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Fri 1 Sep 2006 04:00 AM

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Exclusivity in the emirates

Emirates Fine Wine has had a successful first year of business. However, it cannot rest on its laurels as it hopes to increase its portfolio of exclusive wines

|~|efw2.jpg|~|Emirates Fine Wine has a portfolio of over 650 references from 110 wine estates|~|After just one year of operation Emirates Fine Wine (EFW) boasts a portfolio of over 650 references from 110 wine estates. Not only this, but any wine on the company’s books cannot be bought from any other supplier in the UAE; giving the company exclusivity to wine producers like Cloudy Bay, Chateau Cheval Blanc and Vega Sicilia, in order to accommodate to the growing demand of consumers in the region.

“When you look at Dubai there are a growing number of five-star hotels and resorts being built, not three-star, so this dictates the type of consumer coming to the region and the level of service and products they expect,” comments Jean-Marc Vettesi, sales manager, Emirates Fine Wine.

However, whether short term visitors or residents of the emirate, the Dubai market is becoming more wine aware. And with an increase in the number of wine bars — as well as a general shift to drinking wine by the glass — the need for high level and good quality wines is more apparent.

As such, EFW promotes the fact that it is a small, independent company that can trace the wine from the producer to the consumer. Having strong links with the producer is paramount to EFW, and visiting the wine yards, inviting the winemakers to Dubai, and hosting wine and dine events for the trade is a key part of EFW’s strategy.

However, one of the company’s key roles is not simply to supply wine to an outlet, but to provide a consultancy service to discover which wines would complement the restaurant and its diners.

“Wine is like an investment or a purchase. When it is a purchase you look at the cost margin and how you can save money, so for a restaurant operator you want a good quality wine for an average price,” comments Vettesi.

“It is no good for an outlet to have a beautiful Bordeaux costing over AED2000 (US $545) a bottle, if the average check is AED65 ($18); how on earth can you expect to sell this wine?” he adds.

Before choosing the right wines, the team at EFW identify whether the hotel is a business or resort property, it then discusses with the outlet’s food and beverage manager the restaurant’s average check, the average length of guest stay, and consumer spend in the hotel, in order to formulate an idea on the type of clientele visiting the restaurant.

“With what we have established about the restaurant, and with our portfolio, we then work on creating the ideal wine list for the outlet. Although wine is a purchase, it should also be seen as an investment, as at the end of the year every restaurant manager has financial results to produce,” says Vettesi.

Establishing itself as an exclusive wine distributor and shipper, EFW has worked hard to create a portfolio of wines that any sommelier would love to see in their cellar. However, as it works with small wine producers that do not have the marketing power of larger labels, it also has the added task of guaranteeing that wine is readily available.||**|||~||~||~|As such, in order to maintain stock levels it creates consumption and purchasing forecasts by estimating the number of glasses or bottles sold per day. Once this is done, it orders the shipment 2-4 months in advance, depending on the location of the vineyard.

“Because we deal with the wine producer directly we send them our forecast and have our wine blocked in advance. This is really important to us as it means that we can guarantee our customers the wine. However, what we cannot guarantee 100% is the vintage,” warns Vettesi.

Whether a vintage becomes so popular that it runs out before the next vintage is ready, or because a wine producer decides to launch another vintage earlier than expected, the staff at EFW keep its customers up-to-date with any changes. It is also the only wine distributor in the market to display the vintage of each wine in its portfolio.

“After the name of the wine, the vintage is the second most important thing when it comes to describing a wine, so it is important to include this. Also, in terms of wine selling, it gives that added value to the wine,” comments Vettesi.

As part of the wine selling process, EFW also sees training as an integral part of its role as a supplier. Offering wines up to AED15,000 ($4090), goes hand in hand with the type of guest purchasing the wine, so staff members have to be educated about the wine they sell, and how it complements different foods.

“Because the producer is doing a great job making the wine, and we then sell it to our customers, we need to make sure that the message reaches the consumer. At 11pm the producer is not in the restaurant, I am not in the restaurant, and the hotel owner is not in the restaurant; but the team members are, so they need to know about their wine collection,” comments Vettesi.

Because of this, EFW trains staff members about the technical aspect of the wines, the history of wine, different producers, and winemaking countries.
“We have some beautiful jewels in our collection, but if the person selling it doesn’t know that, then you have a problem,” adds Vettesi.

Selling over 45,000 bottles in 2005 and with a market share of 8% within the company’s first year of operation, the seven-man team made a substantial profit within its first year: “Enough to purchase a new van, increase our portfolio and host wine producers.”

The company has already hosted a number of wine maker events, including Pierre Lurton from Chateau Cheval Blanc, Cliff Royle from the Voyager Estate, and viticulturist Siobán Harnett from Cloudy Bay. This month will also see EFW host Marc Pohl, and the chief winemaker from Cape Mentelle.

“We are trying to bridge the gap between the producer, the people selling the wine, and the people consuming the wine. This is the only way for us to develop the business, and the region’s knowledge of wine.”||**||

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