Q&A with Virginie Le Brun of No.1 Family Estate

Virginie Le Brun, daughter of Daniel and Adele Le Brun, joined the family business No.1 Family Estate as Global Brand Ambassador in London in 2013 and is now the Sales Director of the iconic Marlborough winery.

Being the face of the family business is second nature to Virginie, a seasoned actress and TV presenter who has starred in New Zealand’s most iconic children’s show “What Now” and the nation’s most loved and long running TV soap “Shortland Street”. 

After a recent move from Auckland to Marlborough to be closer to the winery operation, Virginie talks to us about her place at No.1 Family Estate, their 40th vintage celebrations and recent release of the Virginie Cuvée 2016.

Cuvée Virginie 2016

Tell us a bit about your role at No.1 Family Estate

I am the Sales Director. As a boutique winery and family business we have kept our distribution in-house and I manage a team of independent reps who each service their own region and trade partners. The benefit of doing this is that we can retain personal relationships with our reps and customers. This puts us in the drivers seat to tell the story of No.1 Family Estate and educate about our traditional methods and quality of our wines.

I have been based up in Auckland and primarily look after our key accounts in this area. However earlier this year I moved down to Marlborough to be closer to the winery operation. This has allowed me to build relationships with our customers down here too. The plan going forward, subject to our level restrictions, is to split my time between Blenheim and Auckland.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

Down here in Marlborough we have a small team and ‘everyone mucks in’ approach. Most days I’ll be in the office focused on sales tasks and working alongside our Marketing Manager Ellie. But it’s not uncommon to see me out and about delivering wine to local trade partners, helping out in the cellar door and also in the winery on the disgorging & labelling line.

When I’m in Auckland, especially in the key period leading to Christmas, I am out on the road visiting customers and supporting tastings and events. It’s this personal element that I really love about sales; meeting and talking to people gives me a real buzz. I’m naturally inquisitive and like to find out more about people, what they’re into and what wines, beers & spirits they love.

When I was working at Amathus Drinks in London, people would often come in looking for something specific. I loved talking to them about their preferences and why, and exploring new styles that would have them walk away with a different perspective, or even better ‘I must have that!’

For me, food and wine is such a great place to start conversations and form connections with people. I find it often evokes special memories of moments shared, special friends and places visited.

Your family is celebrating your 40th anniversary this year. Please share 3 memorable moments 

1) I am very attached to our Champagne press which arrived in Marlborough in 1984 when I was just 4 years old. This press is still with us in our winery today and to me feels like another family member. During harvest, the aroma when the press is running evokes a memory of my 4 year old self reaching up to taste the free run juice. I now have to bend down to taste the juice in the same way.

2) Reading the translation of a message written to me from Papa on the back label of the very first Cuvée Virginie 1999 which he had crafted for my 21st birthday. ‘Dédié au succèss bien mérité de ma petite fille’. Translated this means ‘Dedicated to the well-deserved success of my little girl.’

3) There is a particular Decanter article written by Elin McCoy that made me feel really proud of what my parents have achieved here in Marlborough.  To quote Elin “The non-vintage No1 Family Estate, Reserve from Marlborough had the fresh, complex, salty, biscuity-rich finesse you find only in Champagne – and very good Champagne at that.”

Any time someone asks me whether a sparkling wine is as good as Champagne I often share this quote and article with them.

Virginie, Remy, Daniel and Adele Le Brun

On the weekend you can find me…

Mountain biking up the Wither Hills (in Blenheim) or Wood Hill and Riverhead (in Auckland). Being down in Marlborough over recent months has been very special spending more quality time with family and our family dog Poppet. I’ve also enjoyed experimenting with recipes and finding new wine matches.

What’s your favourite wine and food match?

A recent favourite is Rimu Grove Chardonnay and a pork belly recipe from Ripe Deli in Auckland. I also love duck confit and Pinot Noir, whether it be a juicy Central Otago Pinot Noir or Burgundian.

When I’m not drinking bubbles I often enjoy a Negroni or craft beer.

Share a fact about yourself that only a few know

The right side of my eyebrow and eyelashes are blond and the left side are dark. I normally have them tinted or covered with make-up!

Dead or alive, who would you like to share a glass of vino with?

My grandmother, Pauline Wiseman. She passed away before I was born so I would dearly love to even just hear her voice. She was an amazing business woman, especially in those times, and so glamorous too. Adele, my mum says she had an incredible wit.

“Family has always been at the core of what we do. To quote mum, we are first and foremost a family business. Mum and Papa have achieved remarkable success, not only as pioneers but as individuals who set benchmarks in their fields. So, it is with absolute certainty I say, I could not have a better mentor than my mother, and I know this is the same for Remy with papa” Virginie.

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