• Rob Seddon: from BBC reality TV to wine with Jackson & Seddon

    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.

    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.

    mm By March 8, 2019

    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.

    Tell us about what you want to achieve with Jackson & Seddon? 
    My dad was in the military, in hospitality so I have been around the food and beverage industry my whole life.  Then about 16 years ago I stood in a winery in Pemberton Western Australia, and the farmer told me that he bought ladybirds from the internet to control the greenflies – I was fascinated!  From that moment in my life I have loved the process of how wine is made and all the little elements that go into making wine, especially organic wine.
    Basically, we are a UK based importer of artisan, organic wine from small independent producers in Italy.  We choose to work with sustainable, boutique winemakers, because we find they put a great deal more love and passion into their work, which creates a more carefully crafted wines.  These are really hard working people, that live in tune with the seasons, and pour their heart and soul into producing the perfect, artisan bottle of organic wine. The rural farmers we work with produce less than 70,000 bottles of wine a year, which in contrast to the larger producers that sell in the region of 35 million a year, makes the wines we source extremely exclusive!


    How did you come up with the idea?

    It was whilst on the BBC show “Second Chance Summer: Tuscany” that Rob Seddon had the idea to start his own Italian wine importing and online business
    It was whilst on the BBC show “Second Chance Summer: Tuscany” that Rob Seddon had the idea to start his own Italian wine importing and online retail business

    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.

    When I go to events in rural Italy, I have a friend that comes with me as my Italian is average, and so sometimes I miss words after a long day of tasting.  By now we have our patter down when we go to events: “Are you organic? How many bottles a year do you produce? Do you already export to the UK? What’s the price point of your wines?”  That gives us everything basic we need information wise, and then it’s all about the tasting. Oh, and at the moment I also like to throw in: “Do you have anything that’s NOT Sangiovese?”

    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.

    Seek and you shall find i the motto that Rob Seddon has brought to Jackson Seddon
    Seek and you shall find is the motto that Rob Seddon has brought to Jackson & Seddon

     

    Explain the club idea?

    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?

    The goal is to grow the wholesale element of the business, as well as attend more events, which I like, as that’s where I get to meet our customers face-to-face and see their reaction to the wines!  Everyone seems to love our selection and appreciate that these wines have a story. Plus they are all artisan and organic, so we know they will fit perfectly on any gastro menu or top retail outlet’s list, as we start to grow into the wholesale market.
    Jackson & Seddon specialise in finding small, independent, passionate winemakers making quality organic wines
    Jackson & Seddon specialise in finding small, independent, passionate winemakers making quality organic wines

     

    How has the Italian harvest been over the last couple of years in terms of the wines you have been able to source? 
    2017 was a hard, hard vintage in Italy. Not only was there a very late frost that hit the north pretty hard, there was also a heat wave, (that the locals called Lucifero) which turned a lot of the Tuscan grapes into raisins.  All of the producers I spoke to said: “Half! This year we will produce exactly half… but the quality is very, very good”!  As for 2018, it was a good year.
    Tell us about being on the BBC programme? How were you chosen and what did you learn from it.

    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!

     

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