California’s First Lady of Wine – An Interview With Jen Wall, Winemaker at Barefoot Wines

Jen Wall Interview TheTaste.ie

All blonde hair, big smiles and abounding energy, Jen Wall, enters the lobby of Dublin Conrad Hotel like a beam of sunshine from the US state she’s just flown in from, California.

Jen has been head wine maker at Barefoot Wine since 1995, where she crafts with heart and soul great tasting Moscato, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, blush, bubbly and more.

Established in the Irish market since 2010, last time Jen visited Ireland Barefoot were selling 6,000 cases on our shores – a stark contrast from the 76,000 they sold in 2017.

Barefoot has established a similar spike of growth all over the world, making it the biggest wine brand in world.

We chatted to Jen on her recent visit to Dublin about why she got a taste for the world of wine, what are the strongest trends right now, and ,if she had to choose, what are her favourite wines are…

How did you get involved in the wine industry?

I was studying and planning to go into medicine, but my parents moved to the wine country when I was a junior. When I moved home after I graduated I got a job at a winery, thinking it was temporary, but I fell in love with it.

Barefoot has a distinct style that you can see throughout the whole still wine set – which is unique, for any brand.

I fell in love with the wine, the culture the community. So I went back to school and studies Enology and Vitaculture and decided that this was the path for me.

I became familiar with the Barefoot brand at my first job in 1991, and in 1995 I got a call from the owners who asked for a meeting.

Right away we decided to work together and I’ve been the wine maker for 23 years now.

What is differentiates a Barefoot Wine from it’s competitors?

A couple of things. From a wine perspective, Barefoot has a distinct style that you can see throughout the whole still wine set – which is unique, for any brand.

All of the wines are varietally correct, food friendly and fruit forward.

What’s important out of those three things is the varietally correct aspect, as that means when the grapes are at peak ripeness in the vineyard the flavours that we find in those clusters are reflected in the glass.

We have the highest repeat purchase rate for any wine, globally.

It means that the fruit in the glass is the hero and it’s not encumbered by acidity, alcohol, oak, too much residual sugar. It’s perfectly balanced. That directive holds through throughout all of our wines.

What also differentiates Barefoot from any other wine brand is out go-to market strategy.

Barefoot partners with Not-for-Profit organisations all across the world and we go to their events and pour wine.

It’s a beautiful thing because we help those organisations raise millions and millions of dollars every year for their worthy causes, but we also have the opportunity to meet people who are passionate.

You meet those passionate people, you talk to them about their favourite wine and the next time they go to the store they are going to try it. So we have the highest repeat purchase rate for any wine, globally.

We have these ‘barefooters’ all over the world and their job is to go out and partner with these organisations. We don’t spend out money on TV ads or anything like that – it’s very organic.

Why do you think there are fewer women in wine industry?

There are more and more women in the wine industry now. In fact, there are more women graduating out of University of California in the Enology programme than men now – which is phenomenal.

It’s exciting thing when people are choosing sparking on a random Tuesday night, and not because it’s someone’s birthday or it’s New Year’s Eve.

There may not be many women my age in the industry, but there are a lot of women coming up and they are very good at what they do.

What’s your favourite wine?

I don’t have a favourite wine, but in our portfolio my favourite bubbly id Griffith Bubbly Brut.

My favourite dry white is the Barefoot Chardonnay, because it’s lightly oaked, the oak is just a ribbon in the flavour, is very well crafted and has a creamy texture.

In the reds, the Malbec is lovely. It has a lot of caramel notes.

What wine trends can we look forward to tasting?

There are two trends that I’m seeing. The first is sparkling. One of the things we’ve been trying to do from a marketing perspective is get people to understand that sparkling doesn’t have to be a special occasion wine – and we’re getting there.

It’s exciting thing when people are choosing sparking on a random Tuesday night, and not because it’s someone’s birthday or it’s New Year’s Eve.

We’re really starting to see sparkling sales take off. We have two in this market: the Barefoot Bubbly Pinot Grigot and the Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato.

The second trend is pink. Every body loves pink now!

Drinking pink used not be as sexy, but now it’s very trendy to drink pink. What’s nice is that from dry to sweet, still to sparkling, and everything in between we have something to suit whatever your pink preference is.

We have four options in this market. The brand new Pink Pinot Grigot, the White Zin, Pink Moscato still wine and a pink muscadine bubbly.

What can we expect from Barefoot Wines going forward?

We have 14 wines on sale in the Irish market but we actually have over 30 wines in our portfolio.

So I’m excited to see what the team here introduces next but we have a lot of good options for you guys!

Barefoot Wines are available to order online at www.comans.ie, as well as in Tesco and SuperValu stores nationwide.

For more information on Jen and Barefoot Wine visit www.barefootwine.com.

FEATURE BY ERICA BRACKEN

erica-brackenErica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after completing a law degree, she went on to do a Masters in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.

Erica Bracken  Erica Bracken

You may also like...