For Gavin Quinney the vote to leave the EU has had some direct, head scratching ramifications. As an English winemaker in Bordeaux he is having to live up to a post Brexit future where the majority of his Chateau Bauduc wines currently supply the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Rick Stein and Hotel du Vin, but also a large database of private British customers. But with a record harvest safely maturing away and his beloved Chelsea top of the league there is plenty to look forward to in 2017. He also shares his festive plans with The Buyer and will be looking forward to another Chelsea home win to see in the new year.
Gavin Quinney is enjoying a quiet family Christmas and New Year in Malvern and taking a well deserved break from his Château Bauduc winery in Bordeaux.
How do you look back on 2016 for your business?
Brexit means basket and it made us realise that we have a lot of eggs in the same one. A fair chunk of our wine goes to the UK. Most of it is delivered duty-paid to customers’ homes or to restaurants (we deliver through London City Bond) and hopefully the logistical and admin side of the UK putting two fingers up to the EU won’t be a right pain post-Brexit. But it’s an expensive business as it is, and I’m not convinced that Brits will think “oh well, we’ll just have to spend more per bottle”.
The exchange rate from June onwards hasn’t helped. “Did you hedge?” asked our importer in Northern Ireland. “Yes, we trimmed the vines as usual.” “I meant euros for sterling.” We need to be smarter in all aspects, and not just grow vines, ferment the juice, bottle it and sell it.
Brexit will probably signal the end of Brits being able to buy in France, avoiding the excessive UK duty on wine, and drive home with a boot-full from our Calais depot or from the chateau. (The ’non-EU’ max you can bring into the UK is a whopping 4 litres.) That’s a fun side of the business and a real win-win, especially for weddings, so it’ll be a shame when it dries up.
What have been the biggest highlights of 2016?
The 2016 vintage. Not being funny – ’vintage of the century’ and all that – but it’s the first time we’ve hit the maximum yield that we’re allowed to make and the quality’s there too. The significant volumes made in Bordeaux in 2016 are, of course, in stark contrast to less fortunate parts of France.
We also made a decent profit at the vineyard in our financial year to the end of October, which is unusual for us and most welcome. Crack open the Cremant!
It’s down to loyal customers, a new website that works (phew), being arsed to email customers reasonably consistently, not selling wine too cheaply, the value of sterling earlier on and keeping costs down. It’s also down to reasonable yields in 2014 and 2015 and no hailstorms (as in 2009 and 2013) and no frost (2008).
And the biggest challenges?
Keeping the spirits up after the EU referendum and not letting our disappointment show too much in the aforementioned emails. Failed on both counts, I’m afraid, but – by accident more than design – I’ve built some strong bonds with like-minded souls via various private networks on social media. Incidentally, these ’hidden’ groups are becoming quite a thing across many social media platforms. They’re fun to be a part of. Facebook and WhatsApp, sure, but who knew that it’s a great feature of Twitter?
Launching a new e-commerce website in March was a big step, as anyone in that space would understand. I was also a bit concerned with the vines having just a tenth of the normal rainfall for 12 weeks from 23 June. But it turned out fine and God knows where all the juice came from.
What will be your key goals for first six months of 2017?
To write the book I’ve been meaning to write for a while. It’s a collection of memoirs and mantras. The next harvest will be our 19th, so the book really needs to be published in time for next Christmas; friends can buy it then, and soon after they can follow our 20th.
At the same time, it won’t be business as usual because we’ve made 50% more white wine than normal, and we’re bottling it all in February. So we’ll be releasing it just in time for sterling to hit the floor when Theresa May places the chip marked Article 50 on the roulette table. We need a plan.
And I need to get off my butt and sign the family up as French citizens. We’re putting our four children through state education in France so they deserve some reward for being brainwashed into thinking that Napoleon was the good guy, and keeping their roaming rights as EU citizens is right up the list.
What did you do for Christmas?
We usually stay at home in France two years out of three, but this year we’re staying with my sister and family near the Malvern hills. My mum’s 83 and has a new hip and knee, so it’s tricky for her to travel. (The hills are a different challenge.) I should point out that Chelsea playing two home games over Christmas (neither of which are live on TV) has nothing to do with our decision to spend Christmas in England.
What did you eat on Christmas Day?
Turkey and ham, and all that. I’m a big fan of Nigella’s turkey brining technique – really, it’s easy to do and a must – but I’m painfully aware of what it’s like to have guests come and dictate how the host should cook things. But enough about my Leave-voting stepmother-in-law.
Did you have anything special to drink?
We shipped in a pile of Bauduc homebrew – we’ve got a terrific Cremant, two top dry whites, a biggish lush 2012 red and a 2011 Sauternes. It would be rude not to. But we also took – my wife drove while I slummed it on the plane – some top value Bordeaux that you don’t mind sharing around in some quantity (my sister has four twentysomething sons). Chateau Moulin Riche 2005 – made at Leoville Poyferré in St-Julien – fitted the bill. And I took some St-Joseph 2015 for sheer gluggability and Syrah value.
Any favourite Christmas and festive films?
’Planes, Trains and Automobiles’, ‘Love Actually’, ’It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ‘The Godfather part II’.
Any guilty pleasures over the festive period?
If money no option what would be your ideal Christmas?
I have fond memories of smoked salmon and Champagne on the beach near Cape Town on Christmas Day, and a wonderful family holiday in and around the vineyards of Constantia and Stellenbosch thereafter. That should be repeated at some point but there are six of us, so driving to Worcestershire, or staying put, is quite a bit cheaper.
What would you be drinking?
I’d probably stick to local stuff. But if money really is no object, I’d love another 1947 Cheval Blanc, 1964 Petrus, 1989 Haut Brion and 2001 Le Pin. As long as they’re the real thing.