Ted Sandbach is certainly one of the more colourful characters in the wine trade. He is also one of the most successful and dynamic with his ever growing Oxford Wine Company merchants and wholesaler business. So what does he get up to in an average week?
The always entertaining and dynamic Ted Sandbach shares the ins and outs of his average week and what he wants from the perfect wine trip.
Describe your average week.
That’s the great thing about this business – nothing is ever too predictable. Basically I tend to do an hour or two at our head office and then call round the wine cafés and retail shops. I am also working on a few potential projects and seem to have endless meetings – mostly with accountants! Very dull.
What was the highlight of your last working week?
Doing a great blind tasting with some stalwart customers in the Oxford Wine Café (Summertown branch). It is a regular occurrence and sharpens our skills, all in the name of work. Sometimes good, sometimes awful.
And the lowlight of your last working week?
The frustration of a new wine arriving from Italy which was seriously flawed. Just a complete hassle to get the money back – and the duty etc. It tasted great a few months ago but I have had it analysed which proves my case.
What is the best part of your job?
Meeting interesting people and discovering good new wines which we can sell at decent margins. Travelling under civilised conditions (not squeezing in six visits in a day). A memorable trip to Bordeaux combined with watching Exeter Chiefs v Bordeaux Begles comes to mind. Wonderful food, company and balance. When will other’s learn!?
What is the thing about our job you would like to improve?
The co-ordination of staff summer holidays – however hard we try we always seem to end up with an empty office at some point over the summer.
How has 2016 been for you and your business?
Brilliant – best year ever for the wine business and the wine cafés (separate business ) going really well too! We have made some bold decisions and are well set for the next few years if we can avoid another recession.
What are the key trends impacting your business?
The current trend is a move away from traditional grape varieties. So we have to be proactive in fulfilling customers needs whilst being realistic about what they would actually buy.
The favourite restaurant you have eaten this year and why?
Very few decent restaurants in Oxford so I have to plump for the Ledbury – it is very special. However, I generally love the more casual relaxed atmosphere of a good pub or tapas bar and there are quite a few around our neck of the woods
Favourite bottle of wine you have had in the last month? Why and where did you drink it?
Good wine is often about the people you drink it with and the occasion. I generally prefer European wines but the Rudi Schultz Syrah from South Africa is drinking beautifully at the moment. Some great wines from the Languedoc too which tasted wonderful when eating on deck as we gently pottered down the Canal du Midi with six friends. Oh yes, we have a lovely new Grillo from Sicily too.
Favourite cocktail you have had this year? Why and where did you drink it?
We only sell wine cocktails in The Oxford Wine Café, so I will go for the white port and tonic which reminds me of the Douro Valley.
If you could pick three people for a classic dinner party from the trade who would they be?
Well, it would have to be two girls and one other guy surely. No point inviting anyone with a different mindset so let’s leave out the supermarket buyers and any shiny suited sales reps pedalling crap. Oz Clarke, because I like his refreshing and un-pompous approach to wine and I am sure he would regale us with endless stories. Kate Goodman from Reserve Wines in Manchester for company, glamour and a chance to redeem ourselves after performing badly at a recent blind tasting exercise we set up!
Sophia Berquist from Quinta de la Rosa – a lovely family vineyard. She would bring a sense of fun, reality and practicality to any wine discussions – just in case we brought up the subject!
Best job you have had in your career? Why did you leave (or you may be still in it)?
It has to be the wine trade, although I was a teacher at Magdalen College School, Oxford for eight years – so I leapt from one badly paid profession to another!
Best film /book that includes wine/drink?
I suppose “Sideways” was fun (only watch it once) and promoted Pinot Noir which has to be good and it send out some other interesting messages. I must watch that film about the Judgement of Paris.
Where are you going on summer holidays? What are you drinking?
We go to our cottage in South Devon (when it’s not rented ) but somehow we are going to Provence twice – which is most unusual as we normally stay in the UK during our summer and head off to the Caribbean when it gets cold!
As for what I will be drinking? Otter Ale in Devon, pink in Provence and Admiral Rodney in St Lucia. Very easy and simple.