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Clare Brown, MGC 1988 Leaver

Malvern Alumnae 100 Clare Tooley

It is, perhaps, unusual to love your job so much you cannot imagine doing anything else. It is certainly a privilege. That level of commitment however, is common in the wine trade. It appears in many facets of the industry, from production to marketing, grape-growing to note-writing, tank to bank. Far from being exclusive, it encompasses both Art and Science, providing rich pickings for the most inquisitive of minds and a fulfilling career for the ambitious.

With an MA in Languages from Clare College, Cambridge, I still had no idea what I wanted to ‘become’. In 1995, a job ad took me to John Armit Wines and their loft in Notting Hill, a tasting slab groaning with fine Burgundy, and an epiphany that this was a good place to start. In the intervening years I’ve been a buyer, managed a winery and established an international wholesale network which included a brush with the KGB and dinner with Chinese pirates. I have studied hard for multiple exams (WSET Diploma and Master of Wine) and been awarded the Lallemand Science and Trinity Champagne scholarships. I have been inducted as a Chevalier in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne and hosted tastings at sea and on a Hollywood rooftop. I’ve been fortunate enough to taste hundreds of thousands of wines and travelled as many miles.

I steadfastly believe that the best part of the job are the many brilliant minds and generous people I’ve met along the way. They ensure you never stop learning, that your glass is always full and that you make memories as delicious as the wines they pour. In 2006, I moved to Bordeaux with my husband and two young sons to manage my employers’ estates and spent years battling with French bureaucracy, loving nearly every minute of it. We moved to California in 2014, much to my surfer sons’ delight.  Fire and earthquakes aside, I enjoy the beauty and bounty of the US wine valleys and the chance to source for several clubs (Wall Street Journal, Laithwaites, Virgin, Turner Classic Movies, National Geographic).  The adventure continues.

What does success look like?

Whatever makes you proud, whatever switches you on from the inside and whatever allows you to help others feel the same way.

What is your best piece of advice?

Travel the world as much and as often as possible; Keep learning & keep listening; Take yourself seriously but never forget to laugh; Explore outside your comfort zone but always come home; It won’t always work out and that’s fine, just pick yourself up and move on; Take the time to work out what makes you happy and keep doing it.

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