We spend 10 minutes chatting to Patrick Sewell, who must have one of the most enviable jobs in the business – that of wine buyer for Bakers & Larners in Holt.
I am a Norfolk boy through and through. When you live on the beautiful North Norfolk coast, why would you want to go anywhere else? When I started at Bakers & Larners way back in 2007, I was fresh out of college and just eager to earn a few pennies. My first role in the company was as a general assistant in our Food Hall. However, the allure of wine started calling to me and I began to gravitate towards the Fine Wine & Spirits department. Initially, I was just trying the odd bottle of wine here and there, as recommended by the team in the department at that time. However, I could feel a passion beginning to flourish, and I requested a transfer to the department. A few years later, I was made sales manager and buyer for all wines and spirits.
Bakers & Larners
I have now been with the company for just over 15 years, and I have loved every second of it. Being an independent, family-run business, it offers more opportunities and freedoms than you would ever get working anywhere else. Every wine, spirit and beer has been hand-chosen, and tasted, by myself and the team in order to offer the absolute best quality products around.
The greatest thing about wine is the sheer scale of variety. We stock around 800 wines in total, but this barely scratches the surface of what is available. There is always a new, exciting wine, winery, or grape variety waiting to be discovered. I constantly tweak and update our wine collection to reflect this and to keep things nice and fresh.
I love sharing my passion for wine and passing on my knowledge to as many customers as possible! Whether it’s pairing a wine with a special meal, champagnes for a party, or just a bottle to sip in front of the TV, I am always happy to assist.
We have an eight-bottle Enomatic machine in store that we can use for sampling. This is such a great tool as it allows a menu of eight different wines to be sampling at any one time. This means that the wines are updated regularly, so there will always be something new for customers to try! One of my goals in my work is to persuade people that by spending just a little more in a bottle than you perhaps usually would in a supermarket etc., you can get something really special. The best feeling is when customers, having really enjoyed a bottle I recommended to them, come back and buy a case!
Our special wine events with dinner have always been incredibly popular, and it has been really exciting to have been able to hold these special evenings once again. We tend to bring over the winemaker or vineyard owner – they could be as local as Norfolk or as far-flung as Australia! They come to the event to talk about and showcase a selection of their best wines – and these wines are paired with a three or four-course dinner prepared by our resident chef Andrew Baker. Most recently, we have had John Hemmant from Chet Valley Vineyards, made here in Norfolk, along to host an evening.
I love wine in all its many forms, red, white, and rosé. However, if I had to pick, I would say that I am a big fan of big, bold reds. My preference would be the wines from South Africa, where you can find amazing quality from long established wineries at very reasonable prices. A favourite of mine would be the Meerlust Estate Red. This is a fabulous Bordeaux-style blend from Stellenbosch, bursting with red and black fruits with a lick of leather and tobacco. At £13.99, I think it’s a bit of a steal!
For those looking to build their own cellar, one thing I would say is to store your precious bottles in the correct conditions. Wine is quite picky in the way it likes to be stored. Not too hot, not too cold, and it must also be at a relatively constant temperature. A little humidity helps keep corks from drying out. Wine doesn’t like too much light either. There’s a reason why cool, damp, dark cellars are the best place to keep wine!
Also, another piece of advice I would give to anyone looking to build their wine collection is to broaden their horizons beyond the ‘classic’ fine wine regions. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Rioja etc., but building a cellar full of these will get very, very expensive. There are plenty of amazing, age-worthy wines produced in lesser-known regions that are a fraction of the cost.
- For more information about Bakers & Larners, including their events, visit www.bakersandlarners.co.uk or follow them on Instagram @bakersandlarnersholt
- Events for October onwards will be announced very soon.