Berry Bros. offers next step on a journey into wine

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Berry Bros. offers next step on a journey into wine

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Mark Pardoe, a wine director at Berry Bros. & Rudd poses with Pauillac 2013, one of the 12 varieties the company will offer at Homeplus in Korea. [HOMEPLUS]

British wine merchant Berry Bros. and Rudd hopes to attract the rising number of wine novices in Korea who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone when choosing their day-to-day drink.

In partnership with discount chain Homeplus, Berry Bros. and Rudd has brought in 12 products from their private wine brand The Wine Merchant’s with prices ranging from 12,900 won ($11.75) to 49,900 won per bottle.

“[The Wine Merchant’s] is for someone who is interested in more variety,” said Mark Pardoe, a wine director at the company, in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily during his visit to Seoul early this week.

“I think wine consumers come into the market and go through different steps of journeys. First step is to stay at the first place where you find the wine you like and you finish the bottle and go buy another one. The next stage is when you don’t want to buy the same wine every time but want to develop the interest to explore more. I think the Berry brands stand very much on this tier,” Pardoe added.

The family-owned wine and spirit merchant was founded in the United Kingdom in 1698 and was known for handling only a premium wine lineup. With its two royal warrants, it supplies a selection of wines to the British royal family and has six wine directors with a Masters of Wine qualification. The company operates three flagship stores in Britain and has offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.

Doing away with its traditional business style, however, Pardoe says he wanted to expand the accessibility of the company’s wines in Korea, where the wine industry is just beginning to grow.

“It was inevitable for us to come here,” Pardoe said. “In a market like Korea that is beginning to move from one stage of wine maturity to another, there will be a significant portion of drinkers who will make the second part of the [aforementioned] journey. Berry Brothers want to act like a magnet, to pull people up and make them see the light,” the wine director added.

Depending on the market response, Pardoe says he is willing to bring the premium lineup to the Korean market as well.

“[Launching The Wine Merchant’s in Korea] will be a really useful exercise for us to build a product range,” the director said. “The lesson we learn in Korea will be appropriate for us in markets where we are already present. We are not trying to impose on Korea what we do in other markets, this is blank sheet of paper and we currently don’t have anything else in our portfolio,” Pardoe added.

The initial 12 bottles available at Homeplus are mostly classic styles of wine from different regions such as Italy’s Chianti and New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc. But there are some not-so-general options as well, such as the English Sparkling Wine, which is being introduced in Korean retail outlets for the first time.

“English sparkling wine is a really new category globally,” said Pardoe, explaining that it was overlooked as an “alternative of champagne” just five years ago. “It used to be a very small niche hobby of some but now you have very serious British and French investors buying good land and investing in the right plants and technology. The English sparkling wine is purer, fresher and have cleaner taste, whereas the French champagne is richer in style,” he added.

When asked if there were any concerns about undermining the brand value by bringing an affordable wine collection to Korea where the general crowd hasn’t heard of Berry Bros. and Rudd, Pardoe said that as long as the internal standard for quality is fulfilled, the price tag isn’t a problem.

“It has always been an ambition of ours to offer wines that are not bought to be put in cellars but to be drank at homes,” he said.

“So as long as the quality criteria that we apply to all purchasing is applied to this range of wine, in our mind, there is no conflict at all. It is not cheapening the image of Berry Brothers, but making it more accessible,” he added.

That is why the Berry Brothers wine offered at Homeplus will not be cheaper than 10,000 won.

“We are always going to be a little more than the volume market because that is not where we sit and our purchasing criteria is different,” Pardoe said.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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