Michael Baker knows his wines. This is the man who has driven the development of our extraordinary wine department and extensive cellar. Whilst running the store at 8 Market Place, Mr Baker has became a qualified expert in the process and discovered a real love for the wine industry... to the extent that he has even built a 600 sq ft wine cellar at his own home.
But it was a passion which he came across by accident, as he explains: "When we bought Larners in 1977 it didn't have any wine stocks to speak of; not 12 bottles of the same wine. "The previous Foodhall Manager looked after the wine department until his retirement a couple of months later, and I suddenly found my self faced with a situation of having a very small wine department and no-one who knew anything about wine. "My own personal knowledge at that point was quite simply that there was red wine and white wine and rose in between! So I thought it might be a nice thing to know more about. "Back then, almost 35 years ago, the wine industry was full of interesting characters and representatives and if you showed an interest they were more than happy to share as much information with you as you could possibly want to know. "And so, armed with a willingness to learn and contacts who were willing to teach me - plus a cash register that meant if you got it wrong you lost money - I learned very quickly!"
Michael worked his way through years of courses, exams and qualifications from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, while at the same time building up our Bakers and Larners cellar. "I have to admit that, because of my interest, the wine department has tended to have perhaps more than its fair share of investment, but the result of this is that we now have a selection that amazes people."
"When I was over in Madeira I bought a mixed case of 12 vintage Madeiras which went back to 70 years old that would sell for up to £400 a bottle. From a purely economic point of view you could say that was a bit rash. But if you have bottles like that on the shelf people do come in to marvel at them, even if they then see something else at a much cheaper price to buy..and you live in the hope that one day they may come back and buy that very bottle."
Mr Baker has also introduced wine tasting suppers that have become very popular. Held three times a year at the store, vineyard owners and wine merchants present a selection of wines for a formal tasting, plus a supper.
Trips to some of the top wine regions of Europe have also been organised by us and it is one of these that Mr Baker has chosen to focus his first wine review on.
To view Mr Bakers Wine Reviews Click on the below links