Kavita Channe’s entry into the world of wine was hardly a conventional one. The native of London has a background in broadcast journalism. She has reported live from NHL pitches and along NFL sidelines across the country. For more than a decade in the field, however, there was a passion that penetrated the grape game – spurred on by the graceful rosé of rosé. The only problem was that at her favorite bars and restaurants, Channe was often greeted by sweeter offerings, made with less than optimal ingredients.
So the TV station decided to smash things themselves. It started with joking word games with friends (since her last name rhymes with rośe) blossomed into a very serious brand after a trip to the South of France in 2016. A particularly dry offer with touches of stone fruit and lavender, the flagship bottling did not take long time to resonate with a wide audience. It was awarded a silver medal at the prestigious Concours Général Agricole in Cannes just three years after its debut.
In an exclusive interview with Forbes, the entertainer-turned-entrepreneur explains how she has found separation in a crowded category. She also provides some insight into the challenges of launching a brand and enduring through a pandemic.
Why did you decide that you wanted to launch your own wine line?
I had been traveling to games for so many years and I just really wanted to do something outside of sports and television that was mine. In the summer of 2016, I traveled to France and I immediately became a fan of French rosé. The dryness and smoothness of this cooled variety along with the beautiful bright copper color and hints of fruit without being sweet just made me get hooked. When I returned, I would order a glass at my favorite restaurants only to be shocked at the lack of quality and choice.
So you decided to go back to the source?
Yes, I flew to Cannes, France to meet over 100 winemakers from around the world to learn as much as I could. Eventually, I fell in love with a rosé throughout the week. And this one happened to take home the gold medal at this rosé conference. From there, I knew I was doing something, and so Channé Rosé was born.
Then what happened?
Shortly after I started, I got pregnant. And then had another baby shortly after. It was just a perfect and insane coincidence that I decided to run a new business in a new industry in the middle of my radio career while becoming a new mom … But, hey … why not [laughs].
What sets Channé Rosé apart from other rosés on the market?
I am super hands-on and very selective about what I put in my body. So if I do not want to drink or order it myself, I will not put my name on it. One of the aspects that sets it apart is that all my fellow rosé lovers proudly send me messages about how they do not feel hangover the day after, as they do with other wines on the market. It is a nice compliment to hear from our customers. Now I can actually not say why it is, but we make our wine blend with less sulfites. The nights I drink a little too much, I show up early in the morning with my kids ready for rock ‘n’ roll.
Tell us more about the significance of this medal at the Concours Général Agricole.
This competition is held by the Department of Agriculture in France and is widely respected worldwide for its impartiality and rigorous judging processes, so you can imagine how special this was for our brand. Out of more than 16,000 wines, only 334 from the Provence region tasted at this price — and we were one of them! It is truly one of the most prestigious and coveted wine prize competitions in the world. When you win this award, it is based solely on your wine. So when our shipment arrived and I opened the first case and saw the beautiful medal on each bottle, I almost fell off my chair! And in this particular year, I insisted on mixing two different mixes together, which became the winner. This was extremely exciting for all of us and made me feel so good about all the work we had done to create the perfect rosé.
How has your business changed during the Covid era?
I live in Florida, and during the pandemic, all my restaurants and retailers stopped ordering. We were stopped in business. I did not panic because I knew there was a global pandemic that was far more important than what I was facing in my business. What I did is turn around like many others. Since I have a good following on Instagram, I decided to take my talents there. I started posting “Channé Rosé delivered to your door” content daily, and many started ordering online. The problem was that I pushed customers to a retailer’s site that sold my wine versus my own website. Of course, I’m so happy to support any retailer or restaurants that carry us, but it was frustrating not being able to sell directly.
What are the most challenging obstacles there?
There are so many different ways to go and not always easy ways to get there. It’s not like you can just sell directly to the consumer like in most other industries when you start a business. We have the three-tier system, and everything is very regulated: I sell to a distributor. The distributor then sells to a retailer or a restaurant, and from there it goes to the consumer. It is very complex and it really cuts into profits for brand owners. Each state also has different laws. I really think these laws need to be changed, and maybe we need more uniformity across the board, but that’s a whole other issue that needs its own phase.
What are some regions in the country where people have been particularly receptive to your wine?
After quarantining Florida for many months, I decided to head north to Long Island to change landscape last year. It was my first time in the area and I knew no one, so I decided to get to work. Instead of spending my days relaxing, I was out going to various restaurants that were open and I started meeting and networking with people in the company. I actually ended up with more customers in the Hamptons and throughout Long Island than Florida and Georgia [where we launched]. I have to say that people on Long Island are very clever rose drinkers and know the good stuff! I was very impressed with the people I met. Very entrepreneurial and genuine too.
What’s next for the brand?
Many send me a message every day asking how they can order our wine directly, so I have decided to focus more on social sales this year for our customers. Thanks to our dealer, we were able to build our website to offer this, which is so exciting that our customers can now have Channé Rosé delivered straight to their home instead of just at restaurants and retailers. We are also launching a dry, white, delicious traditional French blend for summer: Channé Blanc, of which we have only limited cases. I love to entertain in my home with this wine this summer! I can not wait.