- Asian Food & Wine
- By Jeannie
- Wine Reviews
The making of a wine icon
Weeks ago, Jeannie wrote about her thoughts on the category of icon wines in Chile. As a relatively young wine region, Chilean wines have, over the past decade, impressed wine critics and won over wine drinkers with their excellent value. Among New World producing regions, Chile was not the first to attract the attention of established European producers. It was really her neighbour, the United States of America, which drew up the world's first partnerships, creating premium wines en par with Europe. Opus One's debut in 1979 marked the rise of a new level of premium New World wines, welding together the expertise of French winemaking with a promising terroir in California.
Nowadays, Chile boasts a handful of hugely successful premium brands, among which two best-known examples were Chilean-Bordelais joint ventures struck as far back as 20 years ago. In 1987, renowned Bordeaux wine consultant Jacques Boissenot took on the challenge to shape Don Melchor into A classic expression of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Almost 10 years later, in 1996, Almaviva was launched with a view to creating an exceptional Franco-Chilean wine by leveraging not only winemaking excellence but also the extensive Bordeaux negociant network of Baron Philippe de Rothschild.
When it comes to creating a wine icon, the Chileans have shown their capabilities over the past few decades. Asian Palate interviews Juan Carlos Pagola, Commercial Director at Viña Almaviva for his views on how Almaviva, carves its own path as an iconic wine from Chile.
AP: Asian Palate JCP: Jean Carlos Pagola
AP: How would you explain the success of Almaviva worldwide?
JCP: Almaviva was the first wine outside Bordeaux to be distributed by Bordeaux negociants and that is one of the key factors behind our success today. Our first vintage was from 1997 and that makes Almaviva a relatively young wine. When the joint venture formed in 1997, we had already given careful consideration on how to optimize global distribution of Almaviva. Eventually we chose the system of Bordeaux negociant over establishing extensive importer networks. Wines on the portfolios of Bordeaux negociants are generally perceived to be of good quality. There is also a sense of prestige attached to these wines which helps us position and build the Almaviva brand.
AP: What are your thoughts on the "Waiting list" strategy?
JCP: The "waiting list" sales and marketing strategy has undoubtedly been very successful for cult wine brands like Screaming Eagle. However, it would not be optimal for Almaviva since we have a relatively high production volume compared to other premium wines. We produce on average 12,000 9-litre cases each year. Our strategy has always been ensuring our presence via maintaining a good global market reach and organizing commerce-driven activities.
AP: What do you think is the key to building a wine icon?
JCP: You need volume to establish global presence, which is crucial for brand building. By that I mean you would need a production capacity of around 12,000 - 13,000 9-liter cases. Almaviva's core success ties in with our ability to deliver a relatively substantial quantity whilst maintaining high wine quality. It is very easy to invite a couple friends to your house and serve good food. Trying to do the same for two hundred people is very difficult. We would love to see more brands like Almaviva. The difference between us and other premium wines in Chile is that of production volume. We really don't see any direct competitors in Chile if you consider both quality and production volume together.
AP: Who are the main consumers of Almaviva in Asia? What is your future strategy in China?
JCP: We benefit from the trend of premiumisation in Asia. I would say around 40% of our production goes to Asia. Within Asia, our biggest markets are Hong Kong, China, Japan and South Korea. They make up of 10 - 15% of our annual production volume. Thailand is also a very important market for Almaviva. This year we start to work with Ogilvy to raise brand awareness in China, especially within South China. In order to support our global commercial activities, we will be hiring more people. We believe that this is crucial for brand positioning and maintaining Almaviva's global presence. Currently, we only have two people on the commercial team.
AP: What is Almaviva's global strategy?
JCP: We would like to be more visible in different markets via organizing a range of events. At the beginning, we market Almaviva mainly through large-scale publicity events that involve wines from the Concha y Toro and Baron Philippe de Rothschild families. Usually 200 - 300 people attended these events. That helps us a lot at the beginning but now we have changed our strategy. We started to host more focused, intimate events that involve 10 to maximum 20 participants targeting media, opinion leaders and private clients. We have identified key global markets in our 10-year plan and that includes Asian markets like China, Japan and South Korea, European markets like United Kingdom and Switzerland, the United States and Brazil.
Juan Carlos Pagola, Commercial Director of Vina Almaviva