Jules van Costello – Food & Drinks Writer – Restaurateur CEO Business Marketing Interview 15

Jules talks about how wine producers are reacting to their globalisation of the wine market (see his Aotearoa Nouveau Kickstarter), selecting a restaurant location, subscription wine, brand story through personality, tips for craft brewers in 2016, being flexible enough to react to the market and getting it right with TripAdvisor alongside traditional PR coverage.

Kickstarter Aotearoa Nouveau

Aotearoa Nouveau is about where wine is going. It is a celebration of the most exciting, cutting edge wine producers in New Zealand (view a selection of wineries)

Place your a forward order to get access to up to get the skinny on 65 post modern wineries in New Zealand. Be the first to read the wine stories that Jules will be telling for the first time.

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The Ryan Marketing Show

Jules Van Costello – Food & Drinks Writer – EPISODE 15

Voice over: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, fire.

Ryan Jennings: This is The Ryan Marketing Show and you’re listening to episode fifteen of one hundred. Today I’m joined by Jules Van Costello down in Wellington. How’re you doing, Jules?

Jules Van Costello: Yeah, good, thanks. How are you?

RJ: Good, man. Enjoying this fine weather of your fine capital city.

JVC: Well, it’s kind of grey, but it’s not atrocious.

RJ: Well, it’s better than I could’ve hoped for.

JVC: Good, good.

RJ: Now, most of what really goes on in Wellington happens inside in the bars and restaurants, and you kind of connect the whole thing that’s going on, some of the scenes, you know what’s happening.

JVC: I do my best.

RJ: So, talk me through what is happening right now. What’s hot, what’s not, what’s your focus?

JVC: Well, I guess for me at the moment, the big focus is out here at Aotearoa Nouveau, which is my second book project on Kickstarter. It’s a book about New Zealand, or really exciting New Zealand wine. But in regards to sort of what’s going on at the moment, I’m off in an hour or so after this podcast to go and eat a popup dinner from the [Colt? 0:01:27.6] project, who are some really cool Auckland guys who have come down to Wellington, and I think they’re going down to Christchurch as well, and they’ve got amazing press up in Auckland and are doing some really, really exciting food. So, popups are still pretty hot. We’re here at Golding’s Free Dive and we’re having a little glass of [Baelins? 0:01:48.1] IPA, and I guess that would be the other thing – not just in Wellington, but generally, is people are really, really getting into local beer, which is really exciting.

RJ: Great. So, you’ve still got a lot on the go–

JVC: Always.

RJ: — and we’re going to come back to the Nouveau, because you just launched straight into your sales pitch there, which I like. You’ve got some hustle going on there. But let’s get back to the scene. So, Wellington’s always been on the forefront of craft beer. Now, over the last year or so you’ve opened a restaurant here. How has that, I guess, part of Wellington’s evolution influenced what you’ve done, or have you kind of gone contrarian and done something very separate?

JVC: No, not at all. We have, both Asher, my business partner and myself, we like eating good food and drinking good drink regardless of what that is or where it comes from, and so we have a really strong craft beer program, not because it’s craft beer, but because they’re beers we like to drink. When I was sort of working in the restaurant all the time, so the last year – started taking a step back to do some other things at the moment – we had probably a little bit more than what we do at the moment, but they’re all really good beers; a lot of beers that are seasonal, so we might get a case of two dozen, flog through it, and then move on to something else. And that’s exactly the same thing we do with wine. Being a neighborhood restaurant in a fairly fancy part of town, it’s in Thorndon, we probably have more of a focus on wine than beer; certainly probably more of a focus on wine at beer’s expense than I’d like, but that’s the neighborhood, and you kind of have to tailor to your market. So, where we had quite an extravagant beer program to start with, that sort of pulled back, because we are more focused on wine, simply because that’s where our patrons have taken us, but not to the sense that you can’t go in there and get a really awesome beer or something that’s really exciting, you just might not have sort of as many options as you did. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The options thing’s really important for us; we have a small wine list, a small beer list, and I’m proud of that fact. We want someone to come in and find something that they’re going to like and would rather have ten wines by the glass, all of which are really exciting, all of which are really different, than twenty-five that taste the same.

RJ: Was the selection of Thorndon as a location, was that deliberate?

JVC: It was deliberate in the sense that we looked around at lots of places and it was the best combination of cost, so that’s the business that we bought, which was Charlie Bill, so that the ongoing costs are in and that sort of thing. And what sort of market there was certainly– we were looking in Newtown as well, which is where our other restaurant, The Ramen Shop, is and it’s a lot more casual, and the restaurant would’ve been a completely different beast in Newtown than it was in Thorndon. But I guess you sort of come up with a concept and an idea of what you want to do, and then you have to look for sites, and I’m sort of struggling with this in regards to wine at the moment too, and then you have to tailor what you want to do to where you’ve got access to and to the cost of that. And so, we looked at places in town, we looked at places in other suburbs, and they just didn’t make sense for what we wanted to do, and then likewise, choosing Thorndon, we were kind of able to go a little bit more formal than we potentially wanted to, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s all about sort of being flexible and reacting. And likewise, the restaurant turns a year on Friday, and looking back, what we’ve created is quite different to what we wanted to create. And I don’t necessarily say that as a bad thing, it’s just us reacting to the market and to our customers and to demand, but in a way that doesn’t compromise our standards and values.

RJ: So, that’s interesting that you started with the concept and then looked for the locations where you could bring that concept to life. Thorndon was the place, then you let the market tell you how you should then evolve your initial concept to get to where you are now, a year later.

JVC: Yeah, and that’s within reason. There are a lot of operators and all sorts of businesses, but particularly hospitality who I would argue probably listen too much to the market in the sense that they compromise things that are important to them.

RJ: What are your no-compromises? What are the things where it’s like, this is a red line for Jules?

JVC: I don’t know, I would think that my business partner Asher who’s a chef probably has more of those red line moments or red line places than I do. For me, service is probably the most important thing. And then for me it’s not the style of service or the quality of service; it’s the consistency of service. Regardless of the restaurant or bar or café or wherever, or even like bookshop that you go, it’s not about it being really full on, really fancy, it’s about letting people know exactly what they’re going to get, and that’s much more important than, say, having lots of the trappings of fine dining at a restaurant or being too casual. It’s much better to have a line: this is who you are, this is the personality of the place, this is the service level that we’re going to maintain, and you have to be able to maintain that service level whether you’ve got two people– and I mean, Hillside’s only twenty-eight sets.

RJ: Wow, that is compact.

JVC: It’s very small.

RJ: You book in advance, then?

JVC: Yeah, totally. But for instance, we’ve had days like the Thorndon fair and the one day a year that the Prime Minister’s house is open for the public where– I mean, I think some of those days we did four or five hundred coffees on a two-group machine. So, if you’re in a very, very high volume café, that’s not a lot, but if you’re in a small neighborhood restaurant which has a coffee machine to supplement what is essentially a restaurant, that is. And so, you have to be able to have the same level of service no matter what, and that for me is one of those lines. And what I don’t like is where I see restaurants that sort of have ears and graces, but the moment it gets busy, they can’t sustain it. I would much rather somewhere that’s fun, that’s casual, hey, even hey bro. I mean, not that that’s us in Thorndon with little, old ladies. But that consistency of what people expect is really important and kind of extends to all aspects of the business.

RJ: Have you then seen that consistency be a result in how people review your restaurant? Is there a digital footprint that reflects that consistency of service?

JVC: Oh, certainly. We’ve managed to have quite a good digital footprint. Sorry, it’s getting a bit louder in here, isn’t it? And so, I mean, if you look at Trip Advisor, Zomato, both of which are consumer, we have– I mean, on Trip Advisor we’ve only got four and five-star reviews, and I think that’s actually surprising, because we don’t compromise as much as other restaurants, and as a result, people often can sometimes not get it, and then that leads to sometimes poor reviews, and actually, that’s something that we’re totally cool with. So, we’re only getting four and five-star reviews across there is really good. And then there’s the sort of critical acclaim, and I’m proud to say that we’ve done really well. We’ve got very good reviews from the Dominion Post, from Cuisine in the sort of more formal spectrum, but also from online publications like Concrete Playground, who– really awesome publication, but a very, very different market to, say, the traditional sort of…

RJ: Actually, that’s interesting, because you’ve got these digital platforms like Trip Advisor, like Zomato. If you’d rank all of it, do you see some as being more important in the success of Hillside’s visibility than others?

JVC: Certainly. So, we’re talking about in regards to…?

RJ: Like you get this massive brand exposure from newspapers and a review there, and certainly from Cuisine – that’s a tick in the box.

JVC: Well, if you compare, say, Zomato and Trip Advisor, for us, Trip Advisor, we really take note because it’s an international market. Being where we are in Wellington, we have quite a lot of international visitors, and so it’s a more high-end sample of the market, which is more reflective of our general customer, so that’s actually more important to us than a site like Zomato.

RJ: You don’t get too upset that people can use it as a way of getting back if they had a cold coffee or– like the consumer has too much power?

JVC: I really don’t have an issue with it, and I think that for some people, that’s really important. If someone doesn’t have a great experience, I would really like them to come to us first, but ultimately, on those sites, most people will either look at the aggregate, and our aggregates are pretty positive, and then they’ll start reading individual reviews. So, if you have a restaurant on the other side of the spectrum which has a lot of reviews that are either very negative or very positive, that’s probably the worst sign they could possibly get.

RJ: Right. So, you think if there’s just a couple of ones or twos, the consumer’s smart enough to read into what the restaurant’s actually like?

JVC: Oh yeah, totally. And we do what we do, so at dinnertime we do a three or a four-course menu, so you can’t come in and just have a main course, and that’s not right for everyone, and we totally understand that. There are times when I just want to grab a meal, a glass of wine, eat, go, and that’s cool, but that’s not what we want people to do at Hillside. We want people to come, sit down, enjoy themselves, relax, and to say no to those that dine and dash is absolutely fine for us, because we want to create somewhere where people come and experience it. And it seems to be working well, and I guess the most important thing that goes in conjunction with that aspect of consistency is just making sure you communicate who you are and what you are to your customer, and that’s probably the most important thing, and where I think we’ve done quite well.

RJ: That sounds quite interesting, that actually through your menu design and that three, four-course approach, that removes a lot of the potential confusions for expectation, because it’s a degustation-type approach.

JVC: Well, it’s a set price menu, so it’s three or four courses, but it’s only $55 or $65, which is actually relatively affordable compared to other restaurants of a similar quality where you’re going to go three courses. You’re maybe spending– I mean, we worked it out: most restaurants that do three courses, you’re spending a minimum of about $70, and then four, you’re spending a bit more again. And likewise, with wine and so forth, I mean, we have $10 glasses of wine, but we also have $25 glasses of wine, and we also know that being a neighborhood restaurant, people are going to come just for a meal on their way home, and that’s cool, and then they can have a $10 really good glass of– oh, what have we got at the moment? Stampede – really cool cabernet from Wairarapa. If they can have three courses, glass of wine, really simple, spend $65, that’s a pretty good deal. But they can also come and do four courses: they can have a glass of bubbles or a cocktail to start, they can then have some really cool wines that we pour there, coravin, which is a really awesome gadget that allows you to pour a glass of wine from a bottle of wine sealed under cork without pulling the cork out, so you get a much longer shelf life on premium wine, meaning we can have wines by the class about $25, $30 dollars if we want. I mean, we could have wines by the glass at $100, but that wouldn’t work.

RJ: So, how do you balance all of that as a restaurant co-owner with your other life of beer, craft beer, the Brewed book, that history, with then moving on to what we will talk about, which is the new project?

JVC: Well, I guess it integrates relatively well, sort of 90% of the time in that let’s say if I’m working on tasting beer for an article or for Brewed, then I have that in my mind for the restaurant. And likewise, if I’m tasting wine either to write about or to do something with in the restaurant and sort of all the factors, different facets of what I could potentially be doing with it.

RJ: Is Hillside Kitchen kind of like a test kitchen for some of what goes into the books?

JVC: Probably not so much. As much as I would like to think of it like that, we make decisions based on what’s best for the business, and so what’s best for Hillside and what’s best for our customers can sometimes be different to what a wine or a beer I’d recommend. Because it’s a restaurant, the margins of operating a restaurant are much higher than they are for retail, for instance, and so a wine I might recommend for retail or for someone to go out and go buy might not work either way, so it could be not the right sort of pricing at the bottom end, or it could also not be the right sort of pricing at the top end. So, we’re really proud of the fact that we have quite an experimental wine list. We have a lot of wines that sort of fall into the category of natural and edgy and lo-fi and whatever kind of words you want to use, but we’re also very careful about which of those wines we do pour and what price they are. So, there are some fantastic skin ferment wines, and I love Milton’s Libiamo; it’s– am I allowed to swear on this?

RJ: You can do whatever you want, Jules.

JVC: It is a mind fuck of a wine. It’s a Gewürztraminer fermented with skin, so white wine made light red, for seventy days. It’s so tannic, but it’s also got beautiful Gewürztraminer aromatics, and it’s really cool, but realistically on our wine list, it’d be probably around the $90 mark, which roughly equates to sort of $16 a glass. It’s a wine not everyone’s going to enjoy, so rather than pour a wine like that that’s really at the extremes, but also at the extremes price-wise, we’ll go for something like the Cambridge Road Cloudwalker, which is still a really cook skin fermented wine, but we can pour it for $10 a glass. So, what that means is that most of our customers, we’ll tell them it’s something different: at $10 a glass, they’re happy to try something different and potentially not enjoy it. At $16 a glass, or $90 a bottle, I don’t want to try something and not enjoy it, and so it’s that balance. Whereas the Milton Libiamo at retail price, which is sort of around the $50 mark, is actually a wine I’d recommend to a lot of people who would spend $50 on a bottle of edgy wine. And so, same for the beer. One of my favorite beers – a beer I had at the wedding – Kereru Maidstone lager.

RJ: I had that last night. Delicious.

JVC: It’s a great amber lager, yeah. For a very long time, and I’m actually– this is going to change very shortly, thanks to Kereru’s pricing and so forth, but I love it, but it didn’t work in the restaurant, because ultimately we weren’t sort of happy to sell what is basically a very, very simple, focused, real-made lager for $12 for a 330 mil bottle, because we didn’t think that the people who wanted to drink that sort of beer wanted to pay that sort of price. And so, because the margins on wine and beer are different in a restaurant environment, what works in that environment is really different, and so–

RJ: So, summarizing that, getting the margins right in the product selection is really key to the experience and also to the profitability of the restaurant.

JVC: Well, I guess it’s– it’s the profitability of the restaurant, certainly, but if we put our standard margin on anything, provided it sells, then it’s fine. It’s more about– I mean, I am sort of controversial in this regard is that I sell a lot of wines that I might not necessarily like to drink myself, but there is a difference between a wine I don’t like to drink and that wine being a good wine. And so, I think as a professional, you have to look past your personal preferences towards what’s objectively good and good value, and so while I might sell a wine that I don’t necessarily enjoy drinking, I would certainly not be prepared to sell a wine I didn’t think offered value. And so all those decision are based on the value. So, if we’re putting a– I mean, we’ve got a half bottle, sell most to [? 0:20:24.6] bottle one, at about $180 a bottle. It’s not a wine I love, but I know it’s– so it’s a Bordeaux, it’s– that goes to cost, so the second one of cost there is the [tornell? 0:20:39.9] from 2009. It’s gigantic. It’s not a wine that I love, but I know that it’s a wine that a lot of lovers of really big, modern, new world-style Bordeaux will, and so, that’s absolutely fine. And at that sort of price, it still offers value to the people who drink that sort of wine, because there’s not one value. So, what offers value to me, as someone who really loves really different wines is probably quite different to what offers value to the guy down the street that likes drinking Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that tastes like Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and Central Otago Pinot that tastes like Central Otago Pinot. So, when you’re choosing a wine at $50, it has to offer value at $50. When you’re choosing a wine at $80, it has to offer a value to the people who are going to spend $80 on that wine. And that’s sort of constantly changing, and that’s kind of where it’s tough.

RJ: All right, so let’s now move away from the restaurant, and I know people are going to be thinking this into this – what [Stu? 0:21:50.3] is thinking about at thirty thousand feet on wine, on beer. What do you think of where the market’s at now? Let’s cover beer first and then let’s move over to your Nouveau project.

JVC: Well, I guess the market for beer– and actually, I just did a sort of presentation on the history of New Zealand beer and where it’s going at the Great Kiwi Beer Festival. I guess what we’re looking at going forward is that there are some really successful breweries who have made really good names for themselves, they’re going to keep going, but there’s less and less room in the market for another Panhead or another Garage Project. I think where people are going to succeed is by identifying a niche market and focusing on that, and I think Craftwork down in Oamaru are a good example of that: they make gigantic Belgian-style beers that are very expensive, and that’s fine, because they produce like 200 bottles at a time. And so, they’ve found a market, they cater to that market, and it works. And I guess regardless of whether you’re tiny or gigantic, if you’re going to succeed as either a brewery or a winery, you have to find your market, but in the beer space in New Zealand, there is more room for breweries who want to create sustainable businesses that aren’t necessarily completely growth-centered. Obviously growth sometimes, there’s a correlation between growth and economy to scale, and that’s totally understandable, but it’s catering to a niche market. And I guess one of the things is there’s a lot more brew pubs popping up, again, because it’s people who want to brew great beer realizing that there is less and less way to sell that, and so a brew pub is a perfect example of how to do that. And likewise, I mean, and I think Zeelandt is– it’s almost my textbook example of breweries in the regions, so not Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson – and I say Nelson, because it’s been such a strong beer region for so long – creating beer or creating product to really tailor to their market, and they are sort of reaching out now, but I don’t think any of that sort of expansion would’ve been possible without focusing on that core Hawke’s Bay market.

RJ: Nice. Okay, so that’s kind of put a bookend on the beer side of it, and I know you’ve been chomping at the bit to talk about your Kickstarter project. So, this is your opportunity, Jules. Talk me through it as if I’m entirely new to the Nouveau Kickstarter.

JVC: Well, I guess Aotearoa Nouveau’s all about where wine is going, and so what it is is it’s a Kickstarter project, it’s my second book Kickstarter project after Brew, and what we’re trying to do is focus on roughly sixty-five – it might go up – really exciting wine producers, and we’re calling them postmodern New Zealand wine, partly because new New Zealand wine sounded really dumb. And I’ve sort of gotten a bit of flack for using a wanky term like postmodern, but I think it actually makes sense in that postmodernism, if you look at it in an academic sense, is a reaction to modernity. And, okay, what is modernity in wine? So, that’s globalization of a wine market dominated by a handful of reviewers who have a really strong preference for particular styles and are really growing sort of chasm between what is commercial wine and what is fine wine? That’s the very, very short thing of that. And so, I guess what Aotearoa Nouveau is about is all of the producers who are reacting to that, and so there are lots of different reactions to that. So, there are producers, and I guess my favorite example, because their wines are so frigging awesome, are Bell Hill in North Canterbury. They produce roughly 200 cases of two or three wines and sell them for an absolute fortune, and they’re worth it. But one of the reasons that they’re worth it is because they are in such high demand and there is not the volume to fulfill that demand. So, that’s a very– it’s a way of sort of selling wine that’s very common in California where lots of cabernet producers particularly over there have made some fantastic wines, but they’re very expensive, because there’s so few bottles of them and so many people want to drink them, and that, therefore, pushes the price up. So that’s one reaction to modernism in wine. And I guess the other most famous or most obvious one, as I mentioned sort of before, is natura wine. So, that’s guys who are making typically from organic fruit, but making wines with as little intervention as possible, so they use as little sulfur, but as little fining, as little filtration – in the case of, say, reds and chardonnay, as little oak – and trying to produce really expressive, vibrant wine that is free of man or as free as possible of man, but still getting a really delicious wine to drink in the end. And that’s just one of those reactions. And there’s sort of everything on the spectrum of that, so I guess that’s what Aotearoa Nouveau’s about. It’s about all those really exciting wineries, hopefully a lot of whom you’ve never heard of before, that are doing cool things. And I would expect that no one who picked up the book would like the wines at every winery in the book, because they are so different and sometimes so divisive, but hopefully there’s some really interesting stories. And I guess that’s where both with Brewed and this book, and something that’s really important to me, is I’m trying to tell stories that haven’t been told before, because there are some fantastic wine and beer writers in New Zealand anyway, and there are some fantastic stories, but I guess my niche, and the reason that I’ve been relatively successful with projects like these, is I try and tell stories that haven’t been told before. And I think that’s good for consumers, because it exposes you to new and different wines, even if it’s just letting you know that there’s something you really don’t want to try.

RJ: So, through this new project, at the end if you’re a part of this this Kickstarter and you get delivered a Aotearoa Nouveau book, this is the curated, aggregated knowledge of the reaction to what’s happened with New Zealand wine based on all the winemakers that are doing new and exciting things. So, that’s kind of a shortcut or a bible of where you should try, where you should visit, what you should drink–

JVC: What you should drink.

RJ: Yeah.

JVC: And I guess the next step on from that, which is certainly going to be something that’s really important, is where are we going and what to expect.

RJ: Do you think it’s going to go down the same route as what you were just talking about with craft beer in that there’ll be– some of these niches will actually become mainstream, or is this just another phase in winemaking?

JVC: Well, no, I think we’re already seeing some of these niches become mainstream. I mean, if you look at orange wine, so that’s skin fermented white wine, it’s always going to be a very small section of the market, but you’re already seeing some of the big producers experiment with it. You’re seeing them become more and more common, you’re seeing producers who have in the past made quite extreme examples of those wines try and make more commercially friendly examples, and actually I was having this conversation with a wine writer from Australia, and he said, “Well, what’s next?” Because obviously the natura wine movement in orange wines are far more popular in Australia than they are here. And I said, well, to a certain extent, they are a fad, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to go away. They’ll come, they’ll make their presence felt, and the good ones will survive – the bad ones or difficult ones or poorly marketed ones won’t. But ultimately, like sommeliers, wine writers, we like new shit. We’re always on the search for new shit, because that justifies us. And I guess that’s kind of slightly cynical way of looking at it, but we do need to justify ourselves as a profession, and one of the ways that a lot of us do it is by searching for new things.

RJ: Speaking of that, what are your thoughts on subscription-based models where someone else is doing the searching on behalf of the consumer and the wine just turns up on your doorstep?

JVC: Well, I think it’s awesome and we’re trying to work out a way of getting something like that off the ground in New Zealand. And if you look at internationally, first there was general subscription wine clubs and the wine club model has been around for forever, but– and I mean those typically tend to appeal to very budget-conscious, very conservative consumers, but if you look at what’s happening internationally, and even with, say, Wine Friend here in New Zealand, you’ve got either writers or sommeliers personally putting together a box of really exciting wine, and often wine that the general consumer couldn’t get necessarily, and then getting it out to them. Yes, people pay more for these products than they would a hundred-dollar box from The Wine Society – not that there’s anything wrong with that model too, but what I think’s really appealing to consumers of our generation, and we’re not young, but we’re also not old yet, is that there’s a really real focus on those stories and where the wine comes from, who the winemaker is, and I guess that’s what people want to know. And that’s where a restaurant has such an advantage over a retail business is that a sommelier in a restaurant, especially one like Hillside – we’ve got twenty-eight seats – can spend essentially the better part of three hours with a group of customers when they’re not eating and you can tell them exactly where a wine comes from, who made it, what the guy’s like. I mean, a great example is an awesome Central Otago Pinot, Burn Cottage, and the guy who owns most of that business is a guy who’s name is Marquis Sauvage – but actually pronounced Marcus Savage – and he is an ex-wine merchant from the U.S. He is probably six-foot, three-foot wide; he looks like a Metallica roadie, yet his company produces some of the most refined, elegant wine coming out of New Zealand today. And if you didn’t know that and if you didn’t have, say, a sommelier or a really, really educated person to sort of tell– a retail person to tell you that, you wouldn’t know, and you wouldn’t know where the wine comes from. And often, especially with higher value wines, because the story puts the wine into context, people get more value out of that bottle of wine.

RJ: And just before we wrap up, because I know you’ve got to get to this dinner, what advice would you give to winemakers to make your job easy when you’re selecting their wine to make sure that that story is as crystal clear and as relevant as possible?

JVC: I have probably more experience with it through Brewed and brewers than through wineries, but it’s the same thing: you have to have a story, but you have to have a story that’s different to everyone else’s. It doesn’t have to be that much different, it doesn’t have to be long, it just has to have a point of difference. So, for instance, when I was writing Brewed, one of the stories that I got so many times was, “Oh, I won a home brew competition, so I decided to build a brewery.” Awesome. So have about twenty-seven other New Zealand breweries. Same story with New Zealand winemakers. So often I get, “We’re a family-owned single vineyard estate making premium wine. We’re really focused on Te Awa.” And sure, that’s cool, but if I’m looking at wine for the restaurant, that’s pretty much my minimum.

RJ: That just gets you through the door. That’s first meeting.

JVC: Yeah. That’s your first meeting. That gets you through the door. You actually need to have something special, and I think everyone does have that, it’s just some people are better at conveying it than others. So, I would say look at who you are, look at your personality, and try and convey that in your bottle. I guess the best example of that conveying a personality in a bottle is Andrew Childs’ Behemoth beer brand. So, Andrew Childs’ is a mate, but he’s almost seven-foot ex-lawyer who has the attention span and personality of pretty much a fourteen-year-old boy, and his beer brand…

RJ: It lives and breathes that, right?

JVC: Personifies it. And that fucks off a lot of people, because they don’t like it. But on the other side of that, it also appeals to a lot of people because he’s fun, he’s different, he’s…

RJ: But that’s easy for him because he does have that massive– what if you have the personality of a gnat? How do you end up branding your brewery?

JVC: Well, and I want to sort of plug you, Ryan, and say hire a marketing consultant. But I guess my first question would be, and this is to anyone who’s creating a product like wine or beer and doesn’t necessarily have a channel to market, is ask why you’re doing it? And I’m not trying to disparage people from doing it, but if you don’t have a channel to market, you have to ask really serious questions. And if you don’t have the personality to go out and sell wine, that’s not necessarily the end of the world, but you have to have something that replaces it and something that is going to fill in that space.

RJ: Interesting.

JVC: Because people, especially– and we’re not talking about $15 wine and $2 beers or $20 for twenty-four beers, we’re talking about wines and beers that might be $15-25, or wine could be $300 a bottle, and you’ve got to give someone a reason to do that. And unless you’re one of the very few, very, very lucky producers who are going to get amazing reviews – and even those people can’t bank on that – then you’ve got to do something that’s going to make you different. And I mean, this is not just wine and beer, this is everything. It’s restaurants, it’s retail, it’s…

RJ: I think that’s what’s interesting throughout this interview is that some of the lessons here could apply to any type of business.

JVC: I guess depending on– obviously the market for some products and services are quite different. Like, the market for a lawyer or an accountant is least about personality and more about “We are very professional, we know what we’re doing, we’ve got a history of what we’re doing,” but ultimately it’s about the same thing, which is conveying a sense of who you are.

RJ: Well thank you very much for your time, Jules.

JVC: Not a problem. It’s been fun.

RJ: That’s an amazing insight both into beer or wine and into the Wellington marketplace through your restaurant in Thornton, Hillside Kitchen and Eatery.

JVC: Hillside Kitchen and Cellar.

RJ: And Cellar. Good luck tonight–

JVC: Thank you. It’ll be fun.

RJ: — and good luck with the Kickstarter campaign.

JVC: Cheers.

RJ: And by the time this comes out, it should be the last few days, so get out there and support Kickstarter and support Jules.

JVC: Thank you.