“We booked a French holiday, staying on a Muscadet producer’s property,” explained Mary. “When we arrived, the grapes were being harvested and all of a sudden the rain came down.
“It was obvious that the grapes would be spoiled if not picked quickly. We turned out to help, and the winemaker, thankful for our help and pleased with our interest, took us through the whole winemaking process.”
The couple’s interest and knowledge grew and what began as the purchase of a few bottles to take home for themselves, developed over the next two or three years into a regional speciality.
“I remember seeing an advert from a UK wine business boasting a Loire Valley list, when in fact they had only 12 wines from that region – we had 60,” continued Barry.
The list quickly grew to include wines from other French regions and Italy, before finally becoming an “all-round” list to suit customer requirements.
Under the company name Sapsford Wines, the couple supplied pubs, private customers, golf courses and local restaurants, as well as the Aurora Restaurant and The Great Eastern Hotel, both in London.
Specialist wines were also supplied to The Coq D’ Argent at Poultry, near the Bank of England, and Chez Nico, at The Grosvenor House Hotel, in Park Lane.
Not that this stopped the couple from travelling the breadth of the country to give tutored tastings to wine societies, which they still do if requested.
Then in July 2006, the pair were presented with an opportunity they could not pass up, when they took over The Wine Store.
“At the time, we were just one of several suppliers,” said Mary, “When the proprietor told us he wished to retire, we were happy to take up the challenge.”