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Q&A with Languedoc's Domaines Paul Mas - Jean-Claude Mas
How was 2020 going for you before Covid-19 in terms of domestic and international sales?
It was going very well especially internationally.
What impact did Covid-19 have on the business?
The immediate challenges were having people working from home, but at the end of the day the team has showed a great solidarity throughout this time. There was little impact in the vineyards and the cellars, much more so on the bottling line.
Sales-wise many Asian markets were obviously affected from early in 2020, but overall we have been able to balance that with strong retail results in some other of our key markets.
What impact has it had on price for the wines and for grapes in the market?
We have long term agreements with many growers, so in those cases you don't really increase the price. Prices have been somewhat pushed down but now look like recovering.
To what extent are markets and opportunities opening up again?
We've seen some good sales in the £10-£15 price range. We have found that where people have not been eating out they have been able to buy a better bottle of wine to drink at home.
What long term impact do you think it will have on the way you do business - and which channels of the trade to work in?
It's hard to predict long term. May be the way restaurants are set up will have to change.
Do you think it will change the way you travel and market your wines?
I think we will definitely see more digital marketing continue, and there will be more focus on social media. But having said there is still no substitute for personal meetings.
How many markets do you now work in and which ones are the most important?
We are now in 75 different markets around the world. The leading markets in order are UK, Holland and Canada. These have been consistently leading territories for us.
What markets would you like to do more business in and how will you achieve that?
Recently we've been developing good markets in Africa - particularly the Ivory Coast, Kenya and Morocco. We are also doing well in new states in Eastern Europe. We actually want to do more business in France. I was more export-focused when I started Domaines Paul Mas, but now France is a key part of the strategy.
What prospects do you see for the 2020 harvest?
Well, I don't want to risk calling it too early, but it should be outstanding - we have had perfect growing conditions so far with some rain. There have also been perfect ripening temperatures, and, of course, I've been around all the time to keep a close eye on things.
What impact do you see on prices of grapes going forward?
I see minimal impact.
What are you long term feelings about the industry - optimistic or pessimistic due to Covid-19?
From a Languedoc point of view, I'm optimistic; if there is a region in the world which will continue to make better and better wine, the Languedoc is it.
From a capitalist perspective, I see the situation as very fragile. We have been able to continue to do business mainly thanks to our well-established network of relationships around the world, and our customers have been keen to do more with us. It is much harder to open up new opportunities when you can't meet face to face.