I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Autumn 1959 course at the age of 21.
My most memorable moment was being woken up in Ch. De Saran, at 7am, by the butler bringing' breakfast in bed with a bottle of Moet on the tray. My most humiliating was being beaten at tennis by none other than Christian de Billy How about a return fixture, Christian ?? I do remember seeing in Moet's Rogues Gallery' a perfect copy of a Moet & Chandon bottle (purchased in New York in 1948) with a back label 'Beware of French Imitations'
I commenced my career in the trade aged 19, going to Bordeaux University to study Oenology, and learning all I could about the Chateaux, vineyards etc. After nine months in Bordeaux, I spent a year working my way around Champagne, the Loire, Cognac, Alsace, Burgundy and the Midi. I wrapped up my 3 years in France, at a Wine Trade School in Paris on the Quai de Bercy.
On returning to London, I decided to collate all my various studies, writing 'The Science and Technique of Wine' first published in 1965. It became the recommended technical text book for the MW exam. I am proud to say it had four editions and sold over 20,000 copies.
In 1965 I acquired a controlling interest in Southard & Co. Ltd, a well known importer/wholesaler at that time. Using my knowledge of the Chateaux, and contacts throughout Bordeaux, I built up a broking division which became the largest in the country by the end of the 1960's. Looking at a price list dated July 1974, I'll quote a few prices 'you won't believe!
All 1970 vintage, prices ex cellars Bordeaux, per DOZEN bottles ! Haut Brion : £135 Lafite : £165 Latour: £161 Margaux: £135 Mouton: £ 170
I sold out my interest in Southards in 1976 and acquired a Bonded Warehouse, Joseph Barber and Co. (Est 1715) housed in railway arches under Fenchurch St. Station. They specialised in housing (and bottling) fine old Cognac, including HM Queen's. They were also important contract spirit bottlers for a number of London based exporters. In 1978 I stumbled across a small outfit, 'bagging' some Australian wines. With my technical background, I was fascinated at this form of packaging (developed in Australia). So I purchased their operation, and began the process of introducing 'Bag in Box' to the Wine Trade. Being contract packers we were in the ideal position to undertake the whole packing process for the large Companies to undertake 'Test Marketing'. In the first year I packed for, amongst others Stowells, Grants of St. James, Peter Dominic, Teltcher Bros. (Yugoslav Riesling) The Wine Society etc. etc. In fact in year one we packed for over 20 companies filling over 1 million bags. I was delighted that the following year, Stowells purchased their own 'bagging' machinery and launched a range under their own brand. This launch expanded the market exponentially, and Barbers increased their own volume, albeit with a smaller share of the market. SO YES, I have the dubious distinction of being the guy who introduced 'Bag in Box’ to the UK!
In 1984, I sold my interest in Joseph Barbers, and decided to help my Dad, (then in his seventies) in his retail wine shop 'Frumkin's' in the West End of London. Being around the corner to ITN, we had regular newscasters popping in for their daily tipple......to name but a few: Reggie Bosanquet, Trevor Macdonald, Carol Barnes and Sir Alistair Burnett. Being in the centre of the 'Rag Trade' the showrooms entertained their buyers royally.............with Champagne of course. I was informed on good authority, Frumkin's were the largest (single shop) retailer of Champagne in London. I had come a full circle.!!
After my Dad died in 1988, I decided to hang up my working shoes, and put on my cricket boots, figuratively speaking As I lived behind Lord's Cricket ground, I had a life long interest in the game, as a player, spectator and Member of the MCC. For the last 15 years, I have been a Tour Guide at Lord's. So just let me know when you want to have a look behind the scenes.
Finally, as I write, I am the oldest surviving Past Chairman of the Association, and hope the Corona Virus doesn't get me !! 'A Votre Sante