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Blending Business Acumen with Wine Expertise: Follow Anthony Bechara’s Journey


Discussing international exposure, the role of French wine merchants, wine technology, WSET tactics and post-Covid recovery

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A seasoned Strategic Management professional with over 15 years experience in different fields amongst the services industries from Hospitality to the Financial Services industry in the MENA region leading different entities profitably, Anthony Bechara has turned his wine hobby into his career now. He is currently a Dip.WSET Candidate, Wine Specialist, Sommelier and into Wine Education.

Could you please introduce yourself to the audience and outline your journey a bit? 

My experience included leadership roles at different levels of entities, from Product development, Market studies, Sales Management, Budgeting, and leading stakeholders’ relationships to ensure business sustainability.

My Academic background includes a Bachelor degree in Hospitality Management & Tourism, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing. Along the way I got the 2007 Youth Entrepreneurship Award for the MENA region which was organised by the World Bank & International Finance Corporation at the time.

My entry into the wine world needed a key, so came the decision to embark into the WSET journey which started to open doors to capitalize on my international expertise in previous fields, and use it to boost my wine career.

How has your international work experience enriched your skills in France? 

My international experience can be divided into two broad segments. The first segment is the managerial experience which I have in different fields, countries, economies, legal frameworks, which enriched my technical skills to lead entities in critical situations up to safe harbor. The second segment, is the multicultural relationship abilities, which we as Lebanese master it throughout history, and gave me a competitive advantage to integrate in different local societies, especially in a region like the Gulf where it is full of local communities.

Then, I decided to benefit from this international experience, and use it as my cornerstone to my French journey by putting it at the disposal of entities willing to capitalise on such backgrounds for their own development.

How does Nysa Cavistes operate and what role does a wine merchant play in the French market? 

In general, Wine consumer behavior in France has been changing drastically, especially during the Post-Covid period, by relying more on online services. However, Nysa adopts a strategy aiming to attract millenials, and clients looking for new trends on the wine scene (Ancient varieties, small wine regions, natural wines, etc). This strategy allows us to stay on top of the game, by keeping the consultancy rôle that a wine merchant is famous for, comparing to other platforms/surfaces offering similar products. Disregarding the new market trends, the french market still appreciates the local artisan around the corner, where he could find his needs at proximity at any given time, so Nysa offers the convenience of service and originality of products at proximity. 

Nysa cavistes adopts a hybrid model in the wine merchants scene in France, by combining the « Independent Wine Merchant » model with the « Wine Stores Chain » one. The franchise system doesn’t exist at Nysa, so all stores are owned by the company, and the buying process goes through a centralised buying department.  

Image Source: nysa cavistes on Instagram

How does the company decide which wines are stocked on your shelves? 

As Nysa stores are placed in different neighbourhood in Paris, its client base is so diverse so is its requirement, from classic wines to more « discovery » references which are sourced from different regions. Therefore, the buying strategy should be accurate to meet each store’s requirement by keeping a rotating percentage which always keep the buying process at Nysa a new chance to discover new references that can in some cases be exclusive to Nysa. Nowadays, the « Natural Wine » movement is laying its weight in the market, so we are meeting this demand with a percentage of our catalogue. In summary, there is a macro factor dictating a chunk of our wines in all the stores, then each store slightly changes its offering depending on the location & client base.

How are the cellar team members trained? What are some crucial things that they are expected to know before they join the job, and what are some things you teach them to align with Nysa's brand values? 

As a primordial rule, we expect from any new colleague to have a prior wine knowledge experience whether by having appropriate WSET qualification, or other forms of wine certifications along with a certain commercial experience depending on the position and/or location of the store to be assigned at. Once joined, the new colleague will embark on a training phase to absorb the Nysa way of doing stuff, along with a series of staff tastings that we organize regularly whether when there are new references to be introduced, or a new promotion which includes new wines, or even just casual tasting sessions. Our colleagues, are also granted professional entries to most of the professional wine tastings in Paris, to be enlarge their horizon in the business, especially that we always welcome recommendations for new references through colleagues.

What are some of the most successful promotions you have seen in-store? 

We have a promotions calendar on a yearly basis, following national holidays (Champagne promotion at christmas), annual wine promotions (Foire aux vins), and seasonality (Rosé promotion during summer). Promotion success follows a 2-axes measurements : « Number of bottles vs. Value ». I can’t precise which one is more successful because each one has certain parameters, and conditions. However, I can say that the same promotions are gaining more popularity on a yearly basis, and clients always expect original ideas every year. Even the staff waits for these promotions to boost their figures, and acquire new clientèle, especially through our loyalty program.

Is there any new technology, tactic or technique you have used in the last 1 year that has improved the quality of your work? 

We are in a constant evolution of our operational tactics to meet our clients’ needs, and be proactive to certain trends in the market. We rely a lot on developing our colleagues’ technical capabilities in all aspects, but we also rely on Data Management tools to analyse our clients behavioral patterns, in order to meet them and analyse their preferences individually, in order to develop a coherent offering that can be personnalized.

What role does the WSET play in your career ?

WSET has been a pillar for me to start my wine career, especially that I come from a diverse background in other industries. Wine has been a passion for a long time, and I wanted to transform my passion into a concrete career path by starting with an internationally-recognized certification, so WSET as the obvious choice for me. In order to secure a good start in the wine world, it is always advisable to have WSET Level 3 at least, as it is broad and covers most of the international wine regions, which we encounter on a daily basis. WSET develops analytical skills along with tasting ones, so if well prepared, it shapes a universal wine language spoken everywhere.

Do you have any recommendations for someone just starting out on your path?

There is a global phenomena that has started specifically during Covid period and ongoing till nowadays, and that’s an individual reconsideration of life priorities, and rediscovering new passions in life. Lots of people like me, have reconverted professionally in and out the wine sector on different levels. However, for any peer willing to embark into this journey, I’d strongly advise to set his priorities right as a person can’t change career choices every now and then, especially when he is at a certain age and other life priorities set their weight on his career choices. In addition, I’d recommend to embark into internationally-recognised certifications like WSET, which will give him the necessary knowledge required. Most importantly, it needs a big chunk of self-discipline, and self-confidence that he’s not starting from zero, as every life experience is an added-value that the industry needs in an ever-changing world.

Interviewed and written by Stuti Khetan, Beverage Trade Network

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