The Golden State of Mind campaign will elevate wines from the California region through a 360 drive that will benefit winegrowers and consumers, says Christopher Beros, Asia director at California Wine Institute
The Bottle Shock movie was loosely based on the true story of a British expat in Paris who wanted to save his wine business. The expat decided to do a blind taste test on wines from all over the world. It was the 1970s and wine regions such as Napa Valley in California were unheard of. A team was sent to Paris to compete and they won. The rest, as they say, is history.
What exactly makes wines from the Golden State so popular? Some say it is because of the weather, as California gets a good amount of sunshine all year round. According to www. thewinecellarinsider.com: “California wine comes from the most interesting soils and terroirs for wine lovers, winemakers and winegrowers alike. Those soils and terroir have propelled the popularity of California wine so much that close to 90% of all wine in America comes from California.”
With more than 100 grape varieties, California has long been known for high-quality wines. To push this message across, the Wine Institute has launched a new global brand campaign and business strategy showcasing California wine as a leader in sustainable winegrowing, innovation, and wine- making advancements while promoting the commitment of generations of family farmers and winemakers to producing high-quality wines.
Called “Golden State of Mind”, the campaign is aimed at giving California wineries room to grow as global markets begin to ramp back up following the challenges of 2020. Christopher Beros, Asia director at California Wine Institute, explains that the campaign’s key programmes include a global digital advertising drive highlighting the state’s commitment to sustainable winegrowing; an innovative California Wines Virtual Global Marketplace for importers and buyers; and a new comprehensive wine education course with a four-tier certification programme.
With the focus on sustainability, Beros says: “Environmentally conscious consumers can take comfort in the fact that California is home to one of the world’s most widely adopted sustainable winegrowing programmes in terms of both wine grape acreage and case production.”
He adds that more than 80% of California’s wine is produced in a Certified California Sustainable Winery. California’s dedication to sustainable winegrowing means producing high-quality grapes and wines while protecting the environment, being a good neighbor and employer, and maintaining a vibrant long-term business. Some of the initiatives looked into are:
• Vineyard sustainability: Winegrowers protect the soil, air, water, habitat and biodiversity, as well as embrace natural methods such as beneficial insects to manage pests and sheep to help cultivate vineyards.
• Winery sustainability: Vintners embrace environmentally sensitive architecture and design, making use of natural and recycled materials, solar power, wind power and biofuels, while conserving water and energy.
• Community sustainability: Vintners/growers enhance employee and community relations, support philanthropy and contribute to quality of life through cultural events and open space.
• Certified sustainable: A third-party, annual verification that a winery and/or vineyard is adopting and implementing sustainable practices, meeting defined pre-requisite practices and continuously improving.
• Certified wine logo: Beginning with the 2017 vintage, this logo indicates a wine is made in a certified sustainable California winery, using at least 85% grapes from certified vineyards, and 100% from California.
• Best practices: Vintners/growers use the “California Code of Sustainable Winegrowing” to adopt best practices with 140 Vineyard and 104 Winery Best Practices. California is the world leader with the most acres and cases of sustainable wine.
What does it take to get wines certified? Jason Haas, the second-generation proprietor at Tablas Creek, says that they began with organic certification in 2003, added Biodynamic certification in 2016, and became the first winery in the world to be Regenerative Organic CertifiedTM in 2020. Together, they point the way toward agriculture being a part of the solution to big picture challenges like climate change, income inequality, and the scarcity of resources like water and energy.
When it comes to getting the California wine story out to Asian consumers, in particular, Beros is the best person. Prior to his current position, Beros was the founder, CEO and chairman of California-China Wine Trading (2007–2015). Before 2007, he was in the investment banking business where his focus was in F&B, retailing (both on- and off-line) and consumer products (Credit Suisse First Boston, Donaldson Lufkin and Jenrette, Robertson Stephens).
During his tenure in the banking business, he had many winery clients and developed a strong knowledge of the wine industry over his career. He also founded and operated a successful boutique investment banking firm, Al-derwood Capital, in San Francisco. Ber- os has travelled extensively throughout China and Asia and has numerous business relationships there in addition to his US industry contacts. He has lived the majority of his time in Asia.
Beros tells Options more about California wine and why Asians love their wines.
California Wine Institute now has more than 1,000 wine businesses. What are the advantages of joining a collective? How does it work?
We bring together the resources of 1,000 wineries and affiliated businesses to support legislative and regulatory advocacy, international market development, media relations, scientific research and education programs that benefit the entire California wine industry. The Wine Institutes’s commitments include:
- Initiating and advocating effectively with public policymakers and stakeholders at state, federal and international levels;
- Promoting and protecting the interests of members and informing relevant audiences about the benefits of California wine with a unified voice;
• Preserving our ability to responsibly produce world-class wine by encouraging wide adoption of sustainable practices and investing in the California Sustainable Winegrowing programme;
• Driving exports of California wine by assisting California wineries in entering and developing business in foreign markets and building the California brand abroad with the Export Programme;
• Actively engaging and supporting members by responding to industry issues and specific issues that may impact members’ businesses.
California wines have been in Singapore for 30 years now. How is the market doing currently, given the Covid-19 situation?
We have seen increased market share despite the pandemic, and this is very encouraging. Strategies that we have adopted include being highly promotion-driven to boost sales and strengthening our online retail presence, which continues to be the fastest-growing off-trade channel for wine.
We have also witnessed an increase in interest in high-quality/organic produce, as well as sparkling wines, among consumers with high disposable income.
What are your observations when it comes to the Asian consumption of wines?
I’m really fascinated by the curiosity and the cosmopolitan nature of the wine drinker in Asia. When I first came to Asia in the late 2000s, many people were only interested in Bordeaux varietals that were red; so, a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot etc. Now, it is much more eclectic and varied than it was even 10 or 15 years ago. People are interested in Rieslings and Zinfandels and all kinds of different varieties and also much more interested in white wines than they were before.
I find this not only fascinating but very encouraging and interesting, especially since California has such a great variety of different kinds of wines. I think that California wines are very well positioned for the trends taking place in Asia right now.
What is the message you want to put across to consumers in Asia?
Asia has always been a very important market for us, and Singapore, being an extremely vibrant Southeast Asian market for wines, is particularly significant. With the ever-increasing awareness of winemaking processes, and consumers being more mindful about the origins of the wines they are enjoying, it is more crucial than ever to reinforce the objectives of California Wines, particularly the sustainability efforts. Most of all, California wines are known for their affordability, quality, versatility and being so much fun to discover. We hope to bring the California wine lifestyle to people in Asia.
How has the pandemic affected the wine business? For example, did sales go up as more and more people work from home?
Although the on-premise sales were hit badly during the pandemic, online retail sales and consumption rates have boomed as more people consumed wine at home. Institutions have turned to virtual tastings, classes, and merchants are investing more and more into online channels.
Is there a hierarchy system in the world of wines globally?
There is a hierarchy in many parts of the world in terms of wine. Luckily, for California we do not have a hierarchical system. Anybody can make anything they want, and no organisation or government entity will say that anything is better than anything else.
It’s very empowering for the consumer because it’s really up to the consumer to decide what they like and what they don’t like. It’s not up to an outside entity or government to say what should be good and what should not be good. So in the US, our system has no hierarchy at all. It’s up to the consumer, but of course, the consumer can be influenced by critics, sommeliers, and other wine professionals.
What wine would you reach for when you unwind after a long day at work or want to celebrate something?
I do love wine and I love many different varieties, so this is a difficult question to answer, more difficult than you might think. After a long day at work, I usually would have something light and refreshing such as a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, or a medium oaked and chilled Chardonnay, or even a tasty Rosé wine. With meals I prefer something red such as a pinot noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon; if I’m eating something very hearty such as meat or pizza, perhaps a peppery and spicy Zinfandel.
Sommeliers pick their favourite
Five experts suggest which California wines to try
Alvin Neo, sommelier, Mott 32
I love Chardonnays from the Russian River Valley as the style of wines from the region exhibits clear, bright fruit profiles, saline-like minerality and lingering acidity. They go really well with local food like Hainanese chicken rice and salted egg prawns.
Vincent Tan, head sommelier, Odette
The wines from Harlan Estate and Ridge Vineyards re- main my favourite to this day because not only are they some of the finest examples of wines made today, they also maintain their unique sense of identity. Moreover, the work put in by the California wine industry on sustainable viticulture and social responsibility cannot be underestimated for the long-term future of the Californian wine industry, and that of our planet.
Gary Low, head sommelier, Corner House
California has always been an interesting region for me, especially for the different grape varieties that have found its rightful place in this exciting wine-growing zone! Zinfandel, Marsanne, Rousanne, and Viognier, alongside classic grape varieties like Cabernet, Shiraz, Pinot and Chardonnay, have all found a stable foothold in this region. The most exciting part of this is that winemakers are starting to experiment with blends other than the traditional “meritage” blends, or classic “Burgundian” style white cuvees. Now you have winemakers like Tablas Creek, who makes a Rousanne and Grenache dominant blend, or even Conundrum who makes a white blend from Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Semillon, Muscat and Viognier. The opportunities are endless and I can’t wait to see what the California wine industry will bring in the near future!
Purple Gao, head sommelier, Resorts World Sentosa
I visited Oakville California in 2012 and had my first taste of Opus One. It has intense rich flavours of berries with baby smooth tannins. That was when I fell in love with California wines, and even hand-carried 12 bottles of Opus One back home.
Britt Ng, head sommelier, Shangri-La Hotel Singapore
I love California wines for their complexity, versatility and the wonderful stories behind them. The Pinot Noirs by Au Bon Climat in Santa Barbara are particularly amazing.