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Celebrating Women In Wine: Chesna Haber

Bar None

with Debbian Spence-Minott

Thursday, November 14, 2019

In this week's celebration of Women in Wine, we feature Chesna Haber, business development consultant. Haber is no stranger to the business of wine, having amassed over 15 years' experience in the marketing and sale of wines. Earlier this week, I met up with Haber at one of her favourite wine spots — The Regency Bar & Lounge at The Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston.

In the Beginning

Jamaica is certainly not 'wine country' so I am always fascinated to discover what motivates a person to want to choose a career in this category. In my discussion with Haber, she indicated that her introduction to wine was by Janet Bagaloo-Lewis, who was a manager at Caribbean Producers Jamaica (CPJ) Ltd. Haber described Bagaloo-Lewis as one possessing a passion for wines and a wealth of wine knowledge, having visited all the major wine regions of the world, and who also managed some of the leading wines at the time. Bagaloo-Lewis described wines to Haber as living, breathing things that need attention and care. With this description, Haber said she could not help but want to learn more. In addition, Haber stated that she was taught about varietals, new world versus old world wines, balancing a wine list, what made one wine a little more special than another, and price differences in wines. Bagaloo-Lewis also gifted Haber with a simple book on wines and encouraged her to read more.

A few years later, Haber would move on to J Wray & Nephew Ltd as on-trade representative on the Horeca (hotel, restaurant, and café) team and then worked as brand manager for the international wines portfolio. In this capacity, she stated that she was influenced by a number of stakeholders such as Pascal Bony, Luis Ortega, Debra Taylor, and Chris Reckord, and further described this experience as priceless as she became exposed to a range of persons — from those who knew about wines, to those who had no knowledge. Using the knowledge gained, Haber paid it forward by teaching about wines and sharing her experiences, just as she was taught when she entered the business.


Wine & Conversation

Thursday Food (TF): What strategy did you use to teach other people about wine?

Chesna Haber (CH): I taught them about the simplicity of wines. Oftentimes, people believe that wine is complex and is only suitable for a certain subset of the population. I basically put that notion aside by simplifying wine knowledge and consumption. I also shared examples of occasions for consuming wine. Wine can be had anytime; you need not be in a restaurant. I remember having Veuve Clicquot Champagne at the beach with a nice Screechie's steamed fish! That experience was amazing. I also remember having farm-to-table lunches at vineyards where the ingredients for lunch were harvested and prepared right before us and served with an accompanying wine. I find it fulfilling when I see how people would have transitioned with their new-found knowledge. In addition, what is usually mind-blowing is to see people who were diehard sweet wine drinkers say that they no longer drink sweet; their palates have matured to more fruit-forward or dry expressions of wine. I have found that having consumed wines after a couple of years, people tend to seek after new experiences.


TF: What are some of the varietals you enjoy?

CH: I love Sancere! I love Pascal Jolivet Sancere and Louis Latore Chablis. In terms of everyday drinking, I enjoy everything sparkling. I find that bubbles provide a sense of magic and euphoria — bubbles really make people happy. Certainly, I will not be able to have Champagnes every day; however, Prosecco is a great alternative. La Marca Prosecco by Gallo Wines is my all-time favourite!


TF: Describe some of your 'wineventures'.

CH: Well, I enjoy visiting the vineyards, as the experience is different. You get to see first-hand what goes into making this fantastic product from the planting and harvesting of grapes in the vineyard to the transition to wine in the wineries, ultimately leading to the final product — a beautiful bottle of wine that we get to sip, savour and enjoy. I remember visiting Louis Martini, and William Hill in Napa and Sonoma; Champagne (Epernay and Reims) in France — while those experiences are contrasting, one thing was similar — the passion and love that went into creating these wines for consumers to enjoy.


TF: If you could wave a magic wand, what would you love readers to know about wine?

CH: Enjoying wine is like enjoying life. You have fun, you make memories. In terms of wine service, you want to deliver an experience that is positively unforgettable. A great bottle of wine and great wine service are never forgotten, and both are rewarded. There is so much opportunity in the wine business for individuals to learn and enjoy. Experiencing wines from the eyes of the producer is certainly a great way to learn.



Readers' Feedback:

Imagine if we embraced life's moments big and small, without reservation. Together, we might fill the world with contagious joy. Please share with meyour wines, spirits and cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.


Debbian Spence-Minott

An Alumna of the US Sommelier Association

CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines

President, Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited

Marketing Studies Lecturer – The University of Technology Jamaica