Olivier Hickman

I fell in love with Provence at an early age. My mother was French and as a child I was often taken to visit my grandmother in Orange. I recall being bowled over by the fairytale beauty of the surrounding countryside and vowing to return when I was « grown up ».

In 1996 I did return – to the nearby village of Rasteau – and it was there that my love affair with the region was rekindled. Not only was the summer landscape even more magical than I remembered it, but the local wines were stunning too

That visit inspired me to learn more about wine – and as my knowledge grew so did my passion. Due in part, no doubt , to my Provencal roots, I became increasingly fascinated by the wines of Provence, in particular the marvellous Côtes du Rhône wines.

Whilst continuing my day job in London (as a Financial Controller) I obtained my final wine qualifications in 1998 and in 1999 started a wine importing business with a friend from my student days at Cambridge, Jeremy Williams selling Rhône wines. Keen to put some of my theoretical knowledge into practice, I made my first wine in the Languedoc in 2000 and have been making wine every vintage since then.

In 2003 my wife and I succumbed to the irresistible urge to leave London and move permanently to Provence. In 2005 we found a house in Sablet, a lovely village only a stone’s throw from Rasteau, where the seeds of my passion were originally sown.

In the search for good – or even great – wines, I (like most people) have always enjoyed sampling the local wines when visiting France – and there are thousands of road-side signs prompting you to do just that. But how do you know which wine domaines to visit? What will the welcome be like ? Who makes the average wines and who makes the great wines ? And, if you French is rusty, will you be able to talk to the producers (most of whom speak little or no English) about their wines?

With holiday time so precious I believe that all wine-tastings should be enjoyable, stress-free and informative – with the added guarantee that you will be tasting some top quality wines.

If I were to drink a different wine every day for the rest of my life I would still be unable to taste all of the world’s great wines, which in my book makes drinking bad wine a criminal waste of time ! A wine tasting should therefore not be a « hit-or-miss » experience.