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Roshna Ahmad, Tenanted Wine Sales Development Manager

Age: 60

Lives: Sturry near Canterbury

Education: Roshna grew up in Staffordshire, moving to Kent aged 18 to study a degree in Music and Film, Radio and Television at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her work-related qualifications include a Diploma in Wines and Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and Shepherd Neame’s in-house Master of Beer award.

Career: Roshna initially planned to pursue a career in radio, but took a part-time retail position with Peter Dominic Wine Merchants after finishing university, and discovered a passion for the industry.  She was with the firm for two and a half years, progressing to deputy manager, then joined marketing agency SOPEXA, which represents the French food and drink industry in the UK, as wine trade advisor. She stayed with the firm for 11 years, and was promoted to food and wine trade advisor, before moving to work as an events and administration manager for Sensible Wine Services Ltd in Marden. Roshna joined Shepherd Neame in 2002 as wine sales development manager for free trade accounts. In 2005, she decided to go part-time, and now focuses solely on working with licensees.  

Favourite Shepherd Neame beer? 1698

Favourite wine? Wine from the Rhône Valley in France, and Italian wines.

What are your main responsibilities? Shepherd Neame’s wine division, Todd’s The Wine Company, typically offers around 300 wines. A large part of my role is liaising with licensees to compile wine lists, helping to identify which wines from our portfolio fit best with their business and food offering, always tailoring the list to the particular pub. I also advise on merchandising and back bar display, offering design advice to the surveyors when they work on a pub refurbishment, and helping the licensees themselves. I hold staff training sessions at pubs, to help them become more confident in selling wine, and host wine tastings and food matching evenings around the estate to encourage customers to try new wines. I also contribute wine news and food matching suggestions for the quarterly licensee food and wine e-newsletter.

What does a typical day involve? There isn’t a typical day. I would say that 90% of my time is spent out of the brewery visiting pubs to advise them, giving me great variety. It is a great part of the job, as we have some pubs in really lovely areas of countryside. Support is provided by wines and spirits administrator Jessie Passmore, and food and marketing administrator Beverley Hatswell, who expertly designs the wine lists which I create. There is some evening work involved, when I run wine tastings and wine dinners for our pubs. 

What are the most rewarding parts of your job? I am passionate about wine, and love the variety of my role. It is very rewarding when you offer advice to a licensee and it results in a real difference to their business. I particularly enjoy the wine tasting and food matching evenings, as I love introducing people to unfamiliar wines and having free rein to use the full range of our wine portfolio. 

What is tough about the job? Trying to squeeze everything into the time I have. I could potentially deal with up to 230 pubs, and there aren’t enough hours in the day!

What attracted you to the wine industry? I had no intention of working in wine when I left university, but I started working at a wine shop and just found it fascinating. Wine tasting isn’t a magic skill, it is just a question of taking time to think about the flavours in the wine you are drinking. There is always more to learn, with so many wines produced by different vineyards around the world, each with different qualities. 

Has the industry changed since you first joined? Wine has become much more popularised in the last 20 years. When I joined, there were still multiple retailers such as Threshers and Oddbins selling wine, but now it is mostly sold by supermarkets, although there has recently been a healthy renaissance of small independent wine shops. People are more likely to buy wine now, although we still need to encourage them to be more adventurous, rather than repeatedly choosing the same wines. The spread of good wine preservation kits is really helping this as more pubs can safely offer a glass of something more unusual. 

What attracted you to Shepherd Neame? As I had lived in Kent for many years, I was familiar with Shepherd Neame, and liked the idea of working for a local family-run company while also having the opportunity to work across the entire South East promoting wines. 

What are your hobbies and interests outside work? I have been a member of the Canterbury Wine Society since 1986 and have also sung in the Canterbury Cantata choir since university; a small auditioned chamber choir, singing in graduations in Canterbury Cathedral on innumerable occasions and performing major choral. I am also chair of the charity, Canterbury Cantata Trust, formed in 2012, which runs singing groups and is rapidly becoming recognised as a partner with the health services to offer singing to people with Parkinson’s and other illnesses, including Long Covid, which is a very rewarding role.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the wine industry? If you are passionate about wine, you will love it. You definitely won’t earn a fortune, but you may well be gripped by the wine bug! There is a lot of hard work involved, but there are lots of great personalities in the business, and the potential to travel to beautiful vineyards around the world and taste some wonderful wines.

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