"My father imparted a valuable lesson to me: 'I don’t care what you want to do in life; just be the best at it.' After 36 years in business, we are thriving, and I am grateful for the ongoing support of Samuel Rhys and Jemima Rhys, the younger generation, who play a vital role in our continued growth.
We raise our glasses to you and extend our best wishes. We look forward to the possibility of serving you in the future. Cheers!"
Like many tales, mine began in my youth. My parents would dine in the formal dining room, and I would clandestinely sneak downstairs to indulge in a bit of sherry or perhaps even a touch of Martini if it happened to be left unattended on the drinks table... the taste was simply exquisite. During those years, wine was rarely seen at our table. If I recall correctly, in the 1970s, wine hadn't quite gained the popularity it enjoys today; spirits were the beverage of choice for most.
Upon graduating from Milton Abbey school, my father posed the pivotal question, "What do you aspire to in life?" Having spent his career in the hotel industry, serving as the banqueting manager at the Dorchester Hotel in the 1930s and later becoming a Director of the Hyde Park Hotel, which is now known as The Mandarin Hotel, his background cast a captivating spell on me. I found myself enthralled by the world of hospitality. While exploring the various prospects within this industry, I contemplated joining The Savoy Hotel, despite its meager compensation, demanding hours, and weekend commitments. However, after careful consideration, I redirected my focus towards the realm of wine.
Following that pivotal decision, my father sent me to Caen University in Normandy for two terms to immerse myself in the French language. From there, I embarked on an unforgettable journey that took me to the heart of the wine world. I ventured to the Loire Valley during the harvest season and then continued my odyssey to Bordeaux, where I spent six transformative months working with a renowned wine merchant by the name of Mestrazat. This esteemed merchant owned six châteaux, all of which I had the privilege of working at.
Among these châteaux was the illustrious Rayne Vigneau in Sauternes. I was dispatched there for three weeks to participate in the grape harvest. During my stay, I found myself in the company of a diverse team, with me being the sole British representative, alongside a French couple. The remaining crew hailed from Spain and had made it a yearly tradition to journey to Sauternes for what seemed like a rather unique holiday—an opportunity to pick grapes. We were accommodated in a charming house on the Château's grounds, and we were not only provided sustenance but also compensated for our efforts. Our team comprised roughly 50 individuals, and the task at hand was a labor of devotion.
Picking grapes in Sauternes required us to meticulously comb the vines two to three times, carefully selecting only the moldy grapes. It is this painstaking process that gives birth to those delectable dessert wines, often referred to as "liquid gold." The final pick involved gathering the unblemished grapes, destined for use in the estate's dry white wines.
After two enriching years abroad, I returned to England with a newfound passion for the world of wine. I commenced my journey from the ground up, laboring in Thresher's & Oddbins wine shops, diligently stacking shelves. Eventually, I ascended to the role of manager at a private establishment in Fulham, aptly named "Hair of the Dog," which I successfully ran for two years. However, with the demanding 14-hour workdays taking their toll, I began seeking a new direction within the trade.
In 1989, I encountered a pivotal opportunity that would shape my career. It all began when I responded to a job advertisement seeking a wine broker to establish a London office for the sale and distribution of fine wines. The prospect appeared rather daunting, and I found myself contemplating the advertisement for a week before mustering the courage to apply. Much to my delight, I secured the position.
My initial task was to locate a suitable office space and assemble a competent team. With those pieces in place, our journey commenced. The early 1990s presented their own set of challenges, particularly as the years from 1991 to 1994 were not particularly favorable for the wine industry in France. Nevertheless, amidst these hurdles, the wine market was beginning to burgeon in Asia, with Burgundy wines gaining considerable traction. The production volume in Burgundy pales in comparison to Bordeaux, foretelling an inevitable rise in prices. This burgeoning venture necessitated my travels to Asia, where I engaged in wine sales and cultivated strong client relationships. We hosted exclusive dinners in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Tokyo, thereby establishing a robust customer base.
In addition to my Asian ventures, I expanded my reach to the United States, making stops in New York, San Francisco, and Washington. I distinctly recall my first visit to a retailer in Washington; the proprietor entrusted me with a substantial £20,000 order. At the time, such an order was undeniably significant, a moment that has remained etched in my memory ever since.
After successfully managing operations for 14 years, we embarked on a new journey in 2003 by launching our independent venture. Building on our prior experience, we continued to engage in activities such as international travel, biannual wine tastings, and hosting luncheons, providing our valued customers and friends with the opportunity to savor exceptional wines. The true pleasure, for me, lies in the response of individuals who relish a bottle and exclaim, "That was a fantastic choice!" My role now primarily revolves around sourcing and tasting wines. I firmly believe that once people have had the chance to taste and appreciate a wine, they become loyal patrons, placing repeat orders. I am fortunate to possess a discerning palate that aids in this endeavor.
Bordeaux remains the epicenter for the production of some of the world's finest wines. Nonetheless, it is essential not to overlook the charm and allure of Burgundy and other wine-producing regions in France. Reflecting on my early days in the industry, it's worth noting that French wines were not as widely distributed, and a select few brands held sway over the market. A transformation was imperative, and I recognized a gap in the UK market. Customers and friends were seeking outstanding value wines for everyday enjoyment, priced between £10-25 per bottle. Over the years, we've tirelessly scoured the market for these hidden gems, specializing in French wines to fulfill this demand. When Bordeaux strikes the right chord at this price point, it is unparalleled globally. The Bordelais consistently deliver, albeit occasionally requiring patience for the perfect vintage. Nevertheless, when that vintage arrives, the wine truly sings from the glass, leaving an indelible mark on the palate.
Our ambition is to continually expand our portfolio and customer base in the years ahead. We have access to an extensive selection of wines, all available upon request.
Reflecting on my father's enduring wisdom, "I don't care what you want to do in life, just be the best at it," I am gratified by the remarkable journey of the past 36 years. We have steadily progressed, and I am especially thankful for the unwavering support of Samuel Rhys and Jemima Rhys, representing the younger generation, who actively contribute to our growth and success.
To all our esteemed patrons, we raise a toast and extend our heartfelt best wishes. May your glasses brim with delight, and we eagerly look forward to the honor of serving you in the days to come.
With kind regards,
From Our Customers
Jane Symons Willmot
Notorious Pink Rose from Southwick Wines is quite simply the most divine Rose ever ! The Southwick team are just amazing at ensuring that stocks are delivered and kept on tap at all times 💕xx"
My love of Rose started with notorious pink, It is simply the best! The professionalism and service you get from the team is outstanding. You can’t fault it. Thank you so much for your gorgeous rose and I can’t wait to order more"
Southwick Fine Wines always deliver on time, the service is incredible. And don’t get me started on the taste it’s incredible a must for any party"
Notorious pink rose all I can say is wow! The Southwick team were so professional and the delivery was super fast! Thank you again"