Daryl Sullivan

Liberty Wines Sales Apprentice 2014

"The only firm offering a real 360° perspective of how the industry worked."

I became interested in wine at university and law school, but I continued on the path to becoming a lawyer in the City of London. After six and a half years in that career and having completed my WSET Level 3 as a personal “test” of whether I could turn my now full blown love of wine into a career, I decided it was “now or never” in May 2014 and applied to be the Liberty Apprentice.

I had bags of enthusiasm but no experience of the industry and Liberty Wines stood out. Not only was it the only firm offering a real 360° perspective of how the industry worked, it was clear that it had an entrepreneurial spirit and was happy to consider career changers. Nicola Gutman, the first Liberty Apprentice and a fellow City lawyer who made the transition, was pleased to speak to me about her experiences before I even applied.

The application process was very involved, culminating in a presentation to senior management, so I was ecstatic to be offered a new role of “Sales Apprentice”, a 12-month programme of spending time in each department of the business with an ultimate focus on sales.

I have so far spent time in shipping, logistics, customer services, marketing and credit control (and, at the time of writing, I am not yet half way through the year!) The journey of a bottle of wine from the producer to the consumer is extremely involved, not only in its transportation to the UK but also in demonstrating the uniqueness and value of that wine to the customer. From the beginning it has been clear to me that I have a rare panoramic view of that journey from my position as Apprentice, and that a career in wine was a good move!

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Alpha Zeta, Veneto, Italy - 2015 vintage

"Learning about the real importance of wine to people and communities was going to be my most valuable discovery."

“Bring a sense of humour and a big appetite” was my only instruction before coming to Italy. With a Salami festival during my first weekend and a number of curious glances at my gleaming white legs, it was all too prescient.

However, it did become clear that learning about the real importance of wine to people and communities was going to be my most valuable discovery. In the Valpantena valley, which is densely carpeted with vines in every conceivable plot, viticulture gives an identity to whole towns and villages which would not exist without it. A barrel rolling festival in the hilltop village of San Briccio draws crowds of every generation into a single celebration, from excitable grandchildren to well-seasoned grandparents.

I am working with cellar hands whose ages range from 19 to 73. Yet social change also moves in these vineyards, slow but powerful and tectonic. I have seen queues of growers’ tractors snake out of the Cantina’s gates with almost uniformly old men at the wheel and I have seen a younger generation incurring great and precarious cost as they seek to grow, vinify and then market their own (but not necessarily better) wine. I now keep my eyes open for fear of the details I might miss. This is certainly true when I work with Flavio, that 73 year old cellar hand who also comes with a winemaker’s warning: “Be careful when you work with Flavio, you might get very wet, injured or die”.

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