The first thing that strikes you about Jackson & Seddon is what a great name it is. Like a forgotten 1970’s TV detective partnership. If it was then it would bound to win the hearts of millions of viewers as it would be all about how Rob Seddon and his dog Jackson go about catching criminals. Only in real life it is how they travel to the deepest parts of Italy in search of independent, artisan winemakers they can work with for their slowly growing UK importers business. Richard Siddle wanted to find out more.
Rob Seddon has a rather more unusual route into wine – via appearing on a BBC reality TV show all about a group of strangers trying to make ends meet on a rural farm in Tuscany. But it first introduced him to winemaking and the beauty of wines from off the beaten track. Which is what Jackson & Seddon is all about.
How did you come up with the idea?
While in Italy as a cast member for the BBC show “Second Chance Summer: Tuscany”, I connected with a couple of small wine producers who have become really good friends. Their wines were incredible and I was really surprised that they didn’t import to the UK, but when your neighbours are Banfi and Montalcino, who looks for the little guys?
How do you find the producers you work with?
At first, it was a lot of research, word of mouth and the odd wine fair. I went to VinItaly in 2017 and realised that was not the sort of place to go to meet small producers, even in the bio section. So I started going to the smaller events that the producers would invite me along to, and that’s where I found a lot of wonderful producers. Making the effort to go to the small events is really important to the small farmers, as they can’t afford to go to the big events. So seeing that I make the effort to visit them at the smaller events and on their farms, goes a long way in building a strong relationship.
What criteria do you use to choose a producer?
The number one criteria for me when choosing a producer to work with, is that they are small and hands on. Farmers that work on the land with the workers, come rain or shine, and that pour everything into their passion, I feel that shows in the wine. This fuels my fire and makes me even more passionate about what I do.
What different ways do you have for consumers to buy wines from you?
We have a wine club subscription service at the moment, as well as the option to tailor-make a box to a customer’s requirements. Shortly, we will have a full online shop on the website. We have been attending a few events which have been very successful, especially when Jackson can come along (he always draws a crowd, being a Z list celeb like me). Then there is the wholesale element which we have just started to dip our toe into. So far the response has been fantastic! Restaurants and wine shops seem excited about the exclusivity and story behind these wines, not to mention that organic products are in hot demand these days.
The idea of the wine club is to give people the opportunity to try wines they would never normally try, mostly because they can only get the wines through us… or on the ground in Italy! It also gives them the opportunity to try new varieties like Ciliegiolo or Sciascinoso, which have been a joy for me to discover and share.
What is your average bottle/case spend?
The average case for us is £50 (that’s the cost of our monthly subscription)… which includes delivery.
What are your targets for the next 12 months?
I was running a 5* hotel in the highlands and my girlfriend and I had just split up, so I was sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself and drinking a bottle of Neil Ellis Shiraz (I remember the exact wine). I happened to see an advert on Facebook saying: “Are you aged 35 – 55, have you always dreamt of living overseas, have you always wanted to run your own business?”. So I filled out the questions, added some info about me, and the next day I got a call from a casting director for the BBC.
We talked and Skyped and from there it was a long process of calls and questions from TV producers. I took part because I wanted to change my life. I had lost both my parents recently and I was single, so I figured if I didn’t take the chance, I might regret it for the rest of my life. Managing the grape harvest in Tuscany was a real eye opener! It made me see just how much work and effort goes into making artisan wines. Hand harvesting the grapes and following their journey through to completion was fascinating. I learned that I can do anything I want, when I put my mind to it … and that I never want to be on another TV show again as long as I live!