Ed joined the wine trade in 1983 after dabbling with radio journalism in his home city of Bristol, England. He worked for an old Bristol wine firm, Howells, before eventually moving to the bright lights of London. Here he sold wine to the Chelsea set for a company called London Wine Brokers; skills learnt included how to unload a container in less than 2 hours and how to sell wine to difficult as well as pleasant customers.
Ed’s first big break was working for Vinos de España in London. Having already lived for a while in Madrid in the early 1980s, this helped rekindle his passion for Spanish wine and all things Spanish – as well as showing him how to fill in the same form 3 times for the Spanish government. It was then 7 years as a buyer for the Co-op in Manchester. This was a fantastic job which involved travel and learning about wine; Englishman Ed passed the Master of Wine exam in1991, although that year is also remembered for the first meeting with a certain South African Bruce Jack at a wine tasting in London.
Moving from the liveliness of Manchester in 1994 to the sedate, rural idyll of Bridgnorth in the middle of beautiful Shropshire was something of a culture shock. However, the job with Western Wines made up for a lot. Ed was responsible for a lot of the buying, some marketing ideas (basically, anything to do with Spain) and for all quality control. It was also the time that Kumala was created which has since become a multi-million case South African brand.
Ed became a director of Western Wines in 1998 and benefited from the Vincor buyout in 2004. The following year he met up with Bruce again after a splendid tasting at Bruce’s Flagstone winery in South Africa and the Báscula plan was hatched to make wine in Spain.
Ed left Western Wines in early 2006 and is enjoying life immensely working on the Báscula project. He believes the best is yet to come…
I grew up in Cape Town, the son of an architect and a musician/writer, so perhaps it was inevitable I would become a winemaker. We first lived on Surfers’ Corner in Muizenberg, where, in big storms, the waves crashed onto the front windows. I’ve been surfing here, on and off, for almost 40 years.
Growing up in Cape Town meant Table Mountain was my backyard. I spent a lot of time in the sea and in my backyard. My first job was an early morning newspaper round before school. My first memorable food experience was tasting caviar for the first time on a prep school rugby tour to the UK and loving the exotic texture and wild flavour. Fortunately, this predilection for expensive taste only rarely extends beyond food, wine and books - although my wife suggests that's bad enough.
The biggest advantage of growing up in Cape Town, however, was that I learnt the secret password for getting past the Pearly Gates from Mrs Jimba, my isiXhosa teacher. I am mildly surprised I didn't need to use that password on numerous occasions during my young adult life.
After various false, but highly enjoyable starts in academia, I eventually washed up down under at the Roseworthy Cellar, and the University of Adelaide, South Australia. Here, I learnt how to make wine – and Japanese dumplings.
Hard, but happy yards followed - vineyard and cellar work all over the world – France, Australia and the USA. Extraordinarily fired up and brilliantly naive, I returned home in 1998 and simultaneously started a winery and a family. Anyone who has done this will tell you it is rather stupid. The winery is called Flagstone, and will always feel like one of my kids.
Flagstone was an early developer; with a strong character all of its own. It flew the coop in 2008, when it was sold Constellation Brands, then the biggest wine company in the world.
When Constellation sold various operations to Champ Private Equity in 2011, I remained on as Chief Winemaker for Accolade Wines South Africa, and I am still part of the winemaking team there today.
I farm organic vegetables, honey, olives and grapes on my family farm called The Drift Farm in the Overberg Highlands of South Africa.