For Philana Bouvier, community is more than a buzzword.
“People are always going to be your best investment,” says Bouvier, president of Demeine Estates, a fine wine sales and marketing company whose portfolio includes Heitz Cellar, Burgess and Champagne Legras & Haas, among others.
She took the post in April 2021, a little more than a year after the novel coronavirus pandemic shuttered many businesses and took Demeine’s day-to-day interactions online. And so, Bouvier says, she works closely with Carlton McCoy, the managing partner and founder of Demeine Estates, to build a culture where colleagues feel seen, heard and valued, all while working remotely.
“The pandemic is, among other things, a serious mental health issue,” says Bouvier. She looks for practical ways to alleviate the professional strain of pandemic life on her team members.
“Because everything is virtual, we’re all getting twice as much email as before. There’s such a thing as Zoom fatigue. You don’t need five back-to-back meetings to look like you’re working. It’s important that we honor people’s time.”
She recently helped launch Dream It Live It, a program that uses Demeine Estates’ established network to connect and provide opportunities to wine industry entrepreneurs from marginalized backgrounds.
In 2020, Bouvier cofounded Be The Change, an organization that facilitates job placement and career building for members of communities underrepresented in drinks businesses. She is also a board member of Lift Collective, a diversity-minded wine industry platform.
“We all have the opportunity to make a difference,” says Bouvier.
Wine Enthusiast caught up with this presidential powerhouse to hear more about her career in wine, how she defines luxury and what she absolutely orders at a dive bar.
What do you wish you knew when you started working in the industry?
Patience. I didn’t have enough of it when I was younger, and I’m grateful that I surrounded myself with strong mentors who advocated and guided me throughout my career. It is about having patience with yourself, and the people around you, who are doing their best to bring you with them. Pushing yourself to learn new challenges and giving yourself the time and self-care to accomplish those goals. More importantly, forgiving yourself if you make a mistake. Mistakes are the best lessons in life, don’t give up on yourself, and stay diligent in your beliefs and dreams.
Bet on yourself, you’ll always win.
You became president of Demeine Estates last year. Congratulations! What made you excited about the job?
Thank you! It was a big decision for me to leave a very successful career in distribution, but I also felt at the time, having served at every level of executive management with the wholesaler, that I had contributed greatly and the next chapter would have to align more with my values. It was important to me to make the calculated risk and challenge myself that I can do more. I have learned through my years in management, that yes, if you don’t have a seat at the table, create the table of opportunity. And if at some point that table isn’t able to continue to feed your ambitions, that’s when it’s time to make a move. When you spend the last 20 years of your life working for a machine, you do get to a place where at some point, you ask yourself, ‘How can I further improve my own leadership development and ensure that the decisions we make as a team every day affect a positive culture?’
It has been the best decision to now have this seat at the table with Demeine. Somewhere in your life if you have the amazing opportunity to create something and build something special, you get the chance to start off with a clean piece of paper.
Demine Estates is creating a company where our culture is about people, and we are honored to share the stories of our winemakers in the market, selling them to where they deserve to be in the world.
How would you define a luxury wine?
A luxury wine is defined by place, price, product and experience. It’s no different than a luxury good like an Hermes bag, because it is about quality craftsmanship, the people who are creating this luxury product, consistency, legacy and the overall experience for the consumer, from when they purchase to how they are enjoying.
It’s the magic that the experience brings, and the idea that purchasing a product that is luxurious, you feel good about making that investment.
Who’s the most underrated person in the drinks business?
Back of the house staff, they are the unsung heroes, always. It’s the people who make the drinks business hum, from operations, bar backs, accounting and hosts.
You’re at a dive bar. What do you order?
Margarita on the rocks, no salt! I do love a great tequila!
Last Updated: August 23, 2023