Fiona Hayes

How did you get into wine?

I studied at Dijon University for a year as part of my degree and happened to be very close to Beaune and the vineyards of Burgundy. It made me think more seriously about wine, and when I left university, I applied to join a UK wine importer. I didn’t grow up surrounded by wine, but my interest has grown over the years, having sat the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) exams as well as currently being enrolled on the Master of Wine programme.

How did your career take shape?

I started working as a stock controller for a wine importer and then realised I wanted to be even closer to the product and the growers, so I joined Berry Bros & Rudd as a buying assistant for their wholesale division, Fields, Morris & Verdin. After a number of years I was promoted to buyer, and later was buyer for whole group. I looked after several countries and regions, most notably the Rhône, Languedoc-Roussillon, USA, Germany and Austria. For the past couple of years, I’ve been a buyer at Lay & Wheeler, buying for Europe (except France).

Which wines do you enjoy drinking?

I’m a big German riesling fan and probably have more German wines in my cellar than any other region. I also often drink wines from Beaujolais, Burgundy and South Africa. Recently I have been really enjoying some Spanish discoveries from Ribeira Sacra in Galicia, as well as Mallorca and Tenerife.

Did you always want to be a buyer?

I’ve always wanted to be as close as possible to working with the final product and the people making the wine, and the history, stories and culture surrounding wine are so interesting. Visiting wine regions and producers always reignites my passion for wine – and I always learn something new.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to exercise when I can and enjoy Reformer Pilates and running.  I like cooking and baking and I’m interested in nutrition, but I spend most of my time with my two young children, and they keep me pretty busy!

What are you most looking forward to about working at The Wine Society?

There are so many things, but it will be great to work with such a talented buying team as well as working with and being exposed to such a diverse range of wines.  

What two things would you say about someone wanting to grow their passion for wine?

Firstly, learn the basics! There are some great wine courses offered by the WSET available for various levels depending on how much people want to commit. And if you want to work in wine, the WSET exams are often a pre-requisite. Secondly, travel. Visit wineries and vineyards as you really understand more about the wines and styles when you visit producers. Make sure you organise visits before you go, too, to make sure you get to meet the people who actually know about the property and the wines.

Two new buyers join the team

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