The business of wine
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Rod Nepomuceno (The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2012 - 12:00am

I’ve always been intrigued by wine. And it’s not just because I love drinking it. I have always been fascinated with wine because of its role in history, religion, culture, human relationships and, of course, business. 

The history of wine dates back many thousands of years, with the earliest known production done 8,000 years ago on the territory of modern-day Georgia. It first appeared in the Balkans about 4500 BC and it’s fairly known that wine was already very common in ancient Greece, Thrace and Rome. It was a favorite drink of many emperors and leaders and was served at many social functions. Wine has also played an important role in religion throughout history. The Greek god Dionysus and Roman equivalent Bacchus represented wine. And, as we Catholics know, the drink is used in Christian Eucharist ceremonies as well as earlier Jewish ceremonies. 

Personally, I am fascinated by the role that wine played in Christ’s life. His very first miracle was to convert jugs of water into wine during a wedding reception at Cana. This, to me, is very intriguing. Of all the possible miracles that our Lord could have performed to mark the start of of his ministry, He chose to create wine. I mean, why didn’t He choose milk, or orange juice? I guess God has His own reasons. But it kind of makes you think about the importance and relevance of wine. And He didn’t stop there. In one of His sermons, he talked about pouring new wine in old wineskins. He used this as a metaphor, saying that the Good News He was preaching was not for the traditionalist Pharisees and Sadducees and Jews but for the whole world, including the Gentiles. Jesus also mentioned that people were accusing him of being a drunkard because He’d been seen drinking wine with the tax collectors and the so-called “sinners” of society. So it’s not really a stretch to assume that Jesus probably drank wine regularly. And then, as the ultimate “tribute” to this amazing drink, he made wine the symbol of his blood, and categorically said that whoever drinks of His blood (in the form of wine) will have eternal life. Wow.

In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life (from which I got my column title), when the main characters are celebrating the happy ending, the female lead character, Mary Bailey, shouts with a big smile, “Hey, Mr. Martini, how about some wine?” And the crowd in the scene lets out a cheer of approval. And there are many more movies with this type of scene —merrymaking during the final scene, with wine overflowing. It seems that wine is always present when something nice happens.

Recently, I had a chat with a good friend, Jojo Vega. Jojo is currently one of the top executives in Internet broadband company Wi-Tribe. I’ve been doing business with Jojo for quite a while now, and we’ve developed a close friendship. Jojo invited me to dinner at New Orleans restaurant a few months ago and said he would be serving some new wine brands that he recently introduced to the market: Pebble Lane, Mills Reef, Jules Taylor, and Chard Farm. Apart from being a major player in Wi-Tribe, the indefatigable Jojo is one of the directors of Don Revy, an Australian company that’s bringing in wines from New Zealand. Being a wine lover and having this insatiable interest in wine, I readily accepted the invitation. And, as promised by Jojo, the wines didn’t disappoint. I am no certified wine connoisseur, but the wines that Jojo served that night really tasted great. I then told Jojo how wine has always fascinated me, not just because I like drinking it but because of its rich history and the role it plays in human social interaction, especially in business.

“Apart from the rich history of wine,” said Jojo, “wine serves as a symbol for a lot of things good and positive. Wine is normally the symbol of prosperity and success. Unlike other drinks, wine doesn’t seem to get associated with drunkenness or alcoholism. Wine symbolizes class, stature, and style. And that’s what I like about wine. In business and in special occasions, it is a symbol of cheer, especially when everyone offers a wine toast. In fact, taken in moderation, wine is actually very healthy. There is a lot of evidence to show that a glass of wine per day is beneficial to our health.”

I asked Jojo how we he got involved in the wine business. “It’s a combination of serendipity, experience, and my love for wine,” he said. “I used to work for San Miguel, so marketing to on-premise establishments like hotels, restaurants and bars was something I was used to doing. I really enjoyed selling wine because after closing the deal with the establishment, we would usually celebrate by — how else — having a drink! When I was in Globe, I had a supplier named Robbie Ferguson. He was in the cell phone business in Australia. He often came to Manila and he eventually got married to a Filipina. Since he was always traveling to Manila, and he would always get together with friends like myself, he said one day, ‘Why don’t I bring some wines over here? Maybe we can introduce New Zealand wines as New Zealand wines are not that common here. And that’s how it started. ”

One thing led to another after that and eventually, Jojo and Robbie partnered to form Don Revy. I asked Jojo what makes New Zealand wine different from other wines. Jojo said, “The quality of wine is hinged on three factors: 1) soil, 2) weather and 3) grapes. We all know New Zealand has the most balanced weather in the world. That’s why Lord of the Rings was shot there, because of the great scenery and the great weather all year round. And the soil is fantastic. We all know that New Zealand is the best when it comes dairy and milk, right? Milk comes from cows. And cows eat grass. The quality of the milk that cows produce is related to the grass they eat. Cows in New Zealand produce great milk because of the good grass that they eat from the fertile soil. The same can be said about the grapes from which New Zealand wine comes from. They have great grapes in New Zealand because of the great soil there. Thus, they have great wine.”

Jojo believes there’s a big upside for New Zealand wine here because there’s still not a lot of New Zealand wine in the market. He also feels that the wine market will only grow in the next couple of years. “As the economy grows, more and more people will demand quality wines. More than 30 hotels will be constructed in Metro Manila alone in the next five years. All of these hotels will need to serve wine. Right now, wine is consumed based on distribution and price. People are not that picky when it comes to wine. They drink what’s available. We at Don Revy would like to change that. We’d like people to realize that there are good wines … and there are better wines. And I can confidently say that our wines are better than most. And this has been confirmed by a number of certified connoisseurs. And we’d like to build a brand around this good-quality wine.”

Personally, I am glad that wine companies like Don Revy are bringing in quality wines. It’s about time we Filipinos appreciated this great drink. Taken the right way (and in the right quantity), wine can serve as a very good social lubricant and icebreaker in business and relationships in general.  

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Don Revy wines are available in many restaurants, including Cav, New Orleans Bourbon Street Steaks & Oysters, Claw Daddy Crab House & American Grill, The Peninsula, Tower Club Philamlife Tower, Kashmir Restaurant, Crustasia, Felix, Zuni’s Restaurant & Wine Bar, Florabel’s, Strumms, Park Avenue Desserts, Marciano’s Pizza Pasta Steak, Ang Mo Kio, Diamond Hotel, Beurre Blanc, Crisostomo’s, Zucchini’s, Centris Walk, Zeno Bar, Duty Free Philippines, Rustan’s Supermarkets, Robinson’s Supermarkets, and Darras & Bowler at Crossroads (Banilad, Cebu City).

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Thanks for your letters, folks! You may e-mail me at rodnepo@yahoo.com.

HREF HTTP JOJO NEW NEW ZEALAND WINE WINES
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