On the face of it hanging around race courses offering punters tips on that day’s racing is not your average employment in the wine trade. But for Neil Phillips, better known to many as The Wine Tipster, the business of mixing horses, wine, food and a flutter or two is serious business.
Neil Phillips really is a one man band who can be wearing a different hat every day of the week. Be it Champagne and sparkling expert, wine presenter, horse racing tipster and broadcaster, UK ambassador for San Pellegrino, or Nespresso coffee Sommelier. But his real love is the horses and his role as the UK’s one and only Wine Tipster.
What would be your average week?
Or I could be presenting at one of the Foodies Festivals for clients like the Prosecco DOC, Gonzalez Byass or the WSET. Food festivals are a great barometer of where punters are with wine education and grape varieties. For example you can talk and taste Gewurztraminer.
I also write my weekly On The Box column for Racing Plus with my winning selections for Saturday’s racing. You need an analytical mind to be a tipster.
Having a 1-2-1 with our assistant Judi Parker, who keeps the backroom going.
(Here’s Neil in action chatting about Nyetimber at Glorious Goodwood recently).
What was the highlight of your last working week?
Mc’ing Alyn Williams from The Westbury at the final S.Pellegrino Live in Italian Banquet at Harvey Nichols of our S.Pellegrino month. Fabulous dishes including ‘Vitello Tonnato’ Summer Truffle, Tarragon and Sweet Corn.
And the lowlight of your last working week?
Eating a pollack’s eye at the Dorset Seafood Festival as the MC. Not a taste to savour…
What is the best part of your job?
Two points: Doing what I do presenting on wine, food and racing and working with great people, teams and audiences across the UK and in Europe. A cliche, yes, but the teamwork makes it all happen.
Judging on service and presenting for the WSET at the Nestlé Toque d’Or Competition as you watch young chefs and service teams work together. You can’t avoid being involved emotionally as you watch the future. Mc’ing the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Competition brings out the same emotions too.
What is the one thing about your job you would like to improve?
Efficient communication on the move as there have been too many occasions in 2016 where emails have disappeared in to black holes, phone signals have failed and getting efficient wifi in hotels has been far too time consuming. I have a plan…
How has 2016 been for you and your business?
Great! A terrific year which kicked off as it meant to go on in January and February with some new projects with existing clients that moved everything smoothly in to the horse racing and food festival season.
What are the key trends that are impacting your business?
Ninety per cent of my clients are in Europe and we have all agreed that we push on (post Brexit) as simple moaning and huddling in groups won’t solve anything. Teamwork plays its card once again. Very positively the international and global element of horse racing will only continue to grow and this will have an increasing impact on my diary as will the broadcasting piece.
What is the favourite restaurant you have eaten this year and why?
Oaks and Derby Day at Epsom where we had three generations of the Roux family in one kitchen with Albert Roux, Michel Roux Jr and his very talented daughter Emily.
What has been your favourite bottle of wine you have had in the last month? Why and where did you drink it?
Having a glass of Ruggeri Prosecco Brut DOC in Treviso on a Sunday evening in that wonderful city. Ruggeri make some lovely wines and Treviso is a lovely city. I’m still amazed how few UK travellers have been to Treviso.
What has been your favourite cocktail you have had this year? Why and where did you drink it?
Pisco sour in Ceviche, Old Street, which I went to for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I love good Pisco sour and Ceviche was packed on a Wednesday evening. Good food too.
If you could pick three people for a classic dinner party from the trade who would they be?
Tom Stevenson for bubbles chat and the odd bottle or two; Theo Randall for the food, humour and passion, with Laura Jewell MW for conversation, opinions and as someone who gets my warped sense of humour.
What is the best job you have had in your career?
Being The Wine Tipster started in 2009 and I am still very much in it. I love my job, the quality clients and people I work with. The opportunity to have determined your direction and continue on that path is an important piece.
Presenting at the key race meetings as The Wine Tipster throughout the year on racing, food and wine is a great thrill and I love my job.
The best film or book that includes wine or drink?
Sideways the film and also the play which was at London’s St James’ Theatre recently.
Where are you going on summer holidays and what will you be drinking?
Off to Cornwall to enjoy the stunning North Coast and a few nights in Truro. We’ll be enjoying some Camel Valley Brut and some Tintagel Ale at the Cobweb Inn in Boscastle. I will also be clearing their dance floor with my obscure 80’s requests.