Benjamin Vigier studied International Business (specialising in trade with Asia) at the University of Le Havre in France before moving to China in 2004 to work at the French Consulate of Wuhan. A year later, he joined Metro Cash and Carry’s hotel and restaurant business and in 2007 relocated to Shanghai to work in the wine industry. In the last 10 years, Vigier has been representing eminent wine producers in Asia. Now, as the brand ambassador of Schloss Gobelsburg winery in Kamptal, Austria, Vigier has been entrusted with the task of promoting their prized Austrian wines in India. We caught up with him to understand the roadmap ahead…
What makes Schloss Gobelsburg one of the oldest wineries in Austria?
Until 1994, Schloss Gobelsburg was painstakingly managed by Cistercian monks of the Stift Zwettl monastery who were granted forests and the land around the Zwettl as far back as 1173. The estate is now in the able hands of Eva and Michael Moosbrugger, who are giving it a new direction although some of our wine production methods still date back to the days of the monks. For example, we like using old yeast and aging wines in Austrian oak that is obtained from a forest 50 kms away from the estate. Even the woodcutter knows how we want our barrels to be. Michael, who is in-charge of the estate, knows what he’s doing. He is a very kind and knowledgeable person. In 2006, he was awarded the “Winemaker of the Year” by the Austrian wine magazine Falstaff.
What is your programme while you are here in India?
Well, this time around, I will be covering Delhi and Mumbai. The main purpose of my visit is wine tasting and training. Wine is all about presentation and it’s really important to empower people behind-the-scenes. Since India is still on an “evolution” mode, we really need to teach people the basics of serving wine and remove the snob value because people still aren’t that knowledgeable about wine. I would like there to be a time where everybody can enjoy wine. I want India to give more attention to Grüner Veltliner – Austria’s most iconic white wine.
What does it mean to be a brand ambassador for an estate like this? How important is it to travel to different markets and show your wines?
As a brand ambassador my job is to support the local partners and present our products. From introducing the character of wines to describing the vineyards, I need to talk about what we have to offer. To promote our wines in different countries, we rely on our partners. So as an ambassador, they and I need to build the market for our wines. I travel half the year and the other half I spend in office. Travelling opens perspectives, activates distribution channels and helps us maintain steady growth.
What part do local partners play?
Partners provide reach! They reach out to customers as they are the bridge between us and the end consumers. They identify the target audience. In that sense, we are more like brothers. They come with their knowledge and history and we need to complement each other to make this relationship work. I can firmly say that our local partner, Aspri is doing wonderfully well and helping us in every way to increase our reach.
What is the best way to introduce a wine into a new market?
When we enter a new market we first and foremost look for a partner who believes in our wines. We must share the same level of patience and have a common ground. A lot depends on the partner since a good partner is an extension of the wine and the vineyard. After all, winemaking is all about nurturing friendships and making the best wines together, no matter where you are.
Gobelsburg wines have been described as classically-structured. What do you mean by that?
When we say our wines are classically structured, we mean they have good acidity and are full-bodied with good tension and a long finish. They can be teamed with salads and chicken and also pair well with more elaborate and complex food such as in Indian cuisine!
What’s your plan for the estate’s growth in general, and particularly in India?
We need to continue the work of the monks. I want to ready the winery for the next generation, develop more markets and introduce Austrian wine to the world. Did you know Michael Moosbrugger has signed a contract for three generations with Schloss Gobelsburg? We are also working on the classification of grapes. Michael is the president of the Association of the Traditional Vineyards of Austria. I want Michael’s children to see this legacy and embrace it, hopefully. So I am not thinking of a mere five or 10 years. But what we can create and leave behind for generations to come. At the moment we produce 600,000 bottles a year.
However, Austrian wine hasn’t really made a place for itself in India. I am working on positioning it well in the market with Aspri. It’s a work in progress and that’s the reason why it’s very important to be here. We are sowing seeds and nurturing relationships.