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UK wine merchant expands into Philippines

The Antique Wine Company has signed its first ever exclusivity agreement for the UK and has opened an office in the Philippines.

The fine wine merchant has become the sole UK agent for Pomerol’s Château Belle-Brise, which was formerly imported by The Wine Treasury.

“We want to build a reputation not just for grand cru classé wines but also for finding gems that exist in Bordeaux,” Antique Wine Company founder Stephen Williams told the drinks business, explaining his decision to represent Belle-Brise.

Williams came across the producer following a request to source Belle-Brise from an Antique Wine Company client.

“One of our customers in Monaco asked us for Belle-Brise and when I found it, and tasted it, I liked what I saw,” he recalled.

Forecasting success for the château’s wines in the UK market, he said, “The price is right, and there is always strong demand for Pomerol.”

Williams also told db that the Antique Wine Company had opened its first office in Manila in April this year having formed a subsidiary company in the Philippines with a local partner.

“We have a partner with local knowledge and capital and we provide the wine knowledge,” said Williams of the new tie-up, which currently comprises four full-time staff in the Philippines.

Expectant of enlarged fine wine demand in the country, Williams recorded the construction of several new five-star hotels in the country and said that four luxury casinos are being built in Manila Bay alone.

Speaking more generally of his plans for the Antique Wine Company he said that he was working on expanding the global reach of the business.

“We have just raised capital to grow and we are embarking on a three year expansion plan which is focused on building our business in emerging markets.

“We want to be the global international fine wine merchant… we want a presence in all emerging markets through local partnerships and a focus on top quality wines,” he said.

The Antique Wine Company now has four offices, with one in London, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Manila.

Williams admitted that he was also talking to possible future partners in Brazil and Russia, but he expected the company’s next office to be in Indonesia.

“I believe Indonesia will be a phenomenal market, but there are only four people in the country with an import licence.”

Explaining further the potential in the country, he commented, “There are over 200 million people and the country has just put in the biggest ever order for Airbus [plane manufacturers].”

“Today you’ve got to be willing to get on an aeroplane and find new markets… you can’t wait for the business to come to you,” he summed up.

Château Belle-Brise is currently owned by Armagnac-producer and former banker Henri-Bruno de Coincy, who bought the Pomerol property in 1991.

The estate’s wine are not sold en primeur and de Coincy does not use Bordeaux’s negociants to distribute his wines, but has appointed a single importer in each key export market.

With just 2 hectares of vineyards, Belle-Brise produce 800 cases of wine each year, 50% of which are sold to Michelin-starred restaurants in France, according to de Coincy.

He also said that the property was the first estate in Pomerol to use horses to plough the vineyards in 2010, and doesn’t use any additives in its winemaking apart from sulphur dioxide.

The wines are fermented in stainless steel lined concrete vats with no temperature control, and spend one year ageing in 400 litre oak barrels, of which one third are new.

After ageing in cask, the wines are then transferred back to the vats where they are left for five months to allow any sediment to settle to the bottom of the vessel, avoiding the need for fining or filtration.

De Coincy said that he had decided not to use Bordeaux’s negociants to sell his wines due to his network of contacts built up through his Armagnac business, La Fontaine De Coincy.

“When I started selling Armagnac I was selling to Michelin-starred customers and when I bought Belle-Brise I couldn’t let them down, so I decided to give them Belle-Brise as well.”

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