Visiting Pernod Ricard’s Juomavinkki booth in search of tips

The Wine, Food and Good Living -fair is arranged in Helsinki every October. This year I visited the Juomavinkki booth powered by Pernod Ricard Finland and met with Kaisa Kavekari, Wine Brand Manager at Pernod Ricard Finland Ltd., a daughter company of Pernod Ricard SA, which is the world leader in the premium spirits industry. We spoke about her background, her work, and noted tips for pairing food and wine even for people like me who are not wine connoisseurs, but who still enjoy a good food and wine experience.

“My background is in Economics and Marketing. I have been working in the spirits industry since 1994 and I love my work! Wine & Food & Good Living is our biggest marketing investment on an annual basis, ever since the trade fair was established. This is a 4-day event for consumers. The Wine & Food & Good Living -fair is ideal for us because it is the only way in Finland for consumers to taste our wines because our wine assortment is Alko-focus, off-trade, mainly for consumers.! Sampling in Alko stores (that have the monopoly of alcohol in Finland) is not allowed in terms of law.  We do serve restaurants but a fair is not the best way to reach out to restaurants. We have a sales team of 10 who visit restaurants regularly and this is more efficient for us to take care of the on-trade HoReCa sector. We also attend the VIINI- Wine Fair in Jyväskylä in central Finland every March” explains Kaisa.

“This year we are launching the renewed Juomavinkki website that makes it more practical for consumers to choose the right wine for every occasion! We have focused on the mobile application. We are also launching a ‘Tinder’-like application for wines, called Winder that matches you with the perfect wine!” says Kaisa smiling.

Kaisa’s food and wine pairing tips

  1. Pair a slightly stronger tasting cheese with a non-alcoholic sweet riesling. For instance, you can pair the Västerbottensost with the de-alcoholised Jacob’s Creek UnVINED Riesling because it really appreciates the wine and cuts its sweetness creating a fine balance.
  2. Choose a wine from the area that the food is from. Italian wines tend to go -in general- well with Italian food as they were naturally designed to match each other same as many tempranillo wines fit well with Spanish tapas.
  3. Cava sparkling wine (or sparkling wines, in general) are under-appreciated because many of them would go well throughout the menu from an apéritif to accompanying the main course.
  4. Desserts can be paired with a sweet wine, port wine, dessert wines made of moscato or even sweeter sparkling wines with strawberries and ice-cream.
  5. Spicy dishes are tricky; pick a low tannin, not so full-bodied red wine or sweeter white wine with Asian food.

Per aspera ad astra’

Interview with Vernon Henn, Managing Director, Thandi Wines

Vernon Henn from South Africa is an endearing man with a warm smile and a down-to-earth way of speaking. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Juomavinkki booth, where he was representing Thandi Wines. I asked him how he feels about being back in Helsinki at this time of year. “Cape Town is my home, summer is coming now and it is beautiful. Helsinki is one of my top 3 cities I love to visit on business! Pernod Ricard is one of our biggest customers and Finland is one of Thandi Wines’ biggest markets along with Belgium and Germany. Thandi Wines is predominantly export-driven with Europe being our biggest customer base. Over the last 3 years, we have been moving into the the Asian market and also expanding in Africa,” says Vernon with a charming smile on his face.

Vernon is the oldest of six children, and he grew up in South Africa during the Apartheid era. “My dream was to become a pilot but black people were not allowed to apply in the air force. Despite not being able to apply to the airforce, I kept their Latin slogan  ‘Per aspera ad astra‘ meaning ‘Through hardships to the stars’ or ‘A rough road leads to the stars’,” explains Vernon about his philosophy in life to keep your focus beyond the clouds.

Blessed with energy, commitment, hard work ethic and passion, Vernon climbed the ladder of success from a general cleaner to an HR Director of a wine company, which was Thandi’s mentor. His company asked him to become the Managing Director of Thandi Wines and take it further.

“I joined Thandi in 2007 but the business started in 1995 one year after the democracy. From HR I moved into business. HR is always one step behind the fire, business is in the fire. So, I had to really swim. What a journey! The past 8 years I have seen the world. It was my journey to fly but now I’ve been flown around the world,” says Vernon with a contagious positive energy.

“I feel blessed to be given this opportunity to lead Thandi, we have grown tremendously from 1 farm now we have 2 farms and more people are empowered and working,” says Vernon smiling.

Thandi is a popular child’s name in Xhosa, one of the official languages in South Africa, and it means ‘love’. The beautiful-sounding Thandi’s father was a community leader and the company was named after him. Our slogan is ‘Love is in our nature’. ‘Thandi loves..”

I asked Vernon about the Thandi Wines selection. “In Finland, we currently have 3 products: the crisp and fruity Thandi Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (0.375l) with a salad, the Thandi Shiraz Rosé 2015 (0.75l) good with spicy food , and the Thandi Chardonnay Chenin Blanc 2014 bag-in-box (3l) that goes well with creamy pasta, fish or chicken. We are not selling gourmet wines; we sell everyday wines for everyone to enjoy,” he explains.

In 2003, Thandi Wines became the First Fairtrade wine brand in the world. Thandi Wines  works towards empowering previously disadvantaged people and ethical trading. All the profits from the sale of this wine are ploughed back into the community into various initiatives such as the education of children, training and development, health care support, home improvements and sport and recreation.

“Thandi is very established in the Finnish market. I would like to thank the Finnish consumers they have done wonders with their support in our wine and have brought sunlight to many people’s lives,” says Vernon.

Our food and wine pairing suggestions

I am not a wine connoisseur, but my fiancé Kim Ekman has a basic knowledge about wines and I always ask his help in pairing wine with food. I cook and he provides the wine, fair deal! Also, with the help of juomavinkki, we got some guidelines regarding food pairing. I was given two complimentary wines from Thandi Wines to taste.

Here, we have paired the Thandi Shiraz Rosé 2014 with a fresh salad with seafood dish. 


Below, we have paired the Thandi Sauvignon Blanc with a creamy risotto and seafood. I served this wine to my in-laws for last Sunday’s Father’s Day lunch with salmon, too.


Photos: Chryssa Skodra & Kim Ekman

Suomenkielinen tiivistelmä:

Kuinka yhdistää ruoka sopivaan viiniin?

Tapasin Viini, Ruoka & Hyvä Elämä -messuilla Pernod Ricardin Suomen Brand Managerin, Kaisa Kavekarin ja sain häneltä vinkkejä ruoan ja viinin yhdistämiseen. Pernod Ricard on lanseerannut Juomavinkki-sivuston, joka on kehitetty nimenomaan tähän tarpeeseen; ihmisille, jotka nauttivat hyvästä makuparista, mutta eivät ole viiniasiantuntijoita. Sivusto ja sen mobiilisovellusversio tarjoavat tunnelmaan sopivia juomaehdotuksia sekä niihin sopivia ruokareseptejä.  Messuilla pääsin tutustumaan myös etelä-afrikkalaisen Thandi-viinin edustajaan, Vernon Henniin, joka kasvoi aikuiseksi apartheidin keskellä. Vaikka rotuerottelupolitiikka esti miehen haaveet lentäjän urasta, hän suhtautuu iloiten siihen, että nykyisen työnsä myötä hän pääsee lentämään ympäri maailmaa matkustajana. Thandin reilun kaupan rosé-viiniä hän suosittelee mausteisen ruoan seuraksi ja hanapakkauksessa myytävää chardonnayta puolestaan kermaisten pasta- ja kalaruokien pariksi.