Areni Global's Pauline Vicard on the future of wine - and wine lists

Pauline Vicard, Areni Global's co-founder and Executive Director. (Photo: Areni Global)
Andreas Grube
Published 20-June-2024

Areni Global is an independent think tank dedicated to the future of fine wine. We caught up with co-founder and Executive Director Pauline Vicard to talk about global changes, future projects – and wine lists of course!

"We analyse the impacts of major global changes on the production, distribution and consumption of fine wine. The goal is to see ahead, both in terms of the global economy, social changes and changes in consumer behaviour, to help the wine trade navigate the environment," says Pauline about Areni.

Why did you start Areni Global?
"I grew up in Burgundy, because my parents had a small wine estate in the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. I spent the first decades of my life on the ‘enjambeur’ with my dad, spraying pesticides and herbicides without using protection, because that was how it was done. I burnt my eyebrows burning canes. I learned about chaptalisation and the best way to hide your sugar shopping if you didn’t want to get caught by the customs people. I also watched the estate — and my parents — crash, because they couldn’t adapt to change."

"Dealing with change isn’t easy — in my family’s case, it was also traumatic, so I want to make sure the wine trade is as future-proofed as possible. And, right now, there are a lot of big issues to consider, from climate change to the demonisation of wine as just another unhealthy alcohol."

"The beauty of Areni is that it brings together top minds and experts from across the globe to address complex topics, and hopefully give the wine trade some of the crucial information and insights that they need to survive and prosper."

(Photo: Areni Global)

How has being from a winemaking family in Burgundy influenced your view of the wine world?
"Great question! I think growing up in a vineyard in Burgundy influenced me greatly, in three particular ways. Firstly, growing up in Burgundy left me with an inherent understanding of what a sense of place is, and how places like vineyards can foster a sense of authentic human attachment and belonging. This idea of ‘sense of place’ is not only crucial for understanding Burgundy, but is a universal key to the world of fine wine."

"Second, growing up in Burgundy left with me with the idea of 'temps long', or 'long term' if you will. Time is slower in Burgundy. People take time to make decisions, and I mean it as a compliment. For me, consistency through time and the capacity to balance the needs of right now, while also considering the next 50 years, is inherent to fine wine."

"Finally, growing up in the southern and unsexy part of Burgundy made me aware of hierarchy and how it plays out in wine. There are huge differences in status, glamour and financial success between producers who are only a few kilometres apart, as well as big economic differences between vineyards workers and owners, and between producers, négociants and cooperatives."

What are your plans for Areni this year?
"We have three main focuses for the upcoming months. We are preparing a big event in Helsinki on September 9th, where we will discuss some of our latest research with key leaders of the Nordic and Baltic countries. We are also finishing our white paper on the future of wine education. That’s been a fantastic project, forcing us to think about what knowledge and skills are needed to equip the next generation in wine."

"But our most exciting project this year has been our limited, 7-part series podcast, Inside La Place de Bordeaux. It explores the world of La Place, Bordeaux’s historic distribution system, that’s now becoming a global powerhouse. Most people only know about the En Primeur part, which is only a small part of the whole system. The series has already been added to a university curriculum, so we’re really pleased about that."

I get really annoyed when the wine list is exciting and well-priced but the by-the glass selection is just a couple of reds and whites of similar styles

How do you view the future of the Bordeaux system?
"It’s impossible to predict how La Place and the En Primeur system will evolve — though I can guarantee that every year, for decades to come, En Primeur will be written about in the media as an event that’s about to fall apart. As it stands, La Place is growing in international importance, which means it’s something that wine lovers should take notice of."

When you go out to restaurants, what do you love to see on wine lists, and what is important for you in wine service?
"My partner doesn’t drink much, so I love wine lists with a diverse and interesting by-the-glass selection. I get really annoyed when the wine list is exciting and well-priced but the by-the glass selection is just a couple of reds and whites of similar styles and obvious cash cows for the restaurant. I don’t want to feel like I have to drink a whole bottle to find something interesting enough. In terms of wine service, I’m a big fan of glassware. Drinking wine in beautiful — and, if possible, technical — glasses is a big part of the pleasure."

Do you have any favourite wine bars or wine restaurants?
"I love Le Petit Sommelier, Le Bon Georges and Capitaine in Paris, the perfect places for good food, good wines and good conversation. And for posher experiences, I’ll go to Medlar or Hunan in London. For any other cities, I’m a big fan of Star Wine List. As a mother of two young kids, I have a very limited number of evenings to myself so I can’t risk a disappointing wine list!"

Read more about Areni Global here.

Do like the Pros - search 2500+ wine lists


Did you know?
You can search for tens of thousands of wines and see where they are listed in restaurants and wine bars.
Search for wine lists on Star Wine List