I was born in Chelsea, London in the Swinging Sixties, sent to boarding school in Oxford, then on to a North London Grammar school. At the age of 16 I started work at an accounting firm in the City, which led to a career in banking and oil finance, which took me to work in New York City and Monaco.
In 2005, seeking something completely different, I became a Champagne importer. It may seem like a radical change however I’d been brought up by wine-loving parents who’d shown me great wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux from an early age. A chance encounter with a Champagne producer led me to start doing Christmas Champagne runs for friends and colleagues which morphed into a proper business in 2005.
At that point, I was splitting my time between Mayfair and a mountain hideaway north of Granada, Spain. This enabled me to build the London business yet gave me the mental space to come up with new ideas. In 2015, I bade my farewells to Mayfair to live in Granada full time.
My business concentrates on getting the right product to the customer in the way that they want it. I now have distribution in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Far East, and the United States. Anything further afield I look at on a bespoke basis. I supply well-heeled private customers and provide for companies, discreetly and efficiently, according to their needs.
The Champagnes come from my selection of producers, accumulated over many years of very painstaking research! However, I will also source whatever a particular customer demands, and deliver it according to their needs.
In new developments, I am looking to deliver a Champagne Club, based on the model of a wine club, to my customers. I am also working on a book of recipes of cooking with Champagne, which will be published in the coming year.
Why Champagne? My early memories of Champagne are of happiness. Indeed, when I have a meeting with a producer or a potential customer, the routine is something like ‘hello, how are you, pop?! Who couldn’t help but be happy? Champagne is of course a wine, and whilst a lot of people in the business do specialise in wines from a particular country or region, there is hardly anyone who just specialises in Champagne. I’ve also found that everybody has an opinion on the subject, even those who don’t like it have something to say! How many times do I hear ‘we love The Widow’ or ‘I only drink Cristal’. I even came across a bank, whose PR firm said, that Taittinger was the brand that best fitted their corporate image. These people are all missing the point, they are looking at the brand and not the contents, the bottle if not the bubbles, if you like. I would imagine that just about everybody reading this has been to a wine-tasting, the idea being to compare and contrast similar wines, and maybe make a choice. Wine-tastings are educational, social events. However very few have been to Champagne tastings where there is an opportunity to compare different styles and prices of products. At most events there is only one Champagne available. In short, most people have never tasted more than one Champagne at once, and are thus very vulnerable to be influenced by the brand. My view is different: for me Champagne is part of that brand, and the Champagne Houses are merely part of it.
I concentrate on two areas, price and quality, I try to ignore packaging, labelling, promotions and gimmicks. When dealing with small producers (up to about 100,000 bottles per year) I look for freshness, fruit and body. Champagne is, after all, a type of wine and I like to sense the grapes that have gone into it. A lot of the more industrial Champagnes tend to be bitter and acidic. As far as price is concerned, in spite of the huge scale of production, the big names are always more expensive because of their supporting of the brand with advertising, sponsorship and marketing. This gives the small producer an edge on price as well as quality, but without the access to overseas markets, which is where I come in. As my business provides the link between the producer and the consumer, there are far fewer people involved in the distribution process hence my ability to get great Champagnes to the consumer at high street prices.