Laithwaite - how Tony Laithwaite built a wine empire
Barbara Laithwaite

Barbara Laithwaite

Tony Laithwaite began his love affair with wine right out of a boy's boarding school. You could say wine was his first love.

During the long school holidays, he decided to spend some time in France, thinking "mmmm, French girls" but on finding himself working in French vinyard, quickly lost his heart to France and, more importantly, to wine instead.

He loved it so much he kept going back for more.

"All the while I was at university I went back and spent my summers there. I loved it." Tony tells us, "For the life as much as the taste of the wine."

It was during 1965, while at university, that Tony met the real big love of his life, Barbara.

'We went out a couple of times, didn't really get on', he tells me. 'It was love at first sight but at second sight? Not so much.'

Despite an inauspicious start, the relationship blossomed when they met up again in 1970.

Tony had converted his love of wine into a fledgling business. Driving a van around the French countryside and talking to the few wine suppliers he knew, he'd set up what would become Laithwaites Wine Merchants.

As his relationship with Barbara grew more serious so did her involvement in the business: "After a while she kept making comments about the mess I was making of it, especially the paper work.

"She had a good job...doing the audience viewing figures for television. But she gave it all up."

With Barbara on-board things began to look up for Laithwaites.

Image: Laithwaites Wine Experience at Vinopolis, SE1 9AA

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