Richard Bampfield is the European Champagne Ambassador 2009.
Richard Bampfield didn't anticipate a career in wine when he went to Cambridge University to study French. But a year out in Bordeaux transformed a general enjoyment of wine into an avid interest.
Upon graduating in 1981, Bampfield began managing retail wine shops in Manchester for JW Lees Brewers, where he not only developed his wine knowledge, but also learned management skills and built a portfolio of industry contacts.
Seven years later he took another year out, this time specifically to explore the wine world. He spent time working in California and Australia, as well as visiting other New World wine countries including Chile, Argentina and New Zealand.
"In those days, the only way to learn about how wine was made and how the grapes were grown, was to go and spend time in vineyards," he explains. "And although New World wines were being imported to the UK, it was still early days and the trip gave me a head start on others in the wine business."
When Bampfield returned to the UK in 1990, he passed the Master of Wine exam, and took a position with Australian producer Brown Brothers. He managed the company's European operations until 1999, when he decided it was time to branch out on his own.
He says that, as the business expanded, his general manager job became more about business, reports and budgeting, and he was having less and less to do with the product.
He set up Richard Bampfield MW with his wife, Jackie, specialising in public relations and offering wine talks, tours and courses. In 2001, he began working with Leith's School of Food and Wine and he has been responsible for the wine courses since 2002.
Bampfield confesses to adoring his work: "I'm really lucky, I love everything I do." This includes being asked to judge in wine competitions such as the International Wine Challenge and the Decanter World Wine Awards.
For the past 18 months, Bampfield has been chairman of the Association of Wine Educators and recently he was named European Champagne Ambassador 2009. Despite the recession, Bampfield says that interest in Champagne is unwavering. "I plan to use my year in office to do as many Champagne talks as I can, either at events or to hospitality staff."
To get a head start in a wine career, Bampfield advises starting out in wine retail. "It's the best way to learn about selling, the product and the customer. And once you're in the industry, you're far more likely to hear about career opportunities and discover which part of the trade you're most suited to."
HIGHS… Bampfield cites passing the Master of Wine exam as one of his many career peaks. "Without question, it was the single most important event in my career. I wouldn't be able to do the job I do now if I hadn't done that," he admits.
Being named European Champagne Ambassador also means a lot to Bampfield. "It's a very prestigious title, with entries from across the continent," he says. "I'm really chuffed to be honest. It's an endorsement of one's abilities as a taster and as a communicator."
LOWS… Fortunately for Bampfield, career low points have been virtually nonexistent. "I don't really do lows," he says. "They tend to be small, momentary. I prefer to put things behind and move on. It's far better to concentrate on the positives."
Family Married, two children aged 13 and 14
Favourite holiday Bordeaux
Drives Renault Megane Scenic
Motto Don't waste time and energy on things you can't control. Concentrate your energy within your sphere of influence and work to expand that sphere
1990 Passed Master of Wine exam
1999 Launched own business
Continue to invest in and train staff. It's far cheaper to train, motivate and retain existing staff than to have to recruit new personnel.