Wine consultant Douglas Blyde’s first job for his first big client seven years ago was to share a private jet to Perugia with Liz Hurley. âThat set the tone for the rest of the week,â he told me over lunch at Vinoteca in King’s Cross.
The client was – and still is – Evgeny Lebedev, the son of a KGB agent, an English-trained media owner whose homes include the early 18th-century Stud House in Hampton Court Park outside London and a pair of large neighboring properties in Umbria. Blyde was at the famous Lebedev 2018 party in Umbria in the presence of Boris Johnson. His comment ? “Tony Blair is a nice guest, not bombastic.”
Blyde was born in the same year as Lebedev, the unpromising 1980 vintage, and still looks like a serious schoolboy. By 14, he had built a full-service bar in his Cambridgeshire room. It’s still there. He then worked in a local vineyard, in Majestic and then in Vinopolis, the short-lived wine tourism destination near London Bridge, accumulating knowledge as he went.
You don’t necessarily need endless wine knowledge to be a wine advisor or consultant, you just need good contacts and a little more expertise than your potential customers. But master sommelier Vincent Gasnier, another UK-based wine consultant to well-known people, has a lot of knowledge. It also has the benefits of a strong French accent and a ready smile.
Gasnier grew up in the Loire Valley and got his big chance working for the late GÃ©rard Basset at the first HÃ´tel du Vin in Winchester. Meeting at the new Aldwych Soho House, Gasnier describes Basset as âthe grandpaâ of the international sommelier community. When Gasnier joined his team in 1996, Basset was training for the Best Sommelier of Europe competition through a grueling blind tasting program. Gasnier helped him and he is proud to have advised the gentle Basset to be more outgoing in his presentation – a fact that Basset notes in his self-help memoirs. Victory tasting. The training was of such quality and so intense that Gasnier became the youngest master sommelier in history the following year. In 2010, on his sixth attempt, Basset became the Best Sommelier of the World.
Gasnier, vintage 1974, another bad year, was recruited to Soho House by founder Nick Jones in 2001. His big breakthrough in wine consulting had come the year before when football manager Graeme Souness, a regular at the HÃ´tel du Vin, had offered to finance Vincent Gasnier Wine. Advice and gave him a series of useful contacts. Gasnier’s website has testimonials from Souness, fellow former footballers Alan Shearer and Jamie Redknapp, and presenter Kirsty Young (who is married to Nick Jones).
âGraeme has opened so many doors,â says Gasnier. “My passion for wine was so intense at first that I forgot to make any money.” The demands of the ever-expanding Soho House group became so great that it narrowed its client list to the most rewarding. âSoho House is my bread and butter. Private customers are the pleasure. When we met last month, he had just returned from an extended evening of stars (wines and attendees) in Monaco. (The blocks don’t seem to affect billionaires, their guests, or their staff.)
According to Gasnier, âthe problem with private clients is that they are poorly advised and they trust the wrong people. Then, they stock up on bad vintages. Or forget about their wine. Or drink bad vintages first. Tut tut.
He likes to find his customers a wine they can’t find anywhere else, which earns him a profit margin of around 30%. He sees the Wine-Searcher price comparison as âa bit of an enemy, that’s why I don’t tell anyoneâ. But it also provides a full service, by having the wine delivered, by storing it in its customers’ cellars, and by ensuring that their computerized cellar file is updated. âThey send me their menus and I can match them to what they have in their cellar. It all makes them feel like they’re on a ped-ay-stoolHe says with his seductive French accent.
I have the impression that Gasnier’s clients tend to look to the big names, while Blyde tries to steer his own to new horizons. âEven with Lebedev,â he said. “I am proud to have taken him from St-Julien [a particularly solid red bordeaux choice] in a situation where he was delighted that we were serving Kit’s Coty English wine and several different South African chenins and Canadian chardonnays. As we parted, he narrowed his eyes at a text from Lebedev asking for Glenelly Lady May, a red cape made by the ex-owner of Ch Pichon Lalande in Bordeaux.
Apparently, Blyde’s customers aren’t interested in buying wine first which will not be delivered for a few years. “They want wines that they can immediately put in their temperature-controlled cellars so they can see what they have.” He has his fingers in many pies, including a wide range of spirits and specialty coffees. Its services may include finding florists and pianists for important receptions.
In the United States, Jesse Katz of Aperture Cellars in Sonoma is the go-to winemaker if you’re famous and want your own wine. A bottle of the blend he prepared for Hollywood agent Shep Gordon fetched the highest price ever for 75 cl of wine: $ 350,000, at a charity auction hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse in 2017. His first custom vintage was for the 2012 wedding of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, who he reports were extremely interested in what was going on. He got the commission because he grew up in Colorado and was a ski buddy of Jessica’s brother, also called Justin.
This sparked interest from TMZ and People magazine, which led to commissions from Ellen DeGeneres, Von Miller of the Denver Broncos and skateboarder Tony Hawk. Katz recently told me that auction sales of these wines raised a total of $ 1.4 million for charity.
Thus, meeting the demands of celebrities when it comes to wine has its benevolent side.
Record prices for wines
These are the prices of regular commercial auctions rather than charity auctions.
The most expensive 75cl bottle of wine
Domaine de la RomanÃ©e-Conti 1945 RomanÃ©e-Conti Grand Cru Bourgogne sold to a private Asian collector for $ 558,000 including the purchase premium at Sotheby’s in New York on October 13, 2018.
Ch Lafitte (sic) 1787 Pauillac held this record for many years, having been sold to the late Christopher Forbes for Â£ 105,000 at Christie’s, London on December 5, 1985. The record outlasted the wine itself then. that the cork shriveled and fell out when the bottle was exposed under strong lights.
Most expensive Imperial (6 liter bottle) in Bordeaux
Ch Cheval Blanc 1947 St-Ãmilion, Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux sold to a private collector for SFr 298,500 at Christie’s, Geneva on November 16, 2010.
Most expensive Methuselah (6 liter bottle) in Burgundy
Domaine de la RomanÃ©e-Conti 2005 RomanÃ©e-Conti Grand Cru sold to “an Asian private collector” for $ 297,600 at Sotheby’s, New York on June 19, 2020.
Most expensive private wine collection
The âTrans-cend-ent Winesâ collection belonging to âa man in his forties in real estate / financeâ sold for a total of US $ 30 million at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong on 29 , March 30 and 31, 2019.
Although whiskey has now overtaken wine. . .
A bottle of The Macallan 1926, cask 263 sold for Â£ 1.5million at Sotheby’s, London on October 24, 2019.
A 55-year-old bottle of Japanese Yamazaki whiskey sold for HK $ 6.2 million in Bonhams, Hong Kong on August 21, 2020.
Tasting notes on the purple pages of JancisRobinson.com. More resellers of Wine-searcher.com
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