Most people in the City enjoy a drink - especially after a hard day on the markets. But Barry Bayat – formerly of JP Morgan and UBS – took his passion to the next level.
After more than 20 years in the finance industry, he launched Provencal wine Rumor in 2019, inspired by the challenge of a new venture and his life-long passion for wine.
In just a few short years, he’s scaled his vision of a unique, high-quality, accessible rosé to a global brand serving bottles in the world's premier hotels, restaurants and bars.
We caught up with him to find out more…
What was your first experience of wine?
I remember being around nine or ten years old and would watch my parents drink wine and notice how it provided them with enjoyment. Whether my mother was cooking and my father brought her a glass, or it was a celebratory dinner, wine was at the centre of many happy and joyful times.
What was the first wine you tasted which really caught your attention?
While I was working in finance, I had a friend who established himself as a pretty well-respected wine collector. We were at a dinner with some friends, and he brought a 1982 bottle of Petrus.
At the time I didn’t recognise the iconic label, or understand the importance of the bottle, but he insisted I have a glass. The whole experience, the taste, the flavour profile, and the general excitement around such a bottle, immediately opened me up to how special wine can be, and how passionate the wine community is.
What was the best thing about working in the City – apart from the Petrus?
I am a social person and took pride in dealing with clients and big companies. To be completely honest, at the time, making money for clients and asset management provided a great feeling of accomplishment. That being said, the best part about working in the industry was when I eventually got out of it.
And the worst?
I always felt that such a small percentage of people who actually worked in finance were truly ‘happy’ or passionate about the work they were doing. It was a grind, and the worst part was dealing with regulators, clients, and the volatility of the markets. All these various scenarios happening around you, and all of it, totally out of your control.
When did you decide you wanted to leave?
During my last year as a managing director at JP Morgan, I was beginning to think about leaving to open up my own firm, but my gut was telling me that it was the wrong decision.
One day, my assistant – who had been with me for over ten years – came into my office, and bluntly said to me “I can’t see you sitting inside an office wearing a suit forever; you’re bigger than this”. That comment really shook me to my core and helped me fully realise that I was prepared to move on to greener pastures.
And how did you settle on creating a wine brand?
While on a trip with a few of my close friends, I mentioned to them that I was exploring the possibility of starting a wine brand. I was pretty bored with the same old wines, and felt that I could create something unique, elegant, and tasteful, that could potentially disrupt a market that had remained the same for the last decade.
I was expecting them to play devil's advocate or tell me I was crazy, but they were so supportive that it gave me the confidence to move forward with the idea.
I flew directly from that trip in Mexico to France to meet with various vineyards and winemakers to gain insight into the industry, and I’ve never looked back. Those friends became investors, and my biggest supporters, and have given me the confidence to keep pushing forward every day.
You launched in Mykonos… how come?
In 2019, when we first created the bottle and came out with the wine, it was a little late in the season. Back then, I was alone and didn’t understand the business yet but knew Mykonos was the hotspot of summer, attracting Americans and Europeans.
I decided to launch there because I wanted to get the attention of the product in a vacation atmosphere. People would then return to their home countries and think of Rumor as a reminder of their vacation.
Launching in Mykonos also got a lot of attention from distributors, whose CEOs would see it while on vacation or on Instagram.
Which is your biggest market now?
The United States is definitely our biggest country, but I tend to think of each state as its own market/country. California has been the largest market to date, as a result of its sheer size, and optimal weather conditions for year-round drinking.
How was last year’s harvest for you?
Amazing. Rosé is unique in that there’s only a two to three year window where the product can be consumed at its optimal quality. After two to three years, the product goes downhill, whereas red wines and white wines often get better as they mature.
So the rosé business is really at the whim of each year’s harvest, and the weather conditions at your production site. Last year’s harvest was fortunately extremely fruitful, and the quality we are seeing from this year’s vintage is by far one of the best we’ve seen to date.
And how's this year shaping up?
As of now, we haven’t had a major drought or significant and sustained freezing-cold temperatures to have a negative impact on next year’s vintage. Earlier in the year we had a short duration of low temperatures and some hail which damaged some of the harvest, but that tends to be expected a couple of times per year.
We’re optimistic for next year and building on the momentum we have right now.
What are you working on next – any new varietals or blends in the pipeline?
We just produced a limited Rumor Côtes De Provence White, which is a truly unique wine that is 99% vermentino, and like our rosé, it’s organic and vegan.
The grapes were vinified in stainless steel and then transferred to Italian terracotta amphora for ageing.
The ageing process is very time consuming (and expensive) as the wine is stirred and observed weekly. It's a meticulous process that produces a world-class wine.
Who is your winemaking hero?
Sacha Lichine because of what he’s built with Whispering Angel. He has put rosé into its own category over the years. Before Sacha, nobody really respected rosé wine and I admire how he’s built a brand from the ground up.
He created the road map for building a rosé brand, and a lot of what we are seeing with regard to people's consumption habits and preferences is there because of what he did with Whispering Angel.
If you could only drink one grape for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?
Vermentino [traditionally known as rolle]. It’s such a delicate and tasteful grape that produces such a great wine; perfect for drinking on its own.
For more information, see rumorrose.com