I’ve been working in the wine industry for just over five years, but been interested in Champagne for a lot longer than that, from thimblefuls as a child at any family celebration, to an encounter with Ruinart at University. I currently work at a large independent called Cambridge Wine Merchants where I sell wine to the Cambridge and Oxford University colleges and am also on the buying team. Beyond this, I spent nine weeks in 2018 getting some hands-on winemaking experience at Rustenberg Wines in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and I am also enrolled on the MW study programme. My most memorable moment on the Champagne Academy course in 2015 would be having lunch in Mumm’s Moulin (windmill) á Verzernay with stunning views of the vineyards around but drinking Louis Roederer Cristal there as well. This is a classic example of the unity and collaboration of the 16 houses this one week of the year. My most memorable wines from the course included not only great vintages and prestige cuvées but also new discoveries such as the remarkably good value Folies de la Marquetterie single vineyard wine from Taittinger. I still buy a few bottles of this whenever I see it for sale.
I joined my family’s firm of Fields Wine Merchants in Chelsea in the 1970’s with a view to being a part time temporary back up to my father and brother, but before long both had left, my brother to start up his own firm and then my father due to illness, and I was left running the business full time. A few years later I took a partner, John Owen, at that time the owner of Walton’s Restaurant and one of my customers, and we expanded the business into supplying many of London’s famous hotels and restaurants.
In 1976 I was invited to go on the Champagne Academy and duly arrived in Epernay with 11 other candidates to find that not only was I the only female, but that some of our hosts had not realized that they had a woman on the course for the first time, causing a few humorous logistics. In those days there were just 12 houses participating in the Academy and the course took two weeks, which included a weekend in Paris.
That time on the course was the most magical ever and one that I will never forget. We arrived at Paris airport to be met by André Rouzaud, of Louis Roederer who escorted us in a mini bus to Epernay. The next day started off at 9.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning with an introduction to Champagne by none other than Patrick Forbes of Moët et Chandon. Some of my amazing memories are of eating with gold cutlery at Louis Roederer, sitting next to Prince Guy de Polignac asking if I ever went to Monaco, in which case I should meet up with his cousin, Prince Rainier, not to mention dining with Madame Odette Pol Roger and being tutored in their tasting room by Paul, Remi and Henry Krug. The culmination of the course was being presented with my tie and certificate duly signed by all the houses with Monsieur crossed out and Madame hastily inserted! It is one of my proudest possessions. Some great friendships were made on the course and we still meet up regularly at CA events: Nick James, Mike Noble, Graham Franklin and Guy Boursot.
Retiring from the wine trade due to the long hours and lack of family time, I went to work for Gucci Timepieces as PA to the Chairman, Severin Wunderman and eventually moved to Birmingham where I became the regional representative for the Midlands and with the help of Kevin Skeet organised the annual dinner, a role that he has now taken over completely and with great success.
In 2008 I moved back to London, which coincided with the retirement of Jannet Oram as the CA Administrator and took over the role, a job that I very much enjoy.
Regional Organiser - Scotland
My career in the wine trade started in 1984 when I worked for Victoria Wine in London in the retail side of their operation. Following on from this I moved to Scotland and joined Forth Wines Ltd, a large regional wholesaler, where I worked for 11 years ending up as the buyer. I left Forth Wines in 2002 and for the next 7 years worked for myself, having started a small wholesale business. In 2009 I joined Corney & Barrow where I am now working in private client sales.
I attended the 2000 Champagne Academy course along with several current and past members of the committee. It was a fantastic week of hard work but also great fun and highly educational. I left the course feeling that I was as up-to-speed on Champagne and all its facets as I possibly could be. Surprisingly, considering the quality of the other candidates on my course, I won the Golden Magnum!
I have been organising the Scottish Dinner since 2000.