Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Enthusiasm for Liquid Gold

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Enthusiasm for Liquid Gold

Article excerpt

Byline: By Helen Savage

I thought my interview with Michael Jobling had come to an end when we'd chatted about his wine business for an hour.

But then he shot off to find yet another bottle ( his latest find ( a very good dry white 2004 from Navarra, a blend of the local Viura with Chardonnay by Bodegas Vega Sindoa, and a bargain at pounds 5.40. Michael exudes enthusiasm ( an admirable quality in most people, but priceless in a wine merchant. According to his niece Victoria Jackson, with each new wine discovery: "He's a bit like a child in a sweetie shop."

He began his business in 1988. For years friends and acquaintances had asked his advice about wine and he'd helped by supplying bottles for weddings and special occasions. A friend suggested he turned his passion into a full-time occupation.

Michael admits: "I pooh-poohed the idea at first, but my pal offered me a desk in his office and the help of a YTS girl. We sat down and thought of all the people we knew. I made up a wine list and sent it out. That was our business plan. It grew like topsy."

When the friend went off to Cuba, Michael decided to work from his home near Ponteland in Northumberland. "My office is the van and my mobile phone."

He sells to private customers, but over the years the business has also gathered an impressive number of restaurant and corporate customers. About this time, he enlisted Victoria's help. He'd already introduced her, at a very early age, to the delights of port. In exchange she helped him to construct a website.

Victoria is married to a Durham-based farmer and has three children aged 10, eight and six, but over the last few years she too has worked full time in the business and shares her uncle's enthusiasm. They make for a highly engaging and knowledgeable double act.

Unlike many small merchants, Michael and Victoria don't just rely on middle-men to make up their list. If they like a wine they'll import it directly and have built up close friendships with some of their suppliers, including the highly impressive Domaine Saladin in the ArdAche ( itself a family property for 20 generations, now run by the two dynamic sisters, who were first sent by their father to gain experience of winemaking with some of the stars of France (Marcel Guigal), California (Randall Graham), Argentina and Chile. …

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