Franck Autard took up the position in April having worked for Lejay-Lagoute a subsidiary of Henriot and Japanese beverage company, Suntory. He told Drinks International that the focus of the company will be on its flagship brands such as Caves Saint-Pierre, a best-selling Rhone brand and Robert Skalli, the premium Languedoc-Roussillon brand.
The company has already made other strategic changes such as its decision not to exhibit at Vinexpo, selling non-core assets and reducing staff by 20%. It intends to invest more in European markets, China and the US. Last year sales to China along grew by 60%.
Autard said: “If we are to compete with the likes of Australia and Chile, we have to give quality. Making a French wine in a Chilean style is a short term point of view. Typicity is the key and that is the strength of French wine.”
He emphasised that Skalli was not pulling out of entry level wines which make up the volume of the business’s 22 million bottles of wine a year, but the global strategy was to concentrate on the premium end of the wine market.
The UK is Skalli’s number one export market followed by northern Europe, the Benelux countries and Scandinavia, then Japan, China and the US. It exports to 70 countries in total.
The company is focused on Languedoc-Roussillon (40%), the Rhone (40%) plus Corsica where it owns 140 hectares of vineyards and Provence.