Gillaume Deglise was a shoe-in for the job of taking over Vinexpo, the huge wine and spirits exhibition organisation that runs shows in Bordeaux, Hong Kong and now Tokyo. But to those who know his flamboyant predecessor, Robert Beynat, filling those large shoes will be difficult.
Within a few minutes of meeting Deglise, you realise that notion is, to use a bit of English vernacular, a load of cobblers. Deglise may not have that old-fashioned Hollywood-style winning smile and presence that Beynat had – and probably still has. But his command of English is superb – Monsieur Beynat was prone to occasional gaffs – plus he is extremely bright. Sharp as a knife, as they say.
Yes, he may appear unprepossessing (the picture hardly does him justice) compared to the tall, elegant, name-dropping Beynat full of bonhomie, but with Deglise you detect a keen sense of purpose which is offset by an acute sense of humour. This man knows where he is going. In his own quiet way, he’s a charmer.
Born in Nancy in northern France, the 40-year-old has the task of revamping the organisation and, in particular the Bordeaux show, which has its critics. In London last month, he took to the rostrum and ran off a stream of initiatives to put Vinexpo Bordeaux back on track. Was it a coincidence that in the same week Prowein officials were in London and the London Wine Fair announced some of the events and features to tempt people out of their offices and away from their PCs, Macs and smartphones?
So, with no vineyards in the vicinity of Nancy, where did Deglise acquire his love of wine? He studied commerce at the Dijon School of Trade in 1996 and there he fell in love with Burgundy and Pinot Noir. “I looked for jobs in the wine business,” he tells Drinks International. Champagne house Bollinger was looking for an area manager and he got the job. “It was great schooling for me. I love Burgundy and I love Pinot Noir but maybe I should not say that now that I am based in Bordeaux,” he quips.
His wife is Spanish and she works for a bodega near Barcelona. That explains how he has come to speak Spanish. As to Portuguese, he says: “My wife is a Catalan and Portuguese is close to Catalan. A lot of the words and intonation are very similar.”
After Bollinger, he worked for Laurent-Perrier, responsible for Italy, Spain, Scandinavia, Canada, the Caribbean and South America. He ended up general manager for L-P Switzerland. Much travelled, Deglise obviously has an ear for languages.
His love of wine has meant he was travelled in that cause. Asked about New World Pinots, he doesn’t appear too enamoured of Chilean but speaks lovingly of Oregon examples and has made a pilgrimage to New Zealand to visit big names such as Felton Road and actor Sam Neill’s Two Paddocks right down in Central Otago at the foot of South Island.