Thierry Defer. Credit: FG / BD

Brno Expats Entrepreneurs: Interview With French Wine Seller Thierry Defer

It is no secret that Brno is becoming a cosmopolitan city, as people from all around the globe are deciding to start fresh and make a new life for themselves here. Nevertheless, the political, cultural and economic scene is an ever-changing variable.

Thirty years ago, just after the opening of Czechoslovakia to the rest of Europe, Thierry Defer moved from Paris to Brno seeking adventure. However, it was not until 2018 that he decided to partner up with one of his compatriots to establish Franck & Thierry, an authentic French wine shop located at Kopečna 46. Despite being forced to close their doors due to the COVID crisis, these entrepreneurs managed to reopen and are now back in business. 

Franck and Thierry wine shop at Kopečna 46. Credit: FG / BD

Brno Daily had the opportunity to talk with him about his experience, not only as a connoisseur in his field, but also as a foreigner with many years of running a business in Brno. 

BD: What comes to your mind when you think about the wine scene here in the city?

If we look at the city’s best-known establishments, we can distinguish two categories: those that offer wines from all over the world, with a wide choice of bottles, but where the sales staff have not had the opportunity to taste them all to be able to talk about them, and those that offer specific wines, either by country (Spain, Austria, Moravia) or by type (sulphite-free), with a better knowledge of their products. In any case, these are places where you can drink on the premises, rather than in purely retail outlets.

BD: Tell us what makes Franck & Thierry a unique place in Brno?

F&T is unique in many ways. The most obvious is that we are the only French wine shop run by French people. We’re also one of the few shops that imports its wines directly from the winemakers, rather than from an international wine merchant’s catalogue. The daily presence of the owners also ensures that we are committed to giving you the best possible advice. Finally, F&T is a friendly place where you can relax over a bottle of wine, even though we are first and foremost a shop.

“For the wines that deserve to be better known, it’s our job to present them and convince our customers that they’re worth discovering.” Credit: FG / BD

BD: Based on your expertise, what is the most important difference between Moravian and French wine?

The terroir, of course. Technically speaking, it is very rare to find a bad wine in Moravia or in France. The rest is a matter of taste. Moravia’s terroirs are ideal for producing top-quality whites. France, with its vast wine-growing area, offers a structurally wider choice.

BD: How do you choose and import the products you sell?

We opened our shop 6 years ago. At first we chose wines that suited our tastes. Over the years, thanks to discussions with our loyal customers, we have selected wines that are specific to their expectations. This year, for the first time, customers are accompanying us on our visits to our winemakers to help select the wines.

BD: What are your most popular products and what are your most underrated ones?

The most popular wines are those that are part of the international culture: Champagne, Chablis, Saint Emilien. Or those that are part of pop culture: Chateauneuf du Pape is a perfect illustration, thanks to the popular Czech song. For the wines that deserve to be better known, it’s our job to present them and convince our customers that they’re worth discovering.

BD: How do tastings work at Franck & Thierry?

Nothing could be simpler. We collect the details of the customer’s request: corporate or private tasting, number of people, possible dates, budget, specific wine tasting, etc. With this information we are able to present a quote that can be agreed with the customer. The rest is just pleasure for a few hours.

Credit: FG / BD

BD: What would you personally recommend to have at Franck & Thierry?

We no longer do walk-in tastings, but we can open a bottle for you to share with friends standing at the counter.

BD: How difficult is it for a foreigner to start a business here in the Czech Republic?

Compared to France, it’s pretty easy. Just a few administrative formalities and off you go!

BD: Is there any advice you would share with beginner entrepreneurs or fellow wine lovers? 

Be yourself, find your own identity. There are so many concepts around wine. Copying an existing formula is just rewarding for the original, not for the follower.

BD: Wine festivals are particularly popular every September. Do you take part in any of these? Or are there any events coming up soon where the public will have the chance to try something new?

We leave the wine festivals to local producers who are more legitimate in Moravian villages. On the other hand, you can come to our Alsatian evening on 6 June. You can find more information on our Instagram.

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