Q & A with Deborah Hutton

Deborah Hutton has been passionately representing fine spirits, wines, and champagnes for three decades. She has been a wine consultant, wine columnist, wine lecturer, and panelist. Deborah has been a member of Women for WineSense, Guild of Sommeliers, a board member of both Les Dames d’Escoffier and The Sommelier Society of America, and is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers.

August 8, 2010 marked her 25th year of working for Moet Hennessy USA (originally called Schieffelin). These rewarding 25 years came after a short time working in the field of Ecology, Ethology and Evolution, when she received her degree in that discipline from the University of Illinois. Since switching careers, she has participated in Earthwatch eco-tourism programs, such as studying the leatherback turtles in Costa Rica and the habits of reef fish in Belize. She is also an avid gardener and has won two Grand Awards from the City of Alexandria for her garden. Deborah is now a member of the Mountain Laurel Garden Club and is in the process of transforming a five-acre property located on Deep Creek Lake in western Maryland.

ITM – Deborah, thanks for taking time to visit with in the Mix. Twenty-five years is a long time with one company. Any secret to your longevity?

DH – I have been fortunate to have worked with some terrific leaders, and I’ve always found creative satisfaction representing such a unique portfolio – considered by some the best in the industry.

ITM – MH has always been known for its champagne portfolio. How is the segment fairing in this downturn?

DH – Historically, champagne sales follow the general trends of the stock market. Prior to the recent downturn, we began to evolve our wines to satisfy the changing and emerging tastes of our customers. For example; Moët & Chandon Impérial is a slightly dryer style with more reserve wines than the discontinued White Star. Rosé champagnes are still growing and have increased to a significant portion of our sales. The fruitier-styled Nectar Imperial is amazing in cocktails and the Nectar Impérial Rose has been allocated since its introduction in 2007. We are excited to say that MHUSA champagne sales growth this year has been in the double digits through June!

ITM – Any suggestions to our national account audience about how to promote champagne sales this coming holiday season?

DH – There is so much innovation coming from the region right now. Look closely at the fun service materials and packages that are being offered. Also, we are training in a new way this year. ‘Champagne First’ is a program that has been very successful for many of our customers and it’s so simple! It’s about training the staff to offer a glass of champagne in the first conversation with the guests, instead of bottled water. You will still get the water sale, but often a glass of champagne will be added to the check, and guest satisfaction is always higher when champagne is involved! The other thing we should do this holiday season is MAKE IT POP! We enjoy beverage with all of our senses and hearing the sound of a champagne cork popping just sets the tone for fun.

ITM – MH has always had a premium portfolio; do you have anything new or coming out in the near future that every bar should carry?

DH – Hennessy Black is a fantastic cognac for a sophisticated brown spirit drink; use Belvedere Pink Grapefruit for a most delicious Pink Greyhound; and try Moet Ice Impérial if you are anywhere near sun and water.

ITM – What do you think wine lists need to have more of?

DH – Refreshing wines – white wines without oak, red wines without big tannins, and of course, more bubbles. Offer a ‘Champagne Ladder’ which helps people understand the tremendous variety of bubbly beverage available. Begin with fruity California sparkling and include several steps in the ladder, such as Non Vintage Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Rose, Vintage, and Prestige Cuvées at the top. Oh, did I bring the topic back to champagne again?

ITM – What’s your favorite cocktail?

DH – I fell in love with my husband over his Ramos Gin Fizz. Now we make it with Belvedere Orange.

ITM – You’re quite the gardener! What is your favorite plant or flower to grow this year?

DH – The daffodils were amazing this year. We have several varieties from the large deep yellow Winston Churchill to the multicolored and fragrant Tahiti. Our vases were full and best of all, deer don’t eat them!