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Forbes Vietnam: "COO of Tan Khoa, Robert Zamacona: 'Vietnam wine market is increasingly attractive'"

- You graduated from Harvard and earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.  Before moving to Vietnam you were a Director of Finance for a famous beer brand in New York, so why did you decide to move to Vietnam and work for a Vietnamese company?

I knew of Tan Khoa through a close friend from University. I had worked for multinational companies for several years, and wanted to work abroad.  So, when this opportunity arose, the decision to come to Vietnam was not difficult, and I had the full support of my family and friends. This year, Tan Khoa is celebrating its 20th anniversary. And in the last 20 years, the company has been one of the leading importers and distributors of wine in Vietnam and also has its own retail outlets, Bacchus Corner with branches in Hanoi and Da Nang.

The Vietnam market is growing for wines and with economic indicators predicting continued growth…this seems like a good decision, right?

Mr. Robert Zamacona and Mr. Le Quang Huy - CEO Tan Khoa in Tan Khoa 20 years anniversary

- What is the difference between the Vietnamese market and others, such as the US, in enjoying wine?

Vietnam is a hot climate country.  In the US we have four seasons and we will typically drink different wines based on the season—when it’s hot we drink white wines, sparkling wines, or rosé wines.  Here in Vietnam, consumers prefer strong, full-bodied red wines regardless of the temperature and regardless of the occasion.  85% of the wine consumed in Vietnam is red wine, and the most popular wines come from Chile, France, and Australia.  We have seen significant interest, lately, in Italian and American wines, as well as wines from Argentina.

With regards to occasions, here in Vietnam wine is most often consumed with meals, which is great—wine and food make each other taste better!  We’re also seeing an increased appreciation for wine, though, to accompany celebrations, holidays, and a big increase in gifting for Tet.

Research shows that people who drink wine when they eat are healthier. Vietnamese people are increasingly paying attention to health, and as I mentioned wine is healthful drink, so sure it will increasingly have a place at Vietnamese meals and in Vietnamese homes.

Robert and partners in a product launching event of Tan Khoa

- Why do you think wine has such an allure?

Each bottle of wine can tell a story: it’s a story about the history and culture of a particular place at a particular time, seen through the lens of the winemaker. I am fond of saying that if we are doing our jobs well, we’re helping make the times that people spend together more memorable and more enjoyable.  A great bottle of wine can become part of the memory—I don’t remember the meal that we had at my wife’s birthday, but I remember all the wines, and having such nice wines really enhanced the celebration!

Wine is an education.  I mean, that the more we learn about wine, the more enjoyable it is.  And the more you learn, the more you want to learn.  So you can start a relationship with wine and it can become a lifelong love affair.

- Last question, what is your choice for a bottle of wine for the Autumn-Winter season in Vietnam?

I live in Ho Chi Minh City, so we do not have winter (laugh)!  That said, if price is not a consideration, then I would look for a bottle of Opus One.   The wines I drink most often in my home are from Torbreck, San Pedro (who makes 1865), or Robert Mondavi.  If I’m celebrating, I usually open Bollinger.  My wife’s birthday is coming up, so we will probably open a nice Bordeaux, and maybe a bottle of Inniskillin icewine.

Forbes Vietnam
isssue no. 42, November 2016

Tan Khoa is the exclusive importer and distributor of many well-known worldwide beverage corporations such as Bollinger, Constellation Brands, Catena, Distell, Les Grands Chais de France, Ornellaia, Torbreck, Vina San Pedro, Bacardi, Brown Forman, Campari Group, Mast-Jägermeister SE, Monin, Monster beverage, ... and more than 500 labels of wine, spirits, non-alcoholic products as well as other well-known brands in Vietnam. Marking the 20th anniversary of establishment in this year 2016, Tan Khoa has been one of the leading companies in the field of distribution of wine and spirits in Vietnam with 10 branches across the country.
Robert Ramon Zamacona was born in 1973 in the US, graduated from Harvard College in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in physics and a passion for making beer. He earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in 2003, and has spent nearly 20 years in the beverage business. He came to Vietnam in 2010, joining Tan Khoa Distribution Corporation as their Chief Operating Officer.