Many moons ago, I decided to take a gap year and travel to Australia to stay with my Grandmother in Sydney. During that time, I worked at various odd jobs in order to raise enough money to travel around the vast country. One of the last trips I did before heading back to the UK was to head west towards Perth and on the way I decided to stop off in the Barossa Valley, near Adelaide.
Having hitched all the way from Sydney, I decided to hire a bicycle and the only one left at the bike rental store was a tandem. And I was by myself. So I hired it and set off on a tour of some of the vineyards, including Penfolds (now part of the Fosters group).
I’d never really been into wine (aged only 19), but I found the beauty of the vineyards and the passion of the people most fascinating. I bought myself a bottle of Penfolds Chablis and settled in for the night in my tent (wondering if I could make a career out of this product).
A great deal of water (and wine) has flowed under the bridge since then (apart from anything else, the Australians were banned from naming their wines after French wine regions which lead to New World producers referring to the grape varieties and of course that led to a whole new dynamic of wine labelling). I went on to do a course in Business Studies at Brighton and kept up my ‘interest’ in wine, albeit on a quantitative basis rather than qualitative basis during those student years!
I then headed off to London to join a small importer called Michael Morgan Limited. Michael gave me a job driving the delivery lorry whilst I enrolled in evening courses at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) where I studied to Diploma level and by which stage I have been promoted to the heady heights of sales rep!
After a few roles in working for importers, I decided that I should set up my own wine and coffee business, which I did at the grand old age of 24. Based in Wandsworth and selling to restaurants and board rooms around London (those were the days when board rooms doubled as dining rooms) I grew the business and my debts and eventually decided to sell the business and go and get a proper job.
The next 15 year were spent in telecommunications (which included lots of staring out of the windows dreaming about owning a vineyard). But they were fun years too, during which I did a lot of traveling and, most importantly (!) I met my wife Marie-Jeanette (a German with a French name living in London and answering only to the name Jeany).
In 2008, after the birth of our third child, Jeany encouraged me to make the move or forever hold my peace. So we sold our house in Teddington, I quit my job as IBM Account Director at C&W, we took the older two children out of school and we headed off to sunnier climes.