How a group of INSEAD Executive Education graduates decided it was worth travelling halfway around the world to make wine and drink it together.
Everyone who has ever been part of an intense executive education course late in his career has felt the same thing after sharing so much with a group of people: let’s not lose touch! But it happens… a few reunions over the years and the numbers of “alums” dwindle and then fade away all together.
No sign of that yet with the 2009 Challenge of Leadership class. They are making wine together at an 85-hectare property in the Uco Valley of Argentina, in the Mendoza Region, at the foot of the Andes Mountains near the border with Chile. The wine – a rich red Malbec - is called “Alpasión,” and the company set up to produce the wine is named after the INSEAD course taught by Professor Manfred Kets de Vries: COL Wines.
The number of investors has more than doubled from the original dozen or so. There is already a 1,150-square metre guest house, to add a tourism element to the project and capitalise on the region’s increasing tourism industry. Neighbouring vintners such as France’s Michel Rolland and the Rothschild family have been in the Uco Valley for years, making wine for worldwide distribution.
It’s for the Children
The tangible returns of the project will be more fully enjoyed by the children and grandchildren of the founders. Winemaking is a slow business and cannot be rushed. “I tried making financial projections,” says one COL graduate and investor, Kathy Byrne. “But then I gave up because I realised it would take more than five years before we began to make a real profit.”
There were other difficulties: dealing with South American red tape, getting a water licence, finding good staff. Not too daunting for the COL graduates. “Toine Knipping is an entrepreneur,” says Professor Kets de Vries of the project’s Dutch-born de facto leader, who runs his own international financial services company as his “day job”. “He knows how to get things done.”
AlPasión has already been awarded 90 points by wine connoisseur Robert Parker and its 2011 vintage is sold out. The INSEAD Knowledge team was invited to see the project for themselves and filmed the story of COL Wines.
Manfred Kets de Vries is the INSEAD Distinguished Professor of Leadership Development & Organisational Change and also programme director of The Challenge of Leadership Executive Development programme, part of INSEAD's portfolio of executive education programmes.