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Food and Leisure

Breaking the snobbish appeal of wines

ALL IN MY HEAD - Monique Toda - The Philippine Star
Breaking the snobbish appeal of wines
Marilou Mendoza breaks down the snobbish image that wine sometimes carries, which can be a barrier to many people
STAR/ File

Erase all your perceptions of snobbish and elitist wine appreciation. The idea that wine can only be consumed, enjoyed, and even admired by a few (not to mention oenophiles) is outdated. According to Marilou Mendoza, managing director of NMARL International, “We think labels are passé.” Her company brings wines (and ready-to-drink cocktails) into peoples’ everyday lives in a more approachable, sustainable and even fun way.

Portable and small-serve bottles of wine are perfect for solo enjoyment, or if one doesn’t want to consume an entire bottle.

It’s really changing our attitude towards wine, and keeping with the times. “Our canned wines, ready-to-drink cocktails, wines in a cup — they are all breaking ground. We pioneered the distribution of 1WINE from Paul Sapin in France, which is wine with a cup on a bottle; Barokes wine in can from Australia; BuzzBallz ready-to-drink cocktails in colorful cans from the US; and Sea Change wines from France. We also sell Grand Crus to select markets and supply pouring wines for airlines.” The company caters to a young market, but can appeal to older folks looking for convenience, sustainability and quality. That could range from 24-year-olds to those in their 50s and up. 

This Barokes wine in a can has garnered 400 wine competition awards and counting.

Marilou is gung-ho about sharing the idea that wine can be enjoyed by more people, and does not have to be intimidating. “All our drinks offer  convenience (easy to throw in a bag when heading to a friend's house or the beach); and smaller serve sizes (you don’t have to commit to drinking a full bottle), allowing you to sample more varietals, and nudging you not to binge drink! More importantly, they are sustainable because they are eco-friendly and recyclable. For instance, our 1WINE from Paul Sapin has a cup that comes with the wine. You do not need to drink the wine from a bottle; you can use the cup. You can enjoy it with your delivered lunch or picnic food.

“These products are also fantastic at breaking down the elitist or snobbish perception that wine carries, which can be a barrier to lots of people,” she adds. “It has the potential to be a great open door to bringing wine and cocktails into more people’s everyday lives. With the innovative packaging, people tend to perceive wine as more casual and less pretentious.”

Now this is the cool part: NMARL has brought in Sea Change from France, The wine is environmental-friendly, from the cork to the wine itself. Some of the proceeds of the wine go to ocean-conservation charities. It’s endorsed by no less than famous environmentalist and oceanographic explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau. It is obvious that the market for this is “conscious consumer.” 

I ask Marilou, why wine? Why did you choose a business that focuses on wines and spirits? “Being in the alcohol industry came to me by accident. I just graduated from college. By chance, I went out on a blind date with someone who was working in CMG, the biggest wine and liquor company at that time. Over drinks, he said he’d like to set me up on an interview with his company. I said sure, without really thinking about it. I was not looking for a job and was just content in helping out in our family shoe business then. In fact, I forgot all about it, until he called Monday morning saying I was expected at his office in a few hours. I ran to the interview, nailed it, and the rest is history. In hindsight, destiny called and the business found me, more than it being my choice.” Later on, she continued with the business of wines, but did it solo. “In the ’90s, I went on my own. I started supplying the wines to Philippine Airlines. Later on, my alcohol business expanded to distribution to the domestic market, and directly selling to consumers.”

Being passionate about wines goes beyond her business and into her personal life. Marilou really enjoys drinking a good bottle of vino, especially as an accompaniment to food. As to her personal favorites: “I love the Barokes range from Australia. Thanks to advances in packaging technology, we now can put high-quality wine in cans, and people here have started to come around to that. Barokes has won 400 wine competition awards and counting. It’s now onboard Cebu Pacific, their only wines onboard. It’s a certified crowd-pleaser, meaning it goes well with a wide range of tastes and, at the same time, it’s environmentally friendly — and that’s a win if a wine can do all that. I also love BuzzBallz cocktails. Having a high-quality canned cocktail that’s not a Smirnoff Mule is very new. People are surprised, saying the can is small and expensive. But they taste it and it’s real booze, not diluted at all, and giving you just the right kick. I daresay BuzzBallz is representative of a true cocktail. With a P200 BuzzBallz cocktail, one can emulate an experience that can easily cost P500 per drink at a bar, with the main difference being you can drink it anywhere you want.”

 

Since the company’s market is predominantly of a younger demographic, who are not yet very experienced when it comes to wine appreciation, Marilou recalls that “in my early twenties, I remember being in France, as the company representative at a formal lunch given by a top winery. I had Coke instead of their wine. I am sure there were many rolling their eyes. Look, one will not like Dom Perignon on the first taste if he or she does not drink wine. It will be too dry. Those that have just started drinking wine can often be put off by the drier varieties, and instead prefer something a little sweeter. That’s why Moscato is so big here. Go for a wine that is not too dry and light. This is great for an introduction to wine drinking, as this will allow time for your palate to adjust. Soon, as you go through your wine journey, your taste will go for the drier and heavier wines.”

Like many businesses, Marilou’s company struggled during the pandemic but never closed. Airlines — their biggest customer — ceased operations or halted orders. So they pivoted and moved towards online distribution. Now, the business climate is improving.

“A big store told us our products are ahead of its time. But they got it wrong. With our portable wines and cocktails, our brands have arrived to meet today’s on-the-go lifestyles. Convenience is now key. We are meeting the consumer demands now and not chasing it. Millennials are frequently described as preferring ‘experiences’ to ‘things,’ and in this case, the ‘experience’ might be having a couple of BuzzBallz cocktails at the beach, and waiting for the sun to rise. We like to think that we sell not just products, but we craft and deliver experiences.”

In the coming years, Marilou envisions a community of loyal customers. “Our focus right now is to be a community builder, more than just a product seller. I think it’s important to know that if you want to be selling in the next 10 years.” And I say, wine not?

 

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For more information and orders, visit their website nmarl.com; or IG @nmarl.ph.

Follow the author at her IG @toda_monique.

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