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Face your fears

I was walking on a beach in Brazil when suddenly life became so much clearer and all because of a rash guard emblazoned with ‘Face your fears’ had caught my eye. The slogan had translated itself into its real meaning. O’Neill is a surf apparel company and coincidentally I was staring at the huge surf in Buzios, Brazil’s most famous surf town. I had taken a vacation in South America from the craziness of the global currency markets. I saw this T-Shirt and I knew there and then my days as a currency broker were over. I was going to face my fears. If I had seen that T-Shirt in some bar in London it wouldn’t have meant a thing, but the size of the waves and the sheer sight of guys getting thrown about the surf like rag dolls made me grab my balls and ask myself what was I going to do with the rest of my life?

I was never the same again, in a good way that is. I went back to London and continued my career in the brokerage business until 2010. It was 2000 when I saw those waves crashing against the beach. Finally I got the courage to leave the business. Fourteen years later I found myself one saturday morning in a hotel bedroom in Bordeaux. I got in my car and headed over the Pont d’Aquitaine. The bridge that takes you across the Gironde over towards the right bank. What was I going to do? I didn’t quite know, but my intentions were to talk to people, just to say hello. My intentions were to face my fears.

The greatest risk in life is not taking any risk at all. After meeting the producers all over France and eventually Italy, I took the plunge. I created some accounts, JF Hillebrand the shipping company, negociants in Bordeaux, small producers in Burgundy and satellite appellations of Bordeaux. I started to learn how to taste and then this year I attended my first ‘en Primeur’ tastings in Bordeaux. It’s weird tasting Chateau Figeac 2013 straight out of the barrel which won’t hit our shelves for another three years. I didn’t like it to tell the truth, dare I say it, but my experience is so limited how can I compare and contrast. You have to start somewhere and now I have the experience of what the taste feels like. Even though I tasted hundred of wines those two days Figeac is still lingering in my mouth, perhaps that’s what the experts want to hear? These wines are akin to stock picking for a financial portfolio. There is no credit, it’s all cash, so you taste and you either put your money down or shut up, and go home empty handed. As I wrote earlier I had decided to face my fears and have faith and confidence in my decisions. This is the subject of this article I’m writing about now, I have these wines, not Figeac 2013, but other stuff like Malescot St Euxpery 1998, Chateau Le Bon Pasteur 2006, and Chateau Branaire Ducru 2006. The wines will be coming in very soon, I expect August of this summer 2014. There is some great Italian wines coming in too, Chianti, Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino, a Vermentino from the Maremma (Bolgheri) called ‘Papeo,’ this is a dry white wine which tastes outstandingly good. I have Fontana Barolo, A Cru Barolo, I also have Tremenel from Villa Erbice, which is an Amarone. I have two families from Champagne supporting my effort, with Grand Cru champagne which is so difficult to get a hold of if it’s not one of the major cookie cutter producers. That morning I travelled over the bridge to Fronsac and I discovered Chateau Cassagne-Haut-Canon, their wine is a revelation and I should be able to sell it quite easily. It’s a true Bordeaux wine, meant for those who can spend a few hours in discovering what the real pleasure of drinking a real vin de terroir can be like. It must be said, meeting these people on my travels has been one of the major highlights since I started this venture up as they are interesting and your mind feels at ease but working at the same time, stimulating would be a suitable way to describe the sensation.

Bear with me over the next few months, I am enjoying the ride, I hope you are enjoying it too, it’s been an unbelievable adventure so far and I promise the wines coming in will not let you down.