Former Apprentice contestant Jackie Fast talks to BHN about her mission to educate UK hoteliers – and drinkers – about Canadian ice wine.
• Tell us a little about your background and how the Rebel Pi venture came about
“Having had a career selling ideas and air for my entire life (I brokered high-level sponsorship deals in my agency Slingshot Sponsorship), I thought taking some of my previous experience and applying it to a product would be a new challenge. I then set about trying to find a product that I was passionate about. Always being a big advocate of wine, I started exploring the wine industry and came across a gap in the global market. While Canadian Ice Wine is a staple in Canada, it’s almost unheard of anywhere else in the world – even by wine enthusiasts, even though it’s been around for over 200 years. To stumble upon a product that has been cultivated into such perfection, but that most of the world hasn’t tried let alone heard of, is a huge opportunity. As such, I wanted to bring the best of Canada to the world – and launched REBEL Pi Ice Wine.”
• For those readers who are unaware of it, what is ice wine?
“Ice Wine is produced by leaving grapes on the vine past harvest until they freeze naturally. When the temperature first hits below -8C then the frozen marbles are hand picked, often in the middle of the night when the temperatures are the coldest, and pressed. Because the water in the grape is ice, what is pressed out is only the remaining liquid – which produces a highly concentrated juice which then goes through the same fermentation processes that regular table wine does. By comparison, one Ice Wine grape produces just one drop of liquid while on table wine grape produces 10 drops of liquid. By taste alone, one glass of Ice Wine is like tasting 10 glasses of white wine, but the alcohol content stays relatively low. Our REBEL Pi Ice Wine is only 11 per cent abv, which is why it can act as a great aperitif and also is replacing scotch for the drink you have after dinner – all of the flavour, but a quarter of the alcohol content of whisky.”
• Is the UK hospitality sector sufficiently aware of the product or do you have an educational as well as a marketing job to do in the industry?
“Very few people in the world (let alone in hospitality) are familiar with Ice Wine; and of those that are, many haven’t tried it (or I’d argue tried anything very good). This is due to the fact that the best in Ice Wine production (single vineyard, handpicked, etc) is sold through the winery owned wine shops in Canada due to the fact that there are such little yields. It doesn’t make business sense to export a bottle of Ice Wine and cut into your margins when you can sell the same bottle for more money directly on your premises. However, what this does is restrict the experience of Ice Wine to a very limited audience.”
“REBEL Pi represents the very best in Ice Wine production globally, and is only exclusively available in certain tastemaker and trendsetter cities in the world – you actually can’t even buy a bottle of REBEL Pi in Canada, even if you wanted to.”
“The educational activity is to ensure that people who have heard of Ice Wine don’t think it’s all the same. I’ve attended so many shows recently where people say “oh I’ve had Ice Wine before I know what it tastes like”; however, that would be like me saying I have had white wine before. But you need to start somewhere!”
• What plans to do you have for introducing your wine to the UK hotel sector and which channels will you use?
“As REBEL Pi Ice Wine is a luxury product for an adventurous customer, our initial reach will be boutique hotel chains or very high end hotels with great restaurants onsite. We are currently listed in The Rosewood Hotel in London which is our perfect type of partner – young, affluent, fun and trendy. It’s been flying off the shelves there by the bottle and soon to be cocktails, and we hope to replicate that across the country.”
• How has Rebel Pi been received by hoteliers you have spoken with thus far?
“REBEL Pi Ice WIne only launched in October of last year and initially targeted high-end restaurants in London. I have only started to have the conversation with hotels, but I think it’s a great fit because having Ice Wine is such an experience – much like staying in a hotel. By adding and amplifying a fantastic hotel experience by providing hotel guests a ‘first’ is no mean feat. In an age where everything has been tried and tested, how many times can you say you’ve had a ‘first’? A hotel that recognises the need for experiences needs to have REBEL Pi Ice Wine on their shelves.”
• Do you have plans to expand your range to other wines/drinks or even foods?
“The beauty of REBEL Pi is that it’s the only Roussanne Ice Wine in the world – and that’s what not only makes it so exceptional (the Roussanne grape is divine), but it also makes it easy to communicate why you need this in your life. If I came across another wine or food product that had the same type of properties (a relatively unknown product that is truly amazing) then I would love to include it within the brand. However, I haven’t had that experience just yet – but you never know what the future holds!”
• Finally, which are your favourite boutique hotels and why?
“Being Canadian, just coming to London and exploring the rest of the UK has been a real treat and although I don’t often stay in boutique hotels in this country as much as I would like to, I have always tried to stay in a Hotel de Vin property. I love that they take an amazing building and add in quirky fixtures and amenities. I also think their food and wine offering across all their properties is amazing, and perfectly pitched to the type of hotel guest they tend to have.”
“I also stay in a lot of Soho Houses, which makes me feel at home wherever I am in the world. Finally, you just can’t beat the Rosewood Hotel in London where I love to stay for any staycation – I love the pure comfortable opulence of the entire building, and also love being able to order a bottle of REBEL Pi Ice Wine off the menu in the Holborn Dining Room!”