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Julian Momen on ‘re-focusing’ Enotria

Published:  28 February, 2024

Enotria & Coe’s new CEO has spent the months since his inauguration working on honing a back-to-basics approach while refocusing parts of the business which “felt a bit unstructured”.

Speaking following Monday’s (26 February) annual tasting, Julian Momen told Harpers how he has worked alongside the company’s senior leadership team to institute a cultural reset at the distributor, with a new mindset and set of values aiming to return the business to its original DNA of the1970s.

Momen came on board last year following the departure of longstanding boss Troy Christensen, who sadly had to retire from the top role following a string of family tragedies in the US.

Momen meanwhile joined from Carlsberg, where he oversaw the company’s beer portfolio alongside a smattering of wine and spirits brands.

Since his incumbency in one of the top jobs in wines & spirits supply, Momen has clearly made some big swings, including the decision to restructure parts of the business so it has “the right people in the right places”.

He continued: “Troy went up against massive challenges and faced some pretty torrid times, like all business have over the past few years. It’s been a privilege of working with big businesses such as Diageo and Carlsberg that I can see where a business has slightly more structure. One of the most important things is to understand where you’re heading. Enotria has amazing heritage with its portfolio, I just didn’t feel like we had a firm grip on what the destination was.”

Working towards that destination, Momen described how a cultural reset involved understanding how the business interacts with its suppliers and customers. Some of those relationships “haven’t been the best”, he acknowledges. Going into the future, “passion, humility and respect for each other, and for our customers and producers” are all top of the priority list, alongside re-focusing what the business does well, while sidestepping distractions.

Part of this ground-up approach came from speaking with all parts of the business. For example, just last week, 12 employees from Enotria’s various corners were asked to feed back to senior management. These employees did not necessarily hold the top jobs in their area of the business, but were acknowledged for their expertise and level of influence.

Looking back to Monday’s tasting, Momen’s first since joining as CEO, these strands seemed to be coming together. A total of 146 suppliers and 1,000 wines & spirits from 30 countries were present, alongside just over an estimated 1,000 guests.

“There was a really great mix of people and from what I hear, it was busier earlier in the day compared to previous years,” Momen said. “People have fed back that the vibe was much improved too.”

Momen also described how ‘streamlining’ and ‘re-focusing’ the business has involved going back to the portfolio’s core strengths of wine and spirits. Innovation remains a core ambition, however. This can be seen in the business’s new spirits agency portfolio, which was conceived to offer smaller, more unique brands that customers can champion.

Enotria is also working on an expanded events schedule this year, including the continuation of the successful Cork and Fork concept. Aimed at bringing buyers and top sommeliers together with producers in the UK’s best venues, the first outing in London saw four groups rotate across four Soho resturants.

“Cork and Fork is a restaurant-hopping tour,” explained Alex Notman-Watt, head of marketing. “In London, we had producers at four very different resturants all showing three wines paired with the restaurant’s signature dish.

“We have over 100 brand managed producers on our list and London is one of main hubs in the world for wines and spirits. Producers want to be out there and have contact time with as many places as possible. We really wanted this to be an immersive experience, where we can give customers something different, while making sure producers make the most of their time here so their time visiting is as valuable as possible.”

The last word goes to Momen on Enotria’s future: “When I joined, I had the same feeling as when I started with Carlsberg – a really lovely feeling. I just think it needed a bit of refocusing. I’m sure there were some people in our organisation who were thinking ‘why are we doing this?’. In a business this size, it’s easy to get waylaid and distracted. I think we needed to start from a place of ‘Let’s get a narrow field of vision sorted’. Then, we can get back to where we were, which is being the best choice for the best service and the best portfolio. That’s what this business was built on in the 1970s. It’s been really nice to bring that heritage into the here and now, and incorporate it into our future.”