MEET THE EX-WARATAH GOING ALL THE WAY WITH ROSÉ: JONO JENKINS

Meet The People - Jono Jenkins

Has there been anything more instagrammed this year than Rosé? With its silky salmon coat, a swirling glass of pale French is the national flag for millennial drinkers. It is the pink crack to social media. And admittedly, it’s delicious, fresher than a skinny dip in Spring and staunch advocates will say it’s not just a wine it’s a lifestyle. The French will exclaim it’s a part of their DNA and, as you’re about to learn below, it’s a tipple taking the most unassuming of characters into its grip.

The men that love Rosé

There is something refreshing about any strong, well dressed man that drinks pink. It’s like a blatant disregard for what a lot of society might deem appropriate for a man to sip on. So, when I turn up to Benjamin & Daughters in Double Bay to meet the person behind Rosé Imports, the guy bringing some of the best French Rosé into Sydney, I should be surprised that I’m greeted by this big, able-bodied man sporting a shiny black eye, but I’m not. Meet Jono Jenkins, professional rugby player turned French Rosé novice and importer.

“I’ve been a professional rugby player since I left school in 2004. In 2012, I moved from Sydney to Narbonne in the South of France to play rugby. Initially it was only meant to be for one year, but I fell in love with the place and just kept on extending my contract.”

There is nothing typical about Jono. On first appearances he is an overly humble guy, he makes his rugby career sound a bit like an off the cuff game at the local ground with his mates. He forgets to mention that he’s actually played for the Waratahs and spent many a season digging his heels in for the Australian Sevens side.

But Jono’s not the only leading man in Rosé Imports, he’s also joined by childhood friends Brodie and Sebastian, who are just as keen on the French vino as he is. From the outset, they’re an interesting and unexpected assortment, Sebastian is an investor that lives in London, while Brodie is an ex-professional Tennis player come builder, come restaurateur.

Brodie owned two restaurants and a pub, most notably Farmhouse which won Best Designed Restaurant in Australia for 2013 and also picked up a chefs hat in the same year.

“I’ve got a few connections in the industry and I guess that’s where we teamed up. I remember being a part of the team building Jamie Oliver’s restaurant back in the day and I left there thinking “I may as well build restaurants, then I got sick of building businesses for other people, so we decided to build our own.”

A Rosé Revolution

It’s common knowledge that the French are known for their ability to produce the world’s best dry, pale and crisp Rosé. As a country, it’s their personal style and they lead the way in production, both in quality and quantity. In particular as a wine, they are uncomplicated, refreshing wines you can sip on from day tonight.

When Jono returned to Australia for the first time after moving to France in 2012, he was surprised ‘drinking pink plonk’ wasn’t really a thing.

“To be honest, I’ve always loved my wines but before I moved to Narbonne, I was more into red wines. When we moved to France, Rosé was just what you drank. We’d obviously spent the European Summer drinking Rosé and I noticed no one was drinking it here”.

As someone who had lived in France for 5 years it seemed an obvious move for him; bring good quality French Rosé into Australia just before the height of its popularity.

“When you go on a summer holiday to Europe, it’s a certain lifestyle and you’re always drinking Rosé – because it’s the perfect climate for it. So when we looked at Australia, we thought it was lacking in that sense – we have the weather, we have the vibe – it was the perfect environment for French Rosé. So, about two years ago I started developing the idea of importing these amazing boutique French Rosés into Australia.”

Rosé is an artform

A few years on and Rosé Imports flagship wines, Château Maylandie ‘Les Amis’ and Bodvár have well and truly entered the Sydney wine market – with more wines on the way. You can find them anywhere from Porter’s Cellars to the Small Bar group. But it’s not all business for the ex rugby star.

“It’s important to me that people know that what they’re drinking, many of our wines comes from small family run vineyards in a beautiful part of France. I still think there’s more room for education around Rosé and I want people to know that what’s in their glass has a lot of heart in it”.

“There are so many steps involved in getting this amazing wine to this country, you just don’t think about it when you pick it up at your corner bottle shop. From the vineyard to the chateau to the bottling and labelling process, to the containers, making sure it’s kept cool at the right temperature, through to shipping and customs. It’s a long process but doesn’t compare to the generations of work that goes into the grape in the glass”.

The Grape Debate: Australia vs France

Naturally as a part of the interview I have to try the Rosé, because that’s my job guys, and my mum taught me to never do a job half-way. We crack a bottle of the Bodvar over brunch, a dry, elegant wine from Côtes de Provence and I am almost certain this bottle was made just for me. I’m no wine connoisseur, but I’ve drunk enough Rosé to know that the juice in the bottle more than delivers on taste, freshness and most importantly, instagram appeal.

You can tell by talking to Jono that this is not some fleeting exercise or get rich quick investment, especially as him and his wife Interior Designer Sophie, prepare to leave their home in Narbonne and come home to Australia.

“Wine is everything in France. Languedoc is the oldest wine region in the country. You walk into the local market and you see the old men sitting there sipping and chatting about their Rosé. The other difference between Europeans and Australians, is we tend to binge drink in Australia, where as in Europe it’s very controlled. They will just have one glass over lunch, it’s a different take and appreciation.

“Because we (my wife Sophie and son Archer) have lived in France for so long, and moving back to Australia is a big deal for us – having Rosé Imports is a foot in both doors, it’s a foot in Australia and France. Especially with Les Amis, it is from the region where we have spent our entire time, it almost feels like we’re paying homage to our time there.”

From Rugby to Rosé – The Future

Jono is set to return home to Sydney sometime late this year and will no doubt be bringing more unique and exclusive French Rosés with him.

“In Europe you can get fantastic wines from boutique vineyards at affordable prices. We want to bring that to Australia as much as possible. I also want to continue encouraging more people and men in particular to keep drinking Rosé. It’s not just a girly a drink, that’s a passe way of thinking”.

“Everyone is drinking Rosé in France, and mostly during the summer months, ordering a magnum is the norm. On top of broadening our range of Rosés, you can expect to be seeing 3 litre magnums around restaurants next summer.”

We’ll drink to that.


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