Self-confessed workaholic and self-trained wine expert Ben Anderson is the general manager of Fondren Cellars. The 28 year-old Hattiesburg native moved to Jackson in 2005 for his education at Millsaps College and never left.
How did you get into the wine business?
I’ve always sort of been in retail but liked wine as a hobby. While managing Buffalo Peak Outfitters, I began working here part time. When they needed a full time manager, I jumped at the chance. July makes three years I’ve been with Fondren Cellars.
What sparked your interest in vino?
I grew up with wine around and developed a love for it. I love food, so wine with food is the perfect marriage. I don’t have a particular favorite or “go to” wine, trying all of it and learning more along the way. For me, it’s always changing, just like the industry itself. There’s no end to what you can learn about wine.
The wine industry is changing? How so?
It’s booming and everyone’s just trying to keep up with the demand! This generation is drinking more wine than previous ones. So it’s my job to keep in a good variety of what they like, what we like and try to get people to try new things.
It’s also what I love about my job: the interaction with the customer. I love that I can help them pick out wine for a gift or a meal with family. I’m a people person, so I’m constantly digging deeper, finding out what they like and why. It’s my goal to get our customers out of their comfort zones, expand their palettes and try new things. Wine is something you can enjoy and learn more about. Or, at the end of the day, just drink it and enjoy!
What does this time of year bring for your business?
People are shifting to lighter reds and crisp acidic white wines. There’s been an uptick in RosÃ© sales. And we’re huge fans of RosÃ©. I’ve noticed a lot more people trying it for the first time. It’s really food friendly and a good summer time, easy drinking wine. RosÃ© is booming nationally, too.
What changes have you seen at Fondren Cellars since you have been here?
A lot more people know we are here. We’re at one of the busiest parking lots in Fondren (the Woodland Hills Shopping Center) and I still get people who walk in everyday who haven’t been here before. I love meeting new people and people who just moved here. We have grown significantly in the amount of products and styles we carry, and we’re everyday learning more about who our customer base is and hoping to hone in on that. We’ve seen great neighborhood support and support from the city in general.
When you aren’t working, what excites you, besides wine & spirits?
Travel. It sounds generic, but food, wine and travel go hand in hand for me. I’m constantly looking for places to go to eat well and try new things wine wise. When I’m able to take time off, I do like to get out of town. New Orleans is a close favorite and New York City, for — everything but my love is San Francisco. I love California — its proximity to great wine, the ocean, really good food – the weather. But my dream getaway is France, specifically Champagne.
What’s your biggest challenge?
More time. It’s all time. Especially with us keeping up with neighborhood growth and new restaurants. It’s challenging, but rewarding.