Julia Vertgeym, Export Director of Franz Wilhelm Langguth Erben GmbH & Co. KG, shared with us how an ideal riesling should be made, as well as her professional experience in promotion of the company’s brands in 100 countries of the world.
Julia, you are holding a top position at one of the oldest wineries in Germany, located in Traben-Trarbach – F.W. Langguth Erben, major international company. Please tell us what has led you to this job, why you decided to engage yourself with wine?
In fact, the engagement with wine, and life in the wine world were a matter of chance. During my university years, I did an internship at a winery in Tuscany and dived deep into the world of Italian wines; when I came back to Germany, I ended up at a small winery in Rheinhessen, where I was holding the position of export director. At some point, I decided to change my job, and sent my resume to Langguth – my candidacy was immediately approved.
It seems to me that the events that occurred in my life became the main teacher in the international wine business. They taught me a lot. As a student, I was lucky, as I said, to get to a winery in Italy, in the small town of Cortona, between Tuscany and Umbria. I certainly had the opportunity to taste all of the best Tuscan wines, visit many wineries, because Montepulciano and Montalcino were located, figuratively speaking, just around the corner. In addition, Chianti Classico area was only a 40-minute drive away. Therefore, I used this opportunity to the fullest: firstly, a lot of tastings and acquaintances, and, secondly, practice at one of the wineries, where we were establishing and developing the export vector to the US market.
Tell us about your work at F.W. Langguth Erben Group. What did this position give you (or change in you)? What, in your opinion, have you personally changed in the company?
First of all, I would like to emphasize that it is already the seventh generation of winemakers that has been working at Langguth Erben. And yes, this company has greatly influenced my professional development. I had started in the back office, where my duties included processing of orders, but after a year, I was offered to take responsibility for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, Hungary, Poland. After six months of development of this vector, I was offered to move to the position of export director.
Today, our team consists of 20 people, and, in total, the company employed 170 people. Naturally, the responsibility for colleagues, for profit and for its growth, for clients is tremendous, and, of course, the attitude towards the company is completely changing. My motto is the more tasks you have, the more results you achieve! What have I changed in the company? Our team has become more united, and our clients are satisfied with the cooperation; as to the company itself, I provide an opportunity for all our colleagues to rely on our department. We are one team: we work, we move forward, sales volumes increase every year and, undoubtedly, this motivates not only my department and my team, it motivates the entire company.
Which portfolio brands, in your opinion, are the most promising on the global market today? Tell us about new products.
Considering that we are a company located in the Mosel region in Germany, and the majority of national sales includes the wines coming from this particular region, then, of course, Rieslings are promising. In my opinion, this trend is long-term: Rieslings were, are, and will always be available. However, a lot of new products appeared in our portfolio this year, including sustainable, innovative wines. For example, the brand Flower Pot, which is produced in Italy. These are organic wines in light glass bottles weighing no more than 360 grams. In addition, the labels are made from environment-friendly paper that contains flower seeds. Under cold running water, you can peel off the label and plant seeds in a pot for growing fresh flowers, because they are the biosphere for insects.
In addition, last year, we launched a product like Gin Secco: this is a completely new category, an innovation on the market – a mix of gin and prosecco. Further, we have created a very interesting rosé, 100% Spätburgunder, limited edition, only 12,000 numbered bottles, and we hope that this product will gain its rightful place on the world market. We are strong together with our partners in the brand Blue Nun and look forward to developing in other directions, because our portfolio is quite extensive, and today, we can supply our partners with any categories of wines.
I would like to emphasize that despite the situation with COVID-19, in 2020, we had never suspended bottling and loading. We were working without pauses and interruptions, and in 2021, we continued at the same pace. We have clearly planned the bottling and processes at the winery in order to ensure that there would be no failures, given the current situation.
Our wines – Himmlischer Rhein Tropfen and Erben – have really changed the German market. The brand Erben with its wines is becoming the leader in sales at the national level, and, since the 60s and 70s, our company has always been able to provide the market with exceptionally high-quality wines.
Since its establishment (in XIX century), F.W. Langguth Erben has become one of the largest wine producers in Germany. At the present stage, the assignment that the company has at all times set for itself as number one task, which is to make the brands of F.W. Langguth Erben popular on all continents, is being fulfilled 100%. We sell our wine in over 100 countries. Today, the Mosel wines’ fame has circled the globe.
Impressive! How do you manage to achieve such high results in difficult times for any business? Perhaps do you have your own know-how?
Achieving results is a constant self-improvement, analysis of the market, and not only Ukrainian, but also the world one. Naturally, after the events in February 2020, we completely changed the strategy of our company. We are working more on online sales, improving our sites. Naturally, we maintain personal contacts with our customers and analyze the individual needs of consumers. These are the factors of success.
As we are aware, you were personally involved in the development of the brand Oscar Haussmann by Franz Wilhelm Langguth Erben. Please tell us more about the stages of this work, inclusive of difficulties and achievements.
It should be said that the origin of the Haussmann family dates back to the 16-th century. It is one of the oldest wine-growing and wine-producing families in Germany. In the 19-th century, Oscar Haussmann became one of the most successful German wineries in the international market. And now, Langguth receives daily requests from all over the world for the supply of Oscar Haussmann wines.
How did we achieve this? The task was to create a Riesling for everyday consumption. Light, drinkable, with low acidity, interesting both in terms of price and design, with an attractive label. When the task to make such Riesling was formulated, I proceeded from my personal taste and experience. Together with our company’s oenologists, other wine professionals, we have created taste varieties for this wine. And we decided to make it in such types as dry, semi-dry, and semi-sweet. The result is perfect! Oscar Haussmann is an excellent wine, light, versatile and gastronomic: it can be served as an aperitif or for pairing with any meal.
But today, perhaps, additional leverage is needed for such successful marketing in the international market, isn’t it?
Right you are! It’s just that you can’t surprise anyone with a taste. And I think there are a few things to keep in mind for wine marketing. Firstly, it is a label, because the wine will not be able to make the first impression again. The second factor is, of course, promotion. The third factor is to know the tastes of customers and consumers of this wine, what exact properties they expect from the wine for everyday consumption. And tastings are no less significant. These four factors are extremely important in wine marketing.
Can you share your experience as regards main stages of successful brand promotion in the international market (kindly specify them)?
The first and most important argument is that no brand at the national level will develop as well as it can do internationally. It is necessary to choose a strategy, but not to be scattered over the entire world market, to focus on the markets, in which you would like to be represented. You need to be careful about the name of a wine. It should be understandable and pronounceable not only in your country, but also in other countries, in other languages, so that there is no negative association with the name. The brand’s color palette, symbols, shapes should be carefully selected, and the national mentality and customs should be taken into account.
As I said, the international strategy should not be scattered over many regions, and you should take into account the mentality of the country you want to enter. Countries need to be studied: how people live there, what they breathe. You need to study and then choose a pricing policy that is acceptable for these countries, conduct an analysis of competitors, understand, where exactly your wine shelves will stand and where you want them to stand. You should always look at how your brand fits the local market, and look for an explanation, why it is so. You should know, whether there is a partner, who is interested in promoting the brand, and it is also important to monitor the socio-demographic growth of the country. What groups of the population your wine is intended for, who drinks wine in general, what the age category is, what their purchasing power is.
A lot of attention needs to be paid to social networks, because young people who have the opportunity to buy wine are also active users of social networks. These are the basic principles of successful brand promotion in the international market.
Julia, we would like to express our gratitude for this interview and, particularly, for your readiness to share your experience!