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An interview with Berba: Providing wine to the superyacht market

Posted on: 08/20/2014

Meeting bespoke orders and providing last-minute provisions can be a challenging request in any market, but when you’re in a lucrative, high-end sector with remote access, the pressure and expectations are intensified. Yachting Pages, a leading provider of superyacht products and services interviewed Mike Shore from Berba, an experienced wine supplier to understand the increasing demands and issues when supplying provisions to superyachts.

Tell us about your wine business?

Berba is the biggest wine importer in Montenegro, so almost all of the wines that we offer are purchased directly from the producer.  Even older vintages are sourced from cellars, which means we can guarantee, with absolute certainty, the provenance and authenticity of each wine.  Even our Bordeaux comes direct from the Chateaux or top negoçiants… we never buy at auction or on the open market.

Why are you different from your competitors?

We have a dedicated team and both our office and warehouse are open every day during the season.  We have a fleet of three vehicles, so can deliver to boats whenever it is convenient for them.  We offer, free, full-colour catalogues with pictures of each bottle, tasting notes and food pairing suggestions.  This allows the chief stew and his/her crew to be knowledgeable about the wines that they will offer and serve. 

We keep over 60,000 bottles in stock, offering about 500 different types of wine, including about 30 different champagnes and a wide range of popular rosé, Burgundy, etc...  We replenish our stock over the winter so that we always have a full warehouse at the start of the season.

What main challenges do you face in the superyacht industry? 

As you probably know, Montenegro has become the base for most of the charter activity in the Adriatic, particularly for boats cruising in Dalmatia.  Yet despite its growing popularity, flight connections remain limited. For example, there are no direct flights from either London or Nice.  In addition, many of the flights that do come in (from, say, Paris or Rome) are small, commuter planes with limited or no cargo space. The result is that it’s very difficult to ship goods here, particularly at the last minute. Cargo can - and often - gets bumped and, therefore, delayed.

By planning ahead, you can get anything you need sent to Montenegro, however this does not always work for food and beverage needs: the order might wait in a customs warehouse for the boat to arrive, but these are not climate-controlled and the weather can top out in the high-30s during the summer.  The wine can get cooked.

So we have a large, climate-controlled warehouse, custom designed for the storage of wine.  It is kept at a constant 13 degrees Celsius and 70% humidity.  We have double walls, vapour-barriers and back-up systems.  It’s state of the art.

In other words, we manage the difficulty of shipping wine during the summer by having everything in situ before the boats arrive.  And because our warehouse is 500 meters from Porto Montenegro, we can deliver to boats at any time, and with very little notice.

The flip side of this is that it’s impossible for us to offer the range of wines that are available in a place like the South of France, with its many provisioners, wine merchants and supermarkets.  However, after several years’ experience we have a pretty good idea of what yachts are looking for, and we try to provide a broad range of great options within those categories.  

Why would a superyacht choose to replenish their stocks in Montenegro and not a neighbouring country or more established destination?

Provisioning in Montenegro is tax-free, an option not typically available in Croatia.  Given the types of wine that many boats like to order - vintage Champagne, Grand Cru Burgundy, Gaja, Solaia - this can represent big savings.  Tax-free provisioning is much cheaper in Montenegro than in France - customs fees are about €45 and, of course, there are no delivery charges.

For further information about Berba, visit Berba