November 20, 2012

In Focus: Expormim’s Other Business

It’s not every day that you get invited to a party by a company eager for you to try out its furniture and its wine. Luckily for Interior Design that day came during a recent visit to Spain when Expormim held a select gathering at its Valencia showroom (originally an 18th century inn) where guests could happily linger over the company’s outdoor furniture collection while sipping a glass of wine from the family vineyard. Still, the question of how the 50-year-old company, which started out making wicker baskets before turning to furniture, also managed to build a wine business lingered. So we asked Monica Laso, who runs Expormim with her sister, Mercedes, to answer that and a few other questions.

Interior Design: How did you decide to start a winery?

Monica Laso: This is a really old tradition in the family. During the sixties and seventies, my mother had a winery. Also my father’s dad had his own winery in the sixties.

ID: What has changed since then?

ML: In 2000, we [started to make] garage-wine for home, a few hundred liters per year. In 2006, we began a new project called “PAGO CASA GRAN.” It is in our estate “Casa Gran,” where the old winery used to be, but [updated] with new facilities. The family understood that this was the only way to keep “Casa Gran” alive. That is,  to sell value added products produced in “Casa Gran” that could have a long shelf live.

ID: What was the main challenges you had to overcome when you were building the wine business?

ML: The most difficult was to deal with local government regulations that required high taxes to open a winery on the estate. It’s only in Valencia that doing wine is considered an industrial activity rather than agricultural related.

ID: What about the actual process of making the wine… were there any major hurdles or issues you or your family faced?

ML: I think the most difficult at the beginning was the concept of the winery that we have now. We wanted artisan wine. This is quite difficult to do in these days if it’s not studied properly. For example, the wine cellar has been designed to avoid the use of pumps. The grapes, juice and the wine during the process are not pumped; we use a bridge crane. This way [is like] the solutions implemented in wineries before the pumps were developed and indicates an artisan way of manipulation.

ID: What sets you apart from, say, other wine makers in the region?

ML: The philosophy behind [our business] consists of obtaining balance in the vineyards to get the best grapes. In the winery, we try to lose as little as possible [of tradition] with improved processes. We have been in organic agriculture since 2005…  We learned that if the vineyards were treated with chemical products, these could end up in the fermentation tank, making fermentation more difficult and giving bizarre flavors to the wine. There’s a growing concern in society about environmental issues and chemicals in wines that are not coming from the grapes.

ID: Is there any special agricultural technique that you use ?

ML: In order to obtain personality for our wines, we use native yeast for fermentation and our vines are surround by permanent cover crop that helps to make the expression of the grapes more authentic.

ID: Do you sell the wine only domestically?

ML: From the beginning, we focused on the export market. The kind of wine that we produce is in the gourmet and ecological markets. These markets are more important outside Spain. Now, our main markets are Switzerland, Germany and Japan. This year, we are introducing the product in the Scandinavian market and we [are working] with one importer for introduction into the U.S.

ID: Is there any synergy between the wine business and the furniture industry?

ML: I think yes.  The value of the artisan way, tradition and being environmentally friendly are principles for these two businesses. We have some promotional activities [where] they can go together. For example, we do Great Match in NYC featuring furniture and wines. During the Valencia Fair, we offer a wine tasting for customers and friends. Some customers help by introducing us to people in the market for one or the other business.


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