish we had more on-premise accounts that offered wine flights. That's the best way to taste the world in four glasses!


Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord




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