How did you become interested in wine?
I completed a course in retail at college after leaving school and saw an advert in the local paper for a Wine Student at an Independent Wine Merchant in Colchester (Lay & Wheeler). It combined a very interesting subject with the chance of starting a career initially in the retail sector of that business. The rest, as they say, is history!
When did you have your wine epiphany?
About 3 months after I started my career in wine I realised that this would be a great industry to work in and one that I would thoroughly enjoy for many years.
Who has been your inspiration?
Many people would fit into this answer. My family have always been a great support in terms of encouraging me throughout my career and pushing me to achieve my goals. In my early career at Lay & Wheeler, the team at that time were fantastic and totally encouraged learning about wine and business. Over the last 18 years I would have to say it has been our Managing Director, Adrian Posnett, who has always been of great support, both in business and personally.
What was the first wine you tasted and what was it like?
That’s a long time ago. From memory it was a Sancerre (I can’t remember the producer though). The wine would have been delicious I am sure.
What would you be doing if you weren’t working in wine?
I would love to have been involved with sport in one way or another. Rugby would have been my number one choice; my late father played for Llanelli and I would love to have followed in his footsteps.
What’s your top grape?
I would opt for Pinot Noir. At its best in Burgundy, this grape can produce wines that are silky, smooth and very classy with great ageing potential from the top Domaines and producers. Also some excellent examples from New Zealand.
How would you describe Bellwether Wines in three words?
Exciting, progressive, quality.
Favourite Bellwether wine?
Having tasted my way through our current portfolio, quality shines through at every price point and level. A particular star would be our ‘Quincy , Haute Victoire , Henri Bourgeois’ It’s a lesser known wine from the Loire Valley which offers fantastic quality and exceptional value for money.
Favourite pub that serves your wine?
Oaka at The Mansion House, Kennington, London.
What’s the secret to choosing a good wine?
Look for good quality producers, domaines and merchants. There should be no excuse for poor quality wines on the market. Life is too short to drink bad wine.
What, in your view, is the wine sector doing right/wrong?
The wine industry in the UK is fantastic at promoting its strengths and encouraging the public to experiment when buying wine. There are ample educational opportunities in terms of being able to taste wine, read about wine and learning how to match wine and food. For more serious wine lovers the Wine & Spirit Education Trust runs a number of excellent courses. I would like to see a reduction in the number of ‘deep discount’ offers that are run by the multiple retailers and more emphasis put on the time, expertise and skill that goes into producing a good bottle of wine and sold for the correct value. The Government needs to seriously address the duty levied on our sector and stop seeing the wine drinker as an easy target.
Favourite wine and food match?
There are so many great food and wine pairings, but one I would highly recommend would be a fine Manzanilla Sherry with Iberico ham and olives.
Which country is making the best wine in the world at the moment?
There are great wines produced all over the world. An exciting country to watch is Argentina. They are experimenting with many different grape varieties and offering exceptional value for money and quality.
What’s your idea of happiness?
Having a few pints in ‘The Cabbage Patch’ prior to watching England play at Twickenham.
Who would play you in a film of your life?
My son always tells me it should be Pierce Brosnan.
Minstrels or Revels?
Whisky or Gin?
That’s a tough one! I once spent 3 days in Scotland tasting Whiskies which were sublime. My favourite was Talisker. In terms of Gin it would have to be Tanqueray served with ice and lime.
What was the last song you bought/downloaded?
Kylie Minogue’s album - Fever
What was the last decent film you watched?
Skyfall which was excellent. My favourite ever film however would have to be ‘Quadrophenia’.
If you could have a bottle of wine with anyone from history who would it be and which wine would you choose?
Raymond William Robert "Ray" Gravell was a Welsh rugby union centre who played club rugby for Llanelli RFC and was capped 23 times for his country and selected for one Lions Tour. Ray Gravell was a great player who sadly passed away in 2007 aged 56. He was a man my father often spoke of and one I wish I had been fortunate to have met. The wine I would choose would have to possess a solid structure, with a smooth palate, firm tannins a good finish. I think a Chateauneuf-du-Pape from a top producer would fit the bill perfectly!
This interview partly first appeared in Riveting News Issue 5 (Spring 2013).