Cult Wines, a wine investment company in Chiswick, won The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2017. Here, Managing Director Tom Gearing tells The Resident why now’s the time to put your money in wine…
As if a nice tipple of the red stuff on a Friday night could get any better, it turns out that wine isn’t just nice and fun to drink, but that it can also make for a pretty sweet business venture too – and one company in Chiswick is leading the way.
Fine wine has consistently offered investors double digit returns year on year, with the market growing £3billion per annum. And while fine wine investment is no new phenomenon, today means that market liquidity and price transparency have evolved to the point where investors of all levels can now profit from this expanding market.
Tom Gearing is a man with a plan when it comes to the lucrative measures of wine. As the MD of Cult Wines, a wine investment company in Chiswick, Gearing recently led the business to win The Queen’s Award for Enterprise for 2017, one of the most prestigious corporate accolades that a UK business can win – pretty impressive for a man who took this on fresh from university.
But how do you find yourself looking at wine as a business venture, and not just as that relaxing beverage? ‘It all stemmed from a family background. I was always brought up around wine because of my father, who is now chairman of the company,’ he says.
‘I was 11 when I was first taken to a vineyard in Burgundy. We would take a van, explore the vineyards, fill it up and drive home. We always had a wine cellar in the house so I started to understand the names and the labels and grew up with a passion for the industry.’
Having originally been started by his brother in 2007, when Gearing finished university he took over and turned the company from a hobby into a full-time company. ‘From that point, it was straight down to NatWest with a business plan. I got a £12,000 overdraft and went into a local service office in Kingston,’ he explains. ‘Fortunately, after the first six months, we had managed to gain a £1million turnover and really proved that the model was going to work.’
A lot of other investment businesses rely on people having a lot of knowledge, he says. Whereas we attract people who don’t have time to become a wine expert overnight and do it for them
Now, having brought his father on board as chairman, it really has become a family affair. What started with four people doing everything themselves, has now grown hugely.
Cult Wines works with private individuals looking for above average returns and to diversify their investment portfolio. They work on a very personal basis, analysing the wine market, deciding on the vintages, the estates and all the different entities that go into the value of a wine, and then cherry pick which ones will work best for each client.
‘We tailor people’s objectives to the wine that we can offer them,’ explains Gearing. ‘Someone with a lot of money and who is low-risk, for example, would probably have a more Bordeaux-heavy portfolio as it’s a more liquid market. Someone who was looking speculatively, we might look into the upcoming markets instead, perhaps wines from the new world like California.’
Gearing filled a gap in the market by setting up a wine business for people who are not necessarily connoisseurs. ‘A lot of other investment businesses rely on people having a lot of knowledge,’ he says. ‘We recognised that we have the time and knowledge and we can attract people who don’t have time to become a wine expert overnight and do it for them.’
Having taken so much on at such a young age, Gearing found that his time on The Apprentice (he came second) helped him hugely in terms of life experience and confidence. ‘I realised that I was an individual that can handle pressure quite well,’ he says. ‘I came second because Lord Sugar didn’t want to take a risk with this business, but I don’t see it as losing as it gave me a lot of confidence. It’s been great for the company as well.’
So, from such an expert in the field, where is the best wine in the area? ‘Lea and Sandeman is a great local retailer, and in terms of restaurants, Hedone’s wine list is absolutely fantastic, and prices are very decent,’ he says. ‘La Trompette is good too and they have a really good corkage policy, which is always nice to see. But the doors are always open to our tasting area too!’
The Clockwork Building, 45 Beavor Lane, Chiswick W6 9AR; 020 7100 0950; wineinvestment.com
Photography: Tom Dunkley