An International Career In The Wine Industry?
Working in fine wine? Not a bad lifestyle!
Last week, we met senior managers from Chile's biggest winery, Concha Y Toro, who were touring Europe to promote their reserve wines, a cut above their well known grocery store brands (how many business students have picked up a bottle of Casillero del Diablo on your way out to a party?!)
BusinessBecause attended a sophisticated press event in London, along with the Chilean ambassador to the UK and reporters from the likes of Drinks International Magazine and Bloomberg (yes, a wine-tasting can entice financial journalists out of the office!)
We wanted to learn more about the business operations behind one of the world's biggest wine exporters and pick up some tips for MBAs who might be interested in a career in the wine industry. You may be a suitable candidate if you are:
A wine lover
Firstly, it's clear you need to enjoy wine to forge a successful career in a firm like Concha y Toro. With a rich history of wine growers (dating back to 1883, with its first share flotation on the Santiago stock exchange in 1933) the company is steeped in a long family tradition of wine lovers. Who can imagine a better working environment, with visits to picturesque vineyards in the foothills of the Andes and occasional wine tastings with clients?
An international mind
Concha y Toro was the first wine company to float on the New York stock exchange in 1994 and has grown to be a successful global brand. Exporting more bottles of wine than any other 'new world' country (more than the US, Australia etc), Chile is a serious player in the wine industry and Concha y Toro, with annual sales of nearly USD $900 million, is an impressive operation. Two thirds of sales are exports, requiring it's employees to be very internationally minded. 25% of the 1,600 staff are based outside of Chile, running a distribution network across 135 countries. These employees are managing projects as diverse as negotiating a major sponsorship deal with soccer club Manchester United or acquiring a top Californian wine brand, Fetzer. Understanding different cultures and markets is no doubt an essential attribute.
An accustomed traveler
Along with the global mindset comes the necessary international travel. Flying almost anywhere from Santiago requires a hefty plane journey and time zone shift. The team we met in London were hotfoot from a 15 hour flight and frequently make trips to other parts of Europe and Asia. So sign up for your frequent flyer card and brush up on your foreign languages - this is a company with lots of potential for travel!
A head for figures
MBAs are not being hired as wine makers - you'll be recruited into finance or sales roles and you'll need to be good with numbers. From forecasting to accounting, like any business, growing grapes needs people to crunch the figures. The export nature of the business means a heavy amount of foreign exchange hedging - daily balancing as well as hedging for forward sales in different currencies. So if you're doing a specialism in international trade, this might be a business model that interests you.
A social conscience
Sustainability seems to be a genuine part of Concha y Toro's corporate philosophy. The company offsets the emissions of it's vineyards by buying carbon bonds on the Santiago Carbon Exchange. They also measure their 'water footprint' and have introduced 'drip-feed irrigation' technology to improve water efficiency in their vineyards. When making recent acquisitions of California labels, Fetzer and Bonterra, Concha y Toro emphasised the 'earth-friendly' reputation and organic plantation methods of these American wineries. If you're an MBA keen to work in a socially responsible business, this might be a good choice for you.
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