Lifestyle

First Came the CPA & Then The Wine

At The Wine Rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, October 12, 2017

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Jaime Bicknell is the brand manager for wines at Select Brands Limited, but that is not the department where she started.

Chris Reckord (CR): Share with us your journey into the wine and spirits business

Jaime Bicknell (JB): I actually had no intention of working in the wine and spirits business, or in marketing. I studied accounting in college and sat my CPA exams. When I moved back to Jamaica, I went in search of an accounting job. I was hired at Select Brands in the accounting department. After six months of managing the accounts and shadowing Debra Taylor on all her wine trainings,the wine bug hit me! I was soon promoted to brand manager of wine and a few spirits shortly after.

CR: What is the most exciting part of your job?

JB: I love the tourism side of selling wine. I love going into the hotels, training the staff, trying to find new and exciting ways to upsell, and helping them to feel more comfortable selling the wines in the all-inclusives. I love being on the North Coast, so that's also a plus.

CR: Let's say a reader and new wine drinker wanted to start a wine collection, what would you recommend?

JB: I would suggest a mix to include as many major wine countries and their typical varietals, without breaking the bank:

Reds: Catena Malbec, Meiomi Pinot Noir, Thomas Barton St Emilion, Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruffino Chianti DOCG, Campo Viejo Tempranillo

Whites: Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Pasqua Pinot Grigio, William Fevre Chablis, Dr. L Riesling, Robert Mondavi Private Selection Chardonnay, Banrock Station Moscato…can I add sparkling, too? Ruffino Prosecco, Mumm Champagne

CR: Some people are casual wine drinkers until they have that 'aha' moment. When was that moment for you?

JB: I've always enjoyed drinking wine; it's always been my go-to drink before I knew anything about wine. So I wouldn't say it was any particular wine that made me catch the wine bug. But as I started learning more about wine and getting involved in events, tastings and trainings, that's when I caught the wine bug. I love how much there is to learn and taste. I wish I had studied it in college instead of accounting!

CR: What are you mostly disappointed by when you dine out?

JB: When I dine out in Jamaica, I'm usually disappointed when the restaurant doesn't have a good wine selection, or the wine list isn't offered. The culture in Jamaica hasn't adapted to be a wine culture yet, but we're working on it!

CR: Is wine your drink of choice? If so, what is your style of wine?

JB: Yes, wine is definitely my drink of choice. I love to try new things whenever I can, but typically I would go for a heavy red wine if it's with a meal. Marchesi di Barolo Barolo, Chateau Magnol Bordeaux or Cuttings Cabernet Sauvignon are three of my all-time favourites. If I'm drinking in the day, I'll go for a Sauvignon Blanc, preferably Kim Crawford or a Sancerre, like Pascal Jolivet.

CR: From your vantage point, what else needs to be done to expand the wine conversation in Jamaica?

JB: I think that wine has the potential to reach a much wider Jamaican consumer just as much as a product like Stone's Ginger Wine. Especially the sweeter and less expensive wines (like the Lamothe Parrot, Arbor Mist brands). I think by introducing these to a wider market and having people try the products, the reach will grow exponentially.

CR: Here in Jamaica most wine imports push the same products into supermarkets and restaurants. In the more advanced wine markets there is a clear separation of products sold into the on-premise/on-trade (restaurant and bars) vs off-premise/off-trade (supermarkets). When will we practise more separation here?

JB: At Select Brands we actually already practise this. About 40% of our wine portfolio is for on-trade only. This makes it more of an experience at the restaurant, because they will have wines available that the consumer wouldn't have seen in a supermarket in Jamaica.

CR: You visit your producers occasionally. Which ones have you visited recently? What was your biggest takeaway from the trip and what was the most amazing wine you tasted?

JB: I recently travelled to France to attend Vinexpo and to visit our Barton & Guestier producers in Bordeaux. The trip was planned around a food and wine (pairing) course that B&G offers a few times per year, including class time in the morning and a winery visit in another part of Bordeaux in the afternoons. It was an amazing learning experience for me, and my biggest takeaway would be mastering France as a wine country (not a very easy task). I tasted so many amazing wines, but one in particular was a very special experience for me. As a surprise during the course, we were taken into the wine cellar at Chateau Magnol and tasted a 1966 Chateau Langoa Barton, Saint Julien. That was amazing.

CR: What are some of the hidden gems in your portfolio that wine lovers should be trying?

JB: The first ones that come to mind are the Michael David wines. Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon, 7 Deadly Zins and 6th Sense Syrah, for example. Also, Pasqua's Romeo & Juliet Passamiento Red and White wines are another set of hidden gems I would love more people to try.

CR: What are your thoughts on the local wine scene? If you had a magic wand, what changes would you make?

JB: I would start by improving the wine service and knowledge. Receiving great service at a restaurant can make or break your dining experience, and a big part of that comes from the server having that wine knowledge and confidence to help you enjoy your dining experience. I'd love to walk into more restaurants in Jamaica and see a bottle of wine on each table, and customers staying out longer to have that second bottle because their experience was so great. I think the local scene would really benefit from some more wine training programmes for wait staff… but we're working on that too!!

Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to creckord@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord

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