Meet one half of Folc: Elisha Rai! She, alongside Tom Cannon, her husband, flung themselves into the wine industry last year (and during a worldwide pandemic, might we add) with the launch of Folc. Elisha’s one of the few women of colour in the English wine production world, and she’s on a mission to shake up and diversify the industry. Is working in wine all it’s made out to be? Elisha lets us know.
How did you start Folc? Did you have any experience in wine before you launched?
Tom and I first thought of the idea to create an English wine business 4 years ago whilst doing a blind wine tasting. We were pleasantly surprised by the amazing quality of English wine, and in particular English rosé, and couldn't quite work out why the rest of the world (and England itself) wasn't shouting about it!
We then launched ourselves into understanding everything we could about the English wine industry, from the grape growing process, to selling wine domestically and overseas, and spoke to and visited as many people as possible to educate ourselves on this, and then: Folc was born!
We didn't have professional experience in the industry prior to this, but we did have a real appreciation and passion for wine and thought we could add a unique perspective to it being from a different background gender, race and age wise compared to some of the other producers.
Can you tell us more about wine making in the UK?
Wine making in the UK is a growing industry and one which is showing no signs of slowing down. We had a bumper harvest in 2018 thanks to some amazing weather and 10.5 million bottles of wine were produced in 2019, doubling production from 2015. We have incredible winemaking talent in the UK, along with more favourable weather conditions than before and great vineyard sites so we have no doubt that English wine will continue to grow. There's demand for English wine from overseas, particularly from the Scandinavian countries and the US, but domestically as well thanks to award winning English wine being at the forefront of international competitions.
More and more people are learning about English wine and realising that we make delicious wine right on our own doorstep, which is a great thing because it not only reduces the customer's own carbon footprint but also helps to support local businesses and the English wine movement.
How was launching Folc during the middle of a global pandemic? Did you have to pivot at all?
It was tough to say the least but we were fortunate that we had a business model that provided flexibility and so we adapted quickly. We moved from selling at physical sites only to selling directly to customers on a new digital platform, putting in place a delivery service and making the most of social media to get the word out. Fortunately for us despite the pandemic, our customers continued to support small local businesses and were keen to keep up their wine intake!
What are your thoughts on diversity in the wine industry? How do you think it can be improved?
Sadly the wine industry has some way to go when it comes to diversity, including gender, race and sexual orientation. There are some incredible women who work in wine and the opportunities are there, but unless you can see someone who looks like you doing a role you'd like to do, the wine world can sometimes feel very intimidating and closed off.
Ultimately I feel that the change needs to come from within so we make it a priority to showcase our diversity at Folc on various platforms to encourage anyone considering a career in wine to be brave and not let other bias affect something that you want. Despite it being more difficult for a woman, and/or a person of colour to climb the wine ladder, there is a community within the wine industry that is growing and who will be there to support you.
What does a day in your life look like, working in wine?
It depends on the season but at the beginning of the calendar year we will be working with our amazing winemakers to perfect new vintages of our wine so that it is ready for bottling and labelling in early Spring. That means catching up on emails in the morning which might relate to sales, communications and operations, visiting the winery in the afternoon to go through the wine production process, and then spending the evening focusing on any other aspects of the business. Running your own wine business is like any other business really so you still need to keep on top of everything else like your finances, sales, operations, media and communications as well as making sure you are producing a really high quality wine!
Okay, burning question… how much wine do you get to try for work?
Not as much as you might think, but it is a perk of the job! We are constantly trying to push ourselves and make sure our wine is the best quality it can be. This means tasting the wine at different periods but also comparing it against other wines to see where yours differs and perfecting your tasting notes & meal pairings. Ultimately all wine is meant to be enjoyed, and we want to make sure our customers have the best time doing exactly this!
If you weren’t already craving rosé, we’re sure you are now! Purchase our 2021 Vintage here.