Novellino Wines celebrates its 20 years as a leading brand of wine in the Philippines that has formed an appreciation of wine among Filipinos. It all started with Nonoy Quimbo, Novellino’s founder, who envisioned a wine drinking culture in the country by introducing a wine that suits people’s taste, wallet, and appeal.
As Novellino became a wine brand that Filipinos have grown to love, a 1.3-hectare state-of-the-art winery was built in Calamba, Laguna to address a growing demand for wine. Recently, Mr. Quimbo, together with his son and Novellino’s newly-appointed President Chris Quimbo, took members of the media to a tour inside Novellino’s plant equipped with the latest winemaking technology from Italy.
BusinessWorld had an interview with Mr. Quimbo during Novellino’s celebration of its two decades of trailblazing the local wine industry.
BW: How do you describe Novellino’s journey to becoming one of the country’s most successful wine brands today?
Mr. Quimbo: Our journey had its own struggles. First, there was the uncertainty of what might happen. Before, we wondered if the business will be fruitful. I consulted some friends; none of them told me it would work. But we took a leap of faith as we carried the vision of getting Filipinos to appreciate wine.
Second, we had to cope with the demand. After we took that leap of faith, in the first two years, the Classico Rosso became profitable. The problem came in the following years: we lacked capacity. And that’s the point at which we built this plant.
BW: What were the considerations in choosing Calamba, Laguna as the location for Novellino’s flagship plant?
Mr. Quimbo: It was a matter of value proposition, of how the place can serve our needs. We compared this area with the other facilities we saw, and we saw that this is more appropriate for us.
We also chose whether we should buy an existing facility and just put our equipment there or we should build the plant ourselves. We did a study, and it turned out that it’s better for us to build from scratch in a location that works well.
BW: How is the maintenance of the facility being addressed?
Mr. Quimbo: From an equipment standpoint, maintenance is a big challenge.
In Italy or France, for example, when the equipment malfunctions one has just to call up the supplier for repair.
In our case, however, we have to carry a big load of spare parts. And if what we’re looking for is not in our inventory, we have to import from the manufacturer, and so stop the plant from operating for the meantime.
That’s the challenge from an equipment standpoint, because all our equipment is specific to winemaking, and we don’t have a specific winemaking industry in the Philippines.
BW: Was there any upgrading of equipment recently?
Mr. Quimbo: There was quite a bit of upgrading. The centrifuge filter is a new one. We bought this new technology once we heard about it.
Since we bottle our wine cold, before, we had to let them dry before putting the label or the bottle will condense. But now, we put a machine that would bring the temperature from 0 to 25 degrees almost in a few minutes, since that is the temperature you need to put the label. As a result, we don’t have to dry the bottles anymore. The labeling is now uninterrupted.
The packing also became faster through the automatic case packer. Before, these bottles were packed by hand. Now, they are automatically gathered into the box.
BW: How do you make sure that the quality of Novellino Wines is guaranteed?
Mr. Quimbo: Everything is quality controlled, from the purchase of raw materials all the way to the finished product.
When the grape juice comes in, it undergoes quality control first before our laboratory personnel approve them for use.
Since fermentation is a natural process, we look at it closely until it reaches the alcohol level where the process must be halted. All that has certain controls in order to make sure that everything falls within the specification.
At the very end, we check the microbiological aspects of the product to make sure there are no yeast or molds that can cause health issues. After that, we even quarantine before release to ensure the wine is safe for consumption.
BW: What are Novellino’s plans in the future to maintain its leadership in the market?
Mr. Quimbo: We want to be consistent in everything we do. We’ve seen what works and what has not worked. While we continue to work on what we’ve seen has worked, we will continue to innovate.
One of those innovations is the Wines on Tap, which appeals more to restaurants. We’re hardly in restaurants right now. So we think with this, we can enter that market in a more effective way.
As the journey continues, whatever opportunities come along our way, and when we see developments in other markets as well that we can follow, we’ll follow.
As my son Chris said, “A comfort zone is a danger zone”. Once you’re comfortable, that’s dangerous. We’re never comfortable. We’re always challenging ourselves on how we can improve.
The award-winning Novellino Wines offers 15 unique wine products that specifically cater to the Filipino taste. Learn more about Novellino’s story and its offerings as well as its sophisticated winemaking process by visiting http://novellinowines.com.