E&J Gallo's Edouard Baijot: Traceability and sustainability are key

Edouard Baijot and Monte Rosso Vineyard. Photo courtesy of Gallo.

In a shifting market for wines, E&J Gallo is focusing on affordable luxury with proven producers and renowned vineyards, showing different aspects of California, Edouard Baijot, the director for luxury wines explains. And a partnership with Star Wine List is part of the strategy.

(Partner story with E&J Gallo)

Growing up in Reims in the heart of Champagne, Edouard Baijot was destined to work in wine.

”I've been surrounded by the world of wine since childhood. While one of my grandparents was a farmer, drawing me to the vineyard side of things, I pursued business studies to follow my interest in both production and consumer insights within the wine industry,” says Baijot.

While he kept close to the wines and the terroir of his region, Edouard Baijot ended up in a different place. He started as a sales representative for Gallo in France in 2002, worked his way up in the company, and today he is Luxury Director, International at E&J Gallo. Along the way, he earned the coveted Master of Wine title in 2019, and he is one of only eight French professionals currently carrying the title.

"It was not a piece of cake. In the beginning it felt like I was in deep water. But I was determined to pass however much it cost. Of course it would not have been possible without my wife's support and I'm also grateful to Gallo for their support."

Stepping up the game

Star Wine List caught up with Baijot to get his insights on the developments within the luxury category of wine, and not least how Gallo has positioned themselves to become one of the strong players in this field. In recent years, Gallo has significantly stepped up their game by acquiring some of California’s best vineyards and wineries. E.g., Stagecoach in Napa and Sonoma’s Monte Rosso Vineyard, which Star Wine List has previously covered.

These investments over the last 15 years are now paying off, says Edouard Baijot.

“Beyond the recent acquisition of Rombauer, which includes prime vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and El Dorado, Stagecoach stands as the Gallo Luxury portfolio's most significant acquisition of the past decade. Stagecoach boasts the title of Napa Valley's largest contiguous vineyard, and grapes sourced from Stagecoach contribute to three of our core Luxury brands: Orin Swift, Pahlmeyer, and Louis M. Martini,” says Baijot.

The Monte Rosso Vineyard produces exquisite Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Malbec and Zinfandel.

New acquisitions offer something unique

Later in 2024, Gallo will launch the newly acquired Rombauer and Massican, allowing the consumers to go on a journey through the Gallo portfolio that encompasses all California winegrowing regions and offers a diverse range of styles. Like Massican, for example, which offers a unique Californian expression, he says.

"It transcends the concept of a classic wine brand, instead embodying a lifestyle."

"While there's no specific land or location defining its creation, the wines will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression. Winemaker Dan Petrovski captures the essence of Massican through lean, floral, crisp, citrusy white wines with a touch of salinity on the finish, reminiscent of the Mediterranean lifestyle. Sommeliers will be drawn to Massican's food-friendly style and the strong differentiation it offers within the region,” says Baijot,

Pinot Grigio from Gallo's newly acquired Massican. (Photo: Gallo)

Shaping a portfolio for trying times

For the first time in five years, Baijot has observed a slight slowdown in demand for luxury wines, particularly those exceeding €100 per bottle, he says. This is where the diversity of a portfolio becomes crucial.

"Fortunately, the diversity of our portfolio is a strength. Many of our wines fall within a category I like to call 'affordable luxury,' priced between €50 and €100. In times of economic turbulence, cultivating a long-term vision with a well-defined strategic roadmap, while avoiding short term-reactions, is paramount. Focus is key."

Consumers seek unique experiences

While the wines from Rombauer and Massican wineries both fall into the category of ‘affordable luxury’, they also prove a good fit with other consumer trends that Baijot has observed within the last few years.

“Wine consumers around the world seek unique experiences when it comes to the wines they drink. It's not just about the style, origin, or price; it's also about the story, the artistry, and the moment you share with them. Traceability and sustainability are key, regardless of origin or style. Rombauer is an iconic winery with 40 years history and a great example of American dream. The vision of Koerner and Joan Rombauer, focused on crafting high-quality wines from exceptional sites, remains the company's core principle.”

Chardonnay from Rombauer, one of the new members of the Gallo family. (Photo: Gallo)

Getting the global perspective

Today, wine drinkers – also in the luxury category – have a wealth of options. So, building a successful luxury wine brand demands a global perspective, says Baijot.

"The experience you create, the stories you tell, and the service you provide will ultimately make the biggest difference.”

This is also one of the reasons why Gallo partners up with Star Wine List, he says.

”Star Wine List's global reach aligns perfectly with our vision of building brand awareness for our Luxury portfolio on a worldwide scale. By partnering with Star Wine List, we can directly connect with sommeliers around the world, ensuring that our Luxury wines are recognized by the most discerning wine professionals.”

Read more about Gallo here.

Published 06-June-2024
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