This self-proclaimed wine nerd is a true industry leader who is responsible for importing and distributing some of the Philippines' best pours

Jojo Madrid is one of Tatler Asia's Most Influential Tastemakers, recognised for his contribution to the dining scene as partner at Premium Wine Exchange Inc. (PWC), an outlet bursting with luscious reds, crisp whites, blush roses and so much more. “To start a wine business, you need to be passionate about it,” says Madrid. “I’ve been a wine enthusiast since the mid-90s and was always interested in starting a wine importation and distribution company."

With consistent hard work and a heavy serving of passion, his dream came true and is now a flourishing business. Along with his three partners—Eric Recto, Fred Uytengsu and Jeri Jalandoni—and their entire team at local importer Premium Wine Exchange Inc, Madrid continues to ensure that we all have a healthy supply of quality wine. 

In fact, education is core to their success; they require their sales team to be highly knowledgable and certified. With regards to his personal Level 4 WSET diploma, Madrid says: “[We want] to be the best wine shop in the Philippines. That means giving customers access to [the best wines]”. These days, they’re able to supply all their customers with delicious drinks from Burgundy, Champagne, and Napa. “[We’ve] established a wine portfolio that is comparable to some of the best retailers in Singapore, HK and New York,” he beams proudly.

Related: Tatler Asia's Tastemakers - These Are The Most Important People In F&B 2021

We have always placed the customer first.
Jojo Madrid
Tatler Asia

How did you start?

Having the right partners was critical. My best friend (Eric Recto) introduced me to two other like-minded wine enthusiasts (Fred Uytengsu and Jeri Jalandoni) and the rest is history. The four of us seem to have shared the same vision of introducing the Philippine wine industry to only premium brands from California. We didn’t necessarily want to be the biggest importer; however, we wanted to come up with a well-curated portfolio to share with friends. We didn’t really envision being a major player in the wine industry - which at that time, back in 2003, was dominated by three or four players. 

What would you say your big break was?

Our break came in 2008 when I was introduced to a Paris-based negociant (wine broker) at a dinner in Paris. That led to a very important and special relationship between my firm and this negociant, whom I learned had relationships with some of Burgundy’s and Champagne’s greatest domaines. This allowed us to put together a wine portfolio that went beyond small, family-owned California wineries. Around the same time, we established connections with a handful of Napa cult wineries through our contacts on the ground. In the two to three years that followed, Premium Wine Exchange established a wine portfolio that was truly world-class.

Read more: A Guide To Choosing The Right Stemware For Champagne

What motivates you to do what you do?

To be the best wine shop in the Philippines is what motivates me. That means giving customers access to wines only available in the best wine stores or restaurants around the world. 

What do you feel is your contribution to the Philippine dining scene? 

Our contribution is in two areas - firstly, giving our customers, both retail and institutional, access to some of the world’s very best and hard-to-source wines. Secondly, our sales managers provide training and wine education to the sommeliers and servers of fine dining establishments and hotels who purchase wines from us. It is a critical part of the service that we provide.

Tatler Asia

How has the pandemic affected your business and how have you evolved?

Restaurants are completely shut during ECQ, so that impacted our institutional sales vastly. However, retail and private customer sales rose as people spent some of their travel budget on wines, which helped offset the business lost in the restaurant and hotel segments. That was a very pleasant surprise!

Due to the travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic, we haven’t been able to host winemakers and wine dinners. In a typical year, we organise at least a dozen wine dinners featuring winemakers. Instead, we have resorted to Zoom calls connecting customers with winemakers. While that has been successful, it is still not a perfect substitute for meeting the winemaker in person.

Related: 9 Ways To Support Restaurants During ECQ

Where do you see the future of the Philippine F&B scene?

Before the pandemic, customers came to our store to browse and purchase wines. During the pandemic, we needed to bring the wines to the homes of customers. I expect this to continue, so transport and logistics have become more important. Wines need to be handled with care because they're sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, so we offer same-day delivery services within a certain radius.

Also, sales through online resellers are growing... while still not a significant percentage of our sales, it is increasing rapidly. I believe the next generation of wine drinkers will continue to purchase wines online - this segment is seeing significant growth already.

Tatler Asia

What do you think is the next trend in the F&B scene?

Online sales and Zoom/online events are the leading trends. Wine education is another very important trend. At Premium Wine Exchange, all our staff are WSET certified or undergoing certification. We have always believed that customers will benefit much more when speaking with a salesperson who is proficient and knowledgeable in the subject of wines.

Read more: How Did Annabel Tanco's Infatuation With Paris Lead Her To Become A CEO?

Advice for someone staring in your space?

To start a wine business, you need to be passionate about it. I would also encourage people entering this space to undergo wine education such as the French Wine Scholar or WSET. 

At Premium Wine Exchange, all our staff are WSET certified.
Jojo Madrid

What would you attribute to the success of your brand?

We have always placed the customer first. We guarantee that every customer is absolutely satisfied with the product he or she purchased from our store. Just the other week, I read on a group chat that a customer and friend drank a Grand Cru white Burgundy that was prematurely oxidised. Although he didn’t ask to return it, my manager and I insisted that he did. Earning a customer’s trust is absolutely vital to our success. 

Read more: 5 Native Filipino Liquors

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.