Sarah Knowles MW joined The Society in March 2014 and has taken over responsibility for Champagne, North America and Italy, as well as overseeing our portfolio of sparkling wines and spirits. Sarah passed her Masters of Wine qualification in 2015 and won a prize for submitting the best research paper.
When did you start working in the wine trade and how did you get into wine?
I really got into wine when I joined a blind-tasting club at Oxford University. There I made some great friends, who taught me how to identify key characteristics in wines blind. Once I started getting the classics right I was hooked, and practised hard for the annual varsity blind tasting match sponsored by Pol Roger which we won! At the following competition in Epernay against a French team I was awarded Top Taster which was when I gave up on my applications for a City job and began hunting for jobs in the wine trade.
I started by cracking on with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust's exams and by helping with the harvest in Bordeaux, at Château d'Issan, and then in various wineries across Western Australia. On my return from the southern hemisphere I started working for a Guildford-based wine wholesaler in sales and marketing.
Where have you worked before joining The Wine Society?
For the last six years I have worked for Amathus Drinks - an importer and distributor of wines and spirits, specialising in the premium on-trade.
I started in a split sales and buying role which developed quickly into a full-time buying job. I was the company's sole buyer covering all regions and styles of wine. I developed a complete premium portfolio of wines for Amathus while also being actively involved in other areas of the business including their two specialist retail shops, e-commerce website and busy events schedule.
Are you a member of The Wine Society?
Yes, I have always loved having access to small parcels of hand-selected wines at great prices. The consistently excellent service also makes wine shopping easy.
What regions or wines are you particularly passionate about?
I love aromatic white wines, riesling - especially German or Australian, pinot gris from Oregon or Alsace, older honeyed semillon, rich oaked viognier and powerful crisp sauvignon blanc.
In reds I have very varied tastes, mainly influenced by the food I might be eating, but I have a soft spot for syrah - from peppery Hawkes Bay examples to complex leathery northern Rhônes. I love perfumed pinots, well-aged claret and the wonderful variety of rich, black-cherry reds from southern Italy.
Is there a memorable bottle that first turned you onto wine?
Absolutely - one of the first wines I ever tasted blind was a gewürztraminer. I had never had anything like it and on the back of that discovery I signed up for the Wine Circle and started a hobby which became a career!
What are your interests outside work?
I love cooking, so spend a lot of time reading food blogs and cookery books hoping that I spot some recipes that I can master for when I have friends over. I also love eating and drinking out - often spending my evenings and weekends going in search of new or reviewed restaurants and bars. Having chosen to study Geography at university in the hope that there might be some travel involved - I still enjoy exploring new cities, countries and cultures.