Paul Bowker got into wine by mistake after taking a job in Paris on his gap year driving a van for wine legend Steven Spurrier. ‘All I ever wanted to do was be a banker,’ he says. ’Steven made me decide I wanted to be a wine merchant. He lit a fire.’ Bowker went on to become head of the wine department at Christie’s before joining Wilkinson Vintners as partner and director in 1997. Wilkinson Vintners deals predominantly in Bordeaux, as well as burgundy, Rhône, champagne and vintage port. They concentrate on sourcing ‘the right wine at the right price’ from private sellers and at auction, with the aim of always having the wines people are looking for in stock — which currently amounts to between £8-10 million worth. A highlight of 2017 was buying a private collection worth £1.5 million from one private seller. ‘We have two challenges: selling the wine and maintaining our stock levels, so when someone suddenly comes along with several hundred cases of really top quality wine worth that amount of money, it makes life a lot easier.’ By far the most memorable bottle he’s had this year is a magnum of Chateau Haut Brion 1989, ‘an absolutely monumental wine,’ he says. ‘Sensationally good from the day it was made, it’s got years and years of life in it. It’s complex, opulent and rich and will get better and better.’ Otherwise, he recommends Bordeaux from 2005, 2009 and 2010, which are sensational and beginning to look undervalued.
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