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Interview – Bartholomew Broadbent of Broadbent Selections Part 1

“Wine is not only for special occasions but should be enjoyed everyday for health and happiness. It is as much a part of the meal as any other food, but it is the most important part, and can greatly enhance any meal from the simple to the spectacular. Whatever the price, the wine you drink should be of the highest possible quality. I refuse to sell overpriced wines. Our most expensive wines offer great value, but all of our wines offer fantastic quality for their price. Wine is food for your brain.” – Bartholomew Broadbent

My interview today is with Bartholomew Broadbent. Some of you may recognize the name, recalling his famous father Michael Broadbent author of Vintage Wine and long time resident of Christie’s auction house. Known in America as one of the foremost Port and Madeira wine experts, Bartholomew started his own company [Broadbent Selections->http://www.broadbent-wines.com] in 1996. Reading from his bio I love the story about his decision to use the family name for his company. Michael was unsure if Bartholomew should be using it as his company name. An excerpt explains the resolution of this problem:

…when I started Broadbent Port, he(Michael Broadbent) said to my mother, “but that’s my name!” Luckily, my mother dispelled any possible tension by saying, “yes, but it’s his name too.”

For the past 10 years Batholomew’s company Broadbent Selections has been a name equated with quality. Here is a short run down of Bartholomews background in the wine world taken from his website:

…Bartholomew is also one of the world’s foremost authorities on Port and Madeira. He is credited for being responsible for the growth of Port consumption in North America during the 1980′s and was responsible for the re-introduction of Madeira to America in 1989, instrumental in its growth since then…Bartholomew Broadbent’s company, Broadbent Selections, Inc., founded in 1996, is the exclusive US national importer for 18 of the worlds most sought after family wineries…
…He also produces his own Broadbent Port and Madeira in Portugal. See www.broadbent-wines.com for more information….
…Raised in the English wine trade in a formal apprenticeship to his famous father, Michael Broadbent MW (Director of Christie’s and prolific wine author), Bartholomew has also worked in London for Harrod’s (Wine Department), Harvey’s Fine Wine Merchants in Pall Mall and Christie’s. He worked in Australia for Rothbury Estate and for Yalumba Winery. In France, he worked in Cognac for Hennessy and in Paris for L’Academie du Vin. He moved to Montreal to work for Schenley Canada Inc, later moving to Toronto as their Wine Consultant, also responsible for their fine wine sales in Ottawa….

The following are some of the highlights of his career!

* Named in Decanter Magazine as one of the “fifty most influential people in the wine world – the faces to watch in the new millennium.”
* On the Advisory Committee of the Metropolitan College of New York (Wine and Spirits MBA)
* Broadbent Selections, Inc. was named by Entrepreneur Magazine and Dun & Bradstreet as one of the 100 fastest growing companies in 1998
* Nominated as Small Business Person of the Year by the SBA in 1998
* Radio KFOG’s “wine guy”
* On the Advisory Board of Travent (www.finewinetravel.com)
* Director of the Reserve Tastings and Speaker for Food and Wine Magazine’s Classic in Aspen (every year since 1986)
* Lecturer and Member of the Society of Wine Educators
* Past Director of Steven Spurrier’s L’Academie du Vin
* Judge in the 1986 repeat of Steven Spurrier’s legendary 1976 Napa versus Bordeaux tasting
* Founder of L’Academie du Vin in Toronto
* Liveryman, The Worshipful Company of Distillers (London)
* Awarded the Freedom of the City of London
* Cavaleiro; Confraria do Vinho do Porto (1989)
* Commandeur d’Honneur; Commanderie de Bontemps de Medoc et des Graves (1988)
* Chevalier; Confrerie des Chevaliers du Trou Normand (1983)
* Chevalier; Ordre Illustre des Chevaliers de Meduse (1983)
* Past permanent tasting panel member for Bon Appetit Magazine
* International Wine Judge [on numerous tasting panels and at wine competitions around the world]
* Past producer of wine related cable television shows in Canada
* Past contributor to Wine Tidings magazine and Wine Canada
* Past Wine Director for The Sharper Image
* Past instructor for the Certificate, Higher Certificate and Diploma courses for the Independent Wine & Spirit Education Trust
* Past lecturer on the QEII, Crystal Cruises and Radisson Cruise Lines

Needless to say it is an honor to have him take the time from his busy schedule to respond to some of my questions. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!

Interview with Bartholomew Broadbent

I wonder if you could tell us something about how you found your love of wine. Having a father by the name of Michael Broadbent, your chances of rebelling against wine would have been equal to the chances of you embracing it. What was your “ah-ha” moment? How did your father play a role in shaping your future?

When we were growing up, we always drank wine at dinner. My father would tell us what the wine was but that was it. He would never bore us with wine talk. I acted as a waiter during all his dinner parties, so I absorbed all the talk as I stood by in the dining room. However, he never encouraged us to go into the wine business [my sister became a Barrister and is now a District Judge in London], in fact, he was more discouraging than encouraging, until I decided on my own that I would get into wine, because he didn’t want us to just have an easy go of it and not pull our weight. It wasn’t until I traveled in Australia with Marc Hugel from Alsace and it was Marc’s enthusiasm for wine that inspired me to write home and say that I would be going into the wine business. He then heard of a job opening at Harvey’s in London, so I left Australia early and took that job. When I was offered the job in Canada, my father said “you can either stay in London and be just another young man in the wine trade, or you cab go away and do something interesting”. So, I went.

In 1996, you started Broadbent selections. What prompted this decision? What were your original goals when you started Broadbent selections? How have these goals changed?

I had spent 10 years working for the Symingtons and reached a dead end. So, I decided to start my own company and compete with them! The fact that I was able to sign up the U.S. National Importation rights for Ferreira [#1 Port in Portugal, #5 worldwide] and Offley [#2 worldwide], gave me the ability to start a company. My incentive was that I planned to start my own brand. Initially, I thought I would only sell Port and Madeira until one of the wines I worked with in Canada ten years previously asked me to represent them in the US. In the first few years we were about 75% Port and Madeira. Today, Port and Madeira probably represent about 15% of our sales.

I really want to know is what prompted you to choose Port and Madeira? From your Bio, it sounds like in some ways that it chose you!

I chose Port and Madeira as a specialty when I was still in Canada. I was offered two jobs. One of being a Regional Manager for Veuve Clicquot in Chicago or the other working for the Symingtons, based in my choice of New York or San Francisco. We chose San Francisco because their Agent died suddenly the week before I started working for them and he was based here. So, they sent me to set up a company for them. I thought the variety offered by Port was more interesting and tolerable than drinking Champagne all the time. As I only love Champagne when it is about 20 years old or more, I felt that Port would be more interesting. Madeira came along later when the Symingtons bought the Madeira Wine Company. With both Port and Madeira, I had the opportunity to do pioneering work in America as neither were well known and I made my name by traveling all over the US from Alaska to Puerto Rico promoting Port.

Moving on to your wines, looking at your portfolio, you don’t seem to focus in on any one area. I believe you represent 11 different countries with France having the most properties, and even there you have 5 different regions of France represented. Is this eclectic attitude a reflection of your personal tastes or just a result of different opportunities?

We have several wineries from Portugal because we are specialists in Portugal. Otherwise, our objective was to find the best winery in each country. In some instance, I believe we got the very best. These include Ch. Musar, Spy Valley, Montsarra [for a Cava is the best one exported to the States, though you may have better ones in Spain], Gasac, Warwick Estate, Quinta do Crasto and Barca Velha. However, I guess that our overall philosophy is to represent high quality family owned wineries. We have more French brands because there are more French regions but, frankly, they as a group represent the least sales. I do favor wines that have unique stories, which often make them unique wines. We pride ourselves in brand building and representing one of the best wines that any wine region can produce.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview with Bartholomew Broadbent