Coronavirus conversations: Emily Faulconer

Emily Faulconer, head winemaker at Chile’s oldest winery, Viña Carmen talks openly about the impact of Covid-19 on her business, before revealing news of a soon-to-be-launched, top-end Cab blend.

How is business during this difficult time?

We have been pleasantly surprised. When all of this began in March, we were expecting a very dark first semester, but the numbers have proved us wrong. New opportunities have come up in some markets that have covered difficult months in others.

How have you adapted the way you do business during the coronavirus crisis?

We have quickly shifted our focus to online sales and off-trade. We have had to adapt to the technology available to be able to connect with our partners and clients around the world. Online trainings and tastings have kept us busy. They work very well; it makes me wonder why we weren’t doing it before!

Have you noticed the crisis has changed consumption trends/consumer drinking habits?

I see big changes in this perspective. Now we are drinking at home, so what you drink and why is totally different. Wine is a good beverage for home, and why not indulge yourself with a higher quality wine and to learn more about this fascinating world. Personally, I have taken advantage of this time to stock up my cellar, look for new producers, try new things. I love the fact that they arrive on my doorstep!

Are you enjoying a boost in off-trade/online sales?

With the on-trade pretty much dead in the majority of our markets we have seen a shift in certain countries to on-line and off-trade sales. E-commerce has played an important role for us, but, overall, it has not totally compensated for our loss of sales in the on-trade channel.

How do you think the coronavirus crisis will change the world?

It is a very broad question. There is still so much unknown about the virus it’s hard to predict reality in the short to mid-term. At the moment we just don’t know the real impact of the pandemic, and I’m not sure the end is yet in sight. We are now starting to re-evaluate the sustainable use of that rare commodity ‘time’, be it travelling or working from home, and we are definitely turning to locally sourced produce where we can.

How should the wine trade adapt in the face of the crisis? Do you think it will change how people do business, if so how?

Yes, it is already happening, our industry has been forced to adapt to a new reality. Travel to meetings on both a local and global scale is not possible, so we have learned ways around this. More efficient use of time which would invariably mean less global travel I believe will become the sustainable norm.

What is the future for the wine trade post Covid-19?

I think the way we do business will change. This crisis has enabled a wider use of communication technologies to connect worldwide, so in some cases travelling won’t be as necessary. However, I believe first-hand experience cannot replace an online call, so we will have to plan very carefully the way we travel to wine growing regions for technical visits, or commercial market visits, for instance.

What are your top priorities as a company going forward?

Our foremost priority, which remains unchanged, is people. In this crisis, this means providing safe and heathy working conditions for our employees and partners at the same time maintaining all jobs, for which we have had to adjust our internal structures. Going forward, our ability to adapt our current strategies to tackle the new challenges in terms of distribution, for example. Our mission to always be present is more timely now than ever and luckily I am certain we have the team to adapt to this challenging scenario.

Do you have any new wines in the pipeline?

We have been working on a new Cabernet Sauvignon based ultra-premium wine: Delanz Alto Jahuel. Named after the Carmen founder, Christian Lanz, this Bordeaux style Alto Maipo red blend is made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. A reinvention of the classic, this traditional blend in a new world style will be released to the UK market in 2020.

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