This month we shine the spotlight on James Aldridge, shop Manager – based in our Newmarket Shop.
Q) Tell us a bit about you and your role at Corney & Barrow?
I joined C&B in March 2019 as the Assistant Shop Manager in Newmarket and was later promoted to be responsible for the daily management of our Newmarket shop. Our days here are as varied as our customer requests, which is great for us to be able to help guide them and advise on their purchases, and as we don’t just sell wines, that could be spirits or cigars too.
Q) Newmarket is obviously famous for horse racing; can you talk about C&B’s involvement with this?
Newmarket is the home of horseracing and the town thrives on it. We work with a lot of the local, national, and international businesses that all contribute to the town’s heritage, whether that’s the jockeys, owners, trainers or the stable staff; we have a good understanding of what is going on, who is doing well and who not so. We also provide wines to some of the major events as they happen, and deliveries often being made to the private boxes at the racecourses. We work with Tattersalls who are the main auctioneer and auction house of racehorses in the United Kingdom and Ireland. We run and manage two bars on their site during the auctions and also provide wines to their on-site restaurants too.
Q) How did you end up working in wine? Did you always have a passion for wine?
I previously worked in hospitality, working in pubs and restaurants for more years than I care to remember. Ultimately, I ended up owning and leasing my own pub and country inn. Once I realised that I wasn’t going to renew the lease, I made the decision to step away from this side of the trade and did my WSET training to pursue a career in wine. I had always enjoyed a good glass, knowing what I liked or didn’t, so getting some training really helped me to understand why perhaps I preferred certain things to others. I feel this understanding also helps me in my current role to offer advice and help to customers.
Q) What has been your favourite wine experience so far and why?
I took a trip to Bordeaux in 2018 whilst studying my WSET, which blew my mind! We stopped in St Émilion for a couple of days in a treehouse at Relais Franc Mayne, overlooking the vines of Château Franc Mayne. The sheer beauty of the area, plus the wines and food, made it a memorable trip. We ate in an amazing bistro in the town and just asked the sommelier to recommend a good glass to go with our main course – it was exceptional, I only wish I noted what it was!
Q) What advice would you offer to someone looking to start a career in the wine industry?
Wine is such a diverse thing; there is so much of it and such variety, which I suppose from the outside could look quite daunting. But go for it, once you drink, read, and mix with wine-related people, you’ll soon find your way. I have also suggested to new colleagues in the shop that they try a few different bottles and find the one they really love, then sell it based on that personal recommendation.
Q) When you are not selling or tasting wine, what might we find you doing?
Probably be outside, stood in or by a river or lake. I do enjoy spending time in the great outdoors with Dexter our dog. A little bit of foraging, mainly sloes and blackberries, not only for the gin! Also, now the children are grown up (although not yet flown the nest!), taking the time to travel and enjoy good holidays further away from home without having to pay for the kids too!
Q) Can you talk us through what activities and events you have coming up in the shop over the next couple of months as we approach Christmas?
Christmas is an exciting time for us. There is always a lovely buzz around the shop once everyone gets into full Christmas mode. I carry out monthly tastings for a regular group, and in December, they will be bringing festive foods which I will pair with wines from our Christmas brochure – it will turn it into more of a party.
Of course, there is plenty else going on leading up to Christmas.
On 17th November we are hosting a dinner with the Tack Room. This is the venue where we have hosted several winemakers throughout the year, but on this night, it will be the highlight of those dinners for both the dishes and the wines.
Friday 24th November, we will be hosting the C&B East Anglia Christmas tasting, and on 9th December we will host the Newmarket Shop Christmas tasting, 3pm – 8pm.