Thursday, 4 December 2014

20 years at Bancroft... Sean's story.

King of our orders desk Sean Burbridge recently celebrated 20 year's service at Bancroft. Not bad for someone often mistaken for being only 20 years old himself... 

As we venture into Bancroft's own 25th birthday celebrations next year, here Sean tells us a little bit about his time here at Bancroft.

Sean, in a Michael Aspel stylie...
 "This is your 'Bancroft' life"

Bancroft Almuni Piers German, Sara from The French Table, Bancroft's Jason Busby, Sean Burbridge, Sean's first Boss and Bancroft Alumni Hector Scicluna
Do you remember your first day at Bancroft Wines?
The first day at Bancroft.....it was initially called H & H Fine Wines. The office was simply a hired front room in a large Georgian house in the very idyllic Cambridgeshire village of Kimbolton. There was one desk and a couple of wine racks in the middle of a living room. All the stock of unbroken cases was kept at the back of the property in a single garage. Although we did secure our first warehouse very soon after I started.

Initially, there were just the three of us, the two business owners and me. I was first employed as a general helper and delivery driver. I didn’t actually know the job was working for a wine company when I applied and I knew absolutely nothing about wine. In the interview I recall being asked about what style of wine I liked. I vividly remember answering.....“I like sweet styles of rose wine”....which I look back on now, with a serious cringe.

What has changed the most during your time here?
The staff have rotated many times over 20 years and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some great characters and made some lifelong friends. The office has gone from just a single desk in a room to a vast building with many desks and a canteen. The storage has gone from a single garage to a huge warehouse in Tilbury Docks. Initially, we only supplied expensive premium French wines from the traditional regions and the top producers. I think we are now much more commercially focused and the range is far more diverse. Although I would like to think that the service to customers has remained consistent throughout the years and is always and has always been considered a top priority of Bancroft Wines.

Any particularly memorable moments in your career here (to date!):
Memorable moments......top 5....

1.       Meeting the late and great Didier Dagueneau was very memorable. The famous wild man of Pouilly Fume. He had just been with my bosses to a tasting in Harrods and had purchased the largest bright yellow puffer jacket. When I saw him coming up the stairs of the office, I really thought that our warehouse was going to get robbed, not knowing who he was. A huge man, with a huge beard, huge dreadlocks dressed in a huge yellow coat....very scary, until I was introduced to him.
2.       I remember selling our first ever New World Wine agency – Madfish!! What a name? I was NOT impressed with the break from our old school traditions. I think it was the label that shocked me the most.
3.       A trip to our Rioja producer in Spain, a few tapas bars, many large glasses of brandy and a late night drinking session in the hotel lobby can only end one way. Badly. A loss of wallet, keys, phone, train ticket, bank cards, 100 Euros and most importantly, my passport. So, the next day when everybody was touring the winery, I was at the police station getting fingerprinted. They eventually did let me out of Spain and so I had to decline the job offer from Bodegas Lan.
4.       The trip that didn’t happen. I hadn’t been on a buying trip for a while and was invited on a two day whirlwind trip to Croatia and Slovenia. I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, the evening before was very hot and humid and so I couldn’t get to sleep. To catch the plane, I had to leave my house at 3am. Stupidly, to save battery on my new phone, I turned on the flight mode not realizing that this actually disables the communication aspect of the phone and so my taxi was missed. So instead of my trip overseas, I travelled to London to sit at my desk and try to forget that there ever was an invite. I was not best pleased with myself!
5.       My secret 20 year party. I didn’t have a clue. It was very special and took a week for me to get over the shock of it all. I will never forget it.

How has your role changed over the years and what do you most enjoy about it?
Fortunately, I no longer have to drive a white van or deliver wine in London. On the downside, I no longer see the stock or control the movements. My job has been streamlined into a more customer focused role, sat behind a computer with a phone. The sales side of my role has been an organic process, picking up longstanding customers along the way and reigniting the Oxford and Cambridge college tastings, which seem to be a growth area and something that may grow even further, we hope.

How have your tastes in wine changed over the past twenty years?
My taste in wine has changed like my taste in all food and drink. It now leans towards drier styles, subtle flavours and more savoury characteristics, rather than sweet and fruity upfront, “in-your-face” wine.

Of the portfolio today what are your current favourites?
This changes on a regular basis and there are so many great wines on our portfolio, I am spoilt for choice. I always buy white Burgundy from Patrick Javillier and red Burgundy from Joseph Roty and Sylvie Esmonin. A new wine to Bancroft that I love and is very affordable is the Piedmonte red from Isolabella Della Croce. This is a blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo and it is so cheap for the quality – it is a true gem – just do not tell the supplier, the price might go up!

And plans for the next twenty years? ;-)
I have never made plans, I generally just go with the flow. However, I don’t like change, so hopefully nothing will alter too much. I have enjoyed the last 20 years at Bancroft immensely and it now represents over half my life on planet Earth. It is scary how time flies, I must have been having fun!

Thanks Sean!

Surprise Surprise!

Rob Allen, London Sales, Peter De Haan, Chairman, Sara Guinard from The French Table, Sean Burbridge, Hector Scicluna

Bancroft's Managing Director Neil McAndrew and a very surprised Sean

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