Rosa Hamersma and her father, Jeroen, passionately manage Vino & Co: a business emerging from Jeroen’s weakness for good wine which led him to begin importing bottles for his own consumption 10 years ago. And without even noticing, his hobby became a business. He then decided to set up a wine store with a twist in Ibiza, where one could pay homage to unique wines: those from small wineries, and different regions, craft wines, organic wines… Father and daughter make perfect business partners as Jeroen is a specialist in wine and Rosa knows everything about sake, a drink that is growing in popularity in Ibiza.
How did you get started in the world of wine?
I worked in London in the fashion sector until the beginning of 2014. I came back to help my father when his business started expanding, and after six months, I decided to stay, despite having no experience in the wine industry. I found it so interesting that I decided to leave my career behind. I started studying and learning and my father gave me the reins of the business. Our whole family works in hospitality: my uncle is a wine critic, my sister is a sommelier of natural wines, my cousin creates concepts for hotels and restaurants… And we all love wine.
What is working with your father like?
Working with him is something special. We make a fantastic team. I have learned a lot—and I keep learning every day—from him. It is an exceptional opportunity, I appreciate working as a family, learning the tricks of the trade and being able to spend a lot of time with him. We have a passion for business and for the family.
We have a passion for business and for the family
What’s so special about Vino & Co?
We put a lot of love into our work. Every product is chosen very carefully, we try to select those from a variety of wineries, and wines that are interesting because of their good production, not because of their marketing. Wines to enjoy. The vast majority of people who visit our store have never heard of the wines we offer, and that’s exactly what we wanted. Wine is an adventure everyone can enjoy, whether you know about wines or not.
At Vino & Co, you are responsible for training the restaurant teams you work with…
That’s right. Training is essential to properly sell different wines and sakes. We work on the descriptions for the menus and we train the restaurant staff, because the waiters deal with a wide range of wines; if they have the opportunity to taste certain wines and get to know them, they will be able to sell them better. I think it is essential that the team has the opportunity to taste the wines, for training and for fun.
Do you notice a change in attitude towards ‘less conventional’ wines?
Absolutely. In the culinary world, chefs are increasingly pushing the boat out further. I think the wine list should also be that creative. Fortunately, increasingly more attention is being paid to it. Our customers used to prepare the list and leave us a couple of gaps so we could add ‘something exciting’. Today, restaurants often ask us to design their entire list, so they can offer something different.
How would you define Vino & Co’s wine selection?
Exciting and novel. We have wines for the wine lover. A good wine pairing makes your food taste better. When I dine at a restaurant, I like to be surprised. So, I most like it when a customer enters the store and allows me to guide them. I take them by the hand and take them around the store, telling them about what’s new. Every year we change a large part of our catalogue and are always on the lookout for new products. As we work with small producers who are often also ecological and natural, their production changes a lot from one year to the next.
You have gradually assumed the role of ‘sake expert’…
We have always been fans of sake, frequenting high-end Japanese restaurants. We started getting involved in the business side of sake approximately four years ago by importing directly from Japan. We also started distributing ENTER.sake, by DJ Richie Hawtin, who helped raise the general public’s awareness of this product.
I started studying and my father and I travelled to Japan for the first time. We spent a week visiting two sake cellars a day, learning about the process. Later, the Japanese government sponsored me to train as a sake sommelier. Consumption in Japan is decreasing so they are very interested in increasing their exports.
And last year you received your official title…
I passed the sake sommelier third grade with distinction, which is the highest that exists. It’s a difficult level and I was the only one in my class to pass. I’m now a sake sommelier and teacher. I train waiters, sommeliers, and restaurant managers and owners on the island… Interest in sake is growing a lot worldwide and now also in Ibiza. And not only in restaurants that serve Asian or fusion cuisine. Mediterranean restaurants sometimes dare to include sakes in their drinks list. Sake is a very versatile drink as it has a wide range of aromas and flavours, so it pairs well with any type of food, not only Asian cuisine.
Interest in sake is growing a lot in Ibiza. And not only in restaurants that serve Asian or fusion cuisine
What would you say to someone who is interested in the world of sake but does not know where to start?
I would recommend that they start with a slightly more neutral sake: one with little acidity, that is a bit drier… I would also tell restaurants to serve sake in a wine glass, because that can help eliminate the prejudice that it is an Asian drink which “you can only drink with Asian food.” Don’t offer it is an after-dinner shot, it has a low alcohol content and should be enjoyed like wine. And serve it cold, please.
How many types of sake do you currently sell?
We currently carry about 30 labels. We import a large majority directly from Japan, but we also work with other well-known brands. Sales are growing and increasingly more people are buying a bottle to drink at home.
What can you tell us about the expansion of Vino & Co?
We have many plans. We have just opened our new headquarters in Barcelona. We hope that our online store, which is active in Ibiza and the Balearic Islands, will soon be operating throughout Spain, and who knows, maybe even Europe? And that’s all I can say for now…