Miami University graduate and Amcellars CEO Christian Betzen has maintained links between Luxembourg and the country where he studied by importing wines from the west coast of the United States.
In the last of our series of profiles to make the 50th anniversary of Miami University Dolibois European Center in Luxembourg we meet wine importer Christian Betzen.
Christian Betzen was six years old when he travelled to the United States for the first time to visit a family friend who had emigrated there after university. By his early twenties, the Luxembourger had taken some 28 trips to the States and participated in a three-month exchange programme with a Canadian high school. “I liked North America from the first moment,” says Betzen. “It’s always felt like a second home, a place where I knew I wanted to live.”
As an English literature and linguistics undergraduate at the University of Luxembourg, Betzen was among a handful of students who were granted tuition fee waivers by Miami University to finish the last two years of their studies at the campus in Oxford, Ohio. While attending Miami from autumn 2006 until graduating in spring 2008, Betzen realised that Luxembourg and Oxford, Ohio were, in fact, not so different. “Both places are somewhat alike in the sense that they are very small,” he explains. “In Oxford, Ohio, everyone used to go to the same bars, just like in Luxembourg, where you would always run into someone you knew on a night out in the Grund or the Hollerecher Stross.”
During his time at Miami, Betzen regularly met up with the Luxembourg student community to cook together, chat and share a piece of home while living overseas. He also bonded with his fellow students from America; for example, he developed a close friendship with a classmate who approached him out of the blue after “The Miami Student”, the university’s newspaper, had published a small interview with Betzen. It turned out that the classmate’s mother was also called Betzen, her family having emigrated from the Luxembourg-Bitburg region many generations ago. “It’s unbelievable that we were in the same class,” says Betzen. “We’re still friends today.”
After graduating from Miami, Betzen knew he wanted to stay in the States to attend grad school and start his career. Betzen, who now holds an MBA from Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business, stayed in Florida for seven years until his student visa was up and he had to return to his home country. Back in the grand duchy, he managed to keep a close relationship with the States due to his role as the CEO of Amcellars, a business importing American wines to Luxembourg.
Amcellars works directly with producers from California, Oregon and Washington State, attending trade shows and hosting tastings in order to introduce the Luxembourgish market to high-quality American wines. “American wines were virtually unknown in Luxembourg, where people predominantly consume wines from Luxembourg, France and Italy,” explains Betzen. “Our mission is to improve the reputation of New World wines from the West Coast of the US.”
His work has also allowed him to remain active within the American community in Luxembourg through events organised by the American Chamber of Commerce, the United States embassy or Paperjam Club. “At these activities, you always run into alumni from Miami University,” he says. “It’s a great way of keeping in touch.”