Born in Cork, Ireland, Patrick O’Connor had very little exposure to fine wine growing up. Then as a teenager he did his first harvest and hasn’t looked back since. ‘Wine is a wonderful career,’ he says. He has since made his way up from the sales department at Fine and Rare where he started in 2009, to commercial director, to finally becoming one of the youngest CEOs in the wine industry this year at the age of just 40.
Fine and Rare have a network of agents, reservists, traders, private clients and industry relationships, and access to over 75,000 fine wines globally. ‘This gives collectors incredible access,’ he explains. ’It’s our job to make sure they can search, while we curate to offer them the wines they’re looking for.’
They look after a broad range of HNWs, from novices to connoisseurs, and since they hold no stock, they are able to offer advice which is completely impartial. With a 20-strong accounts team looking after HNWs based all over the world, the average order they receive comes to four figures, while the average bottle of wine traded is £90, compared to the national average which is £6.50.
O’Connor’s main interest is Bordeaux, and the fast-paced weeks of en primeur are his favourite part of the year. ‘I like the balance, structure, its ability to deal with food better than any other wine and I like the flavours, the pluminess, the tannins. I like it when it’s young and when it matures,’ he says. He is also passionate about Chateau Rayas, a lesser known wine from the Northern Rhone region. It is rare, delicious and very good value. ‘It blows me away. When I’m not trying to sell it, I’m buying it for myself.’ Of the Italians, he likes Brunello and Barolo especially, and he loves Californian wine too, which makes up around ten per cent of the sales at FINE + RARE.
The peak of his love affairs with wine came early on in his career when sharing a bottle of 1940 Cheval Blanc and a toasted truffle sandwich at Maison Rostang in Paris. ‘Everyone closed their eyes but I kept mine open to see men crunching into these truffle sandwiches, raising this incredible wine to their lips, and I thought: ‘All these men have flown to Paris just to taste this bottle. This is pretty special.’