Guy Nussey, Regional Director at VCT Group of Wineries, knows a thing or two about the good drop. He’s considered a leading authority on wine and has spent many years away (from his native) Australia to teach the people of Asia about wine.. in particular, his wines!
We sat down with him for a chat – and a glass if wine of course.
Can you please tell us a little about the group of wineries?
Vina Concha Y Toro is not only Latin America’s biggest wine company but now also one of the largest wine companies in the world. Founded over 130 years ago (so New World wines are not so new!) by Don Melchor, Concha Y Toro has been a pioneer of Chilean wine in the world, and has then expanded into wines from the neighbouring country of Argentina and most recently California. Despite this expansion, Concha Y Toro has stayed very true to its roots, it is still very much a family owned company and has one overriding desire, to produce the best quality wines at every price level. So from entry level brands like Frontera and Vina Maipo, up to Don Melchor which is one of the world’s best Cabernet Sauvignon’s (having been named No. 9 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year in 2014) we think we offer great value to the people that drink our wine.
This level of quality comes from the fact that unlike some other big wine companies, we don’t buy wine from anyone, we only buy grapes and make all our own wines. Concha Y Toro is the 2nd largest owner of vineyards in the world (around 11,000 hectares) and all of the grapes for our premium wines come from our own vineyards, or growers where we have long relationships and the active involvement of our winemakers in their vineyards. From these vineyards, we produce a huge variety of wines which can now be found in over 140 countries worldwide.
The Casillero Del Diablo wines were recently the sponsor of the CONNECT event for Mompreneurs and were thoroughly enjoyed by all. Can you tell us a little about why these wines perform so well with Asian inspired cuisine?
Matching wines with Asian cuisine can be quite tricky, particularly given the clash of spices to the tannins that you can find in red wines. For this reason, we recommend white varieties like the Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc that you had at the CONNECT event where the acidity and clean fresh flavours to match well with seafood and aromatic herbs and spices such as coriander, ginger and spring onion. For red wines for more robust dishes like beef or pork, you need varieties that have soft round tannins, such as our Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot which even at a young age is very approachable compared to some of the Old World wines from France or Italy from the same vintage.
Lightly chilled Pinot Noir is not just a good match to dishes such as roast duck but also a great drink in the hot climates of South East Asia but if you really like that hit of chilli in your food, then you need to balance this spiciness with some sweetness in your wine with Riesling and Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc my personal favourites.
How wine-savvy are Asians in general and where do you see the rapid growth for the Vina Concha Y Toro brand?
Across Asia we are seeing rapid growth but different markets are at different stages of evolution. In a market like Japan, wine has become almost a daily purchase and consumers have quite a good understanding of what different wines and countries of origin offer. China obviously has the numbers in terms of potential drinkers and what we are seeing now is wine drinking is moving from being almost a status symbol with high profile consumption of top French Bordeaux and Burgundy wines, to a more middle class pursuit. This is turn offers us some great opportunities as consumers turn to Chilean wines as they are not only easier to understand but also offer great value for money.
This move from French wines to the New World wines is something that we have seen in many markets. Consumers generally start with French wines based on France’s rightly earned reputation but due to the complicated system of production and labelling in France it can be very confusing. 2 bottles of Bordeaux from 2 different producers at the same price point can vary substantially in both quality and style whereas the consumer wants to have confidence and consistency and that is where having brands such as Jacob’s Creek, Penfolds, Frontera and Casillero Del Diablo are important. Even when I go wine shopping (with 20 years of experience in the wine trade), to be greeted by 600 different wines in an average supermarket means that there are probably going to be 300 wines that I have never tasted and know little about! There are some great apps and online sites now to help make your choice but having brands that I have confidence in is important.
People might not know that Vina Concha Y Toro is the largest producer of wines from Latin America. How hard is it to convince people in Asia that a Chilean wine is as good if not better then say a French or Australian drop?
This is definitely one of our big challenges as Latin America’s reputation was originally built on great value entry level wines but we produce some exceptional wines at a more premium level. There is a need to educate people on why Chile and Argentina are able to produce great wines but we think the best way to convince people is simply to get them to taste the wines. For this reason, we do a lot of events and sponsorships across the region to give people the chance to sample the wines in an environment where they are enjoying themselves as we want our wines to be part of that experience. These include everything from food and wine shows, to Manchester United matches to more unusual events like Elephant Polo in Thailand. Look out for us in Singapore at the Films at the Fort event this August too!
I am a great believer in the fact that you can do big marketing campaigns to get people to buy that first bottle of your wine but you have to deliver something exceptional in that bottle and exceed their expectations in order for them to come back for the second, third and fourth one. Loyalty is hard to get in a category with so much choice but we have seen that our consumers are not just loyal but also recommend us to their friends. This word of mouth is the strongest type of promotion that we can ever get.
What are three tips you can share with our readers about selecting the right wine for the right occasion?
The first tip would be that wine is completely subjective, so really there are only 2 types of wine. Wine that you like and wine that you don’t like. Nothing else really matters!
Being a little more serious, some wines are made for drinking on their own and others (generally the more expensive ones) really need some food with them to bring out their best qualities and to enjoy at their maximum potential. There are lots of tools online that can help you to select which varieties to match with a dish and then it is up to you how much you want to spend.
My final tip is not to be afraid to ask the assistant in the wine store or the sommelier in the restaurant for their recommendations. People often don’t want to do this in case as they are concerned about looking stupid or that the recommendation will be the most expensive bottle on the list. A good sommelier or store assistant will ask you what kind of wines you like, what food you are having and how much you want to spend and all they want to do is find something that you will enjoy so you will come back again. This is a great way to discover new wines and expand your horizons, so make sure you use their expertise.
What is your personal favorite drop and why?
I am a big fan of Chile’s native grape, Carmenere, For me this has a great blend between the juicy, soft character of the Merlot that it is closely related to and the kick of spice and pepper from a Shiraz. Examples like Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere are amazing wines. Outside of Chile, my favourite red is Chateau Musar from Lebanon which I discovered whilst I was studying for my first wine exam. The story behind the challenges of making this wine, including having tanks driving through the vineyard showed me that something beautiful can come from such challenges.
From a white perspective, I love Riesling as it can produce wines in so many different styles depending on the region and its age, my favourites include Peter Lehmann Wigan Riesling from Australia and Trimbach Cuvee Frederic Emile from Alsace.
Can you share with us a little about anything new on the horizon that we should get excited about?
A lot of countries including Chile are turning back to some of their native varieties. As an example, Pais (also known as Mission) is a grape variety that in Chile dates back to the Spanish Conquistadors and has primarily been used for making cheap jug or bag in box wines. However, as the vines are so old, Chilean winemakers have started to take some of the best parcels to make premium wines which are light, fruity and delicious, almost like a Chilean Beaujolais.
One thing in the wine world is that things change and people are always innovating, so who knows what will appear next.
Lastly, where can people in Asia Pacific buy your delicious wines?
Our wines are available all across the region from Japan down to New Zealand, out to India and Sri Lanka one way and Guam the other. You will find them in supermarkets (like Cold Storage, Giant, Wellcome, NTUC Fairprice, AEON), convenience stores (like 7-11, Lawson), liquor stores (Dan Murphy’s, 1855) as well as restaurants and hotels from Bali to Beijing. Wherever you travel, you should be able to find a Concha Y Toro wine and if you do then I guarantee that it would be a good choice.