The first inkling that wine could be more than just an occasional pleasure, and perhaps the source of a serious life-long interest, came with a bottle of pitch-perfect Cornas 'Domaine St Pierre' 1995 from Jaboulet, enjoyed just before I left home in Oxford for university in London: intense, brooding, earthy but refined, it spoke of the small, rocky, sun-baked hillside vineyard from which it had come. 'Terroir', this sense of place, although much argued about, is something I've since learnt to recognise as the signature of genuinely good, and not necessarily expensive, wines; likewise the importance of winemakers who are both skilled and passionate.
By 2006, three years and many subsidised pints of London Pride later, I had a degree in Biology from Imperial College but little desire to enter a life of academia, nor pursue a more lucrative career in the City. On the advice of Michael Palij MW, after several conversations during a three week trek across the Tibetan plateau, I joined Oddbins in the Fulham Road to learn the ropes and have worked in the wine-trade ever since. I was awarded the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma in 2011 and spent seven years working for two independent shippers, moving to the beautiful High Weald of Kent in 2013.
Taking the plunge
After two years at The Secret Cellar, an award-winning retail merchant in Tunbridge Wells, the time has come to realise a long-held ambition to set up on my own, selling direct to the public some of my favourite wines from producers I know personally and whose vineyards I've visited, and working with some of the UK's best specialist importers. There has never been a better time to discover wine, with greater breadth and quality available to us than ever before. My brief is simple:
- combining the personal service of a traditional High Street merchant with the reach and convenience of an efficient, modern e-commerce system, with deliveries large or small across the UK.
- easy contact by phone or email for help with anything from recommendations for a dinner to event-planning, cellar-building or sourcing hard-to-find wines.
- a portfolio of wines and spirits selected purely on the basis of merit and value for money, from the best examples of the established 'classic' regions of Europe to new, unfamiliar and exciting corners of the world.
- above all the independence to provide what you, the customer, needs from their wine supplier.
Start-up costs, without the overheads of shop premises, are relatively modest so I'm looking less for investment and more to offer rewards in return for both your support in getting the business up and running and, perhaps more importantly, your continued custom. A wine merchant should be for life, not just for Christmas.
In addition to the benefits shown in the funding packages, all funders will receive an invitation to the launch party and inaugural tasting on Saturday 10 November where I look forward to meeting you and trying the first of hopefully many wines together!