You’ve been enjoying the fruits of his labour, imbibing the wines that he’s found on his journey to unearth little known winemakers around the globe.
And wow has he discovered some incredible wines along the way.
But what do you actually know about the guy who brought you Pull The Cork?
Why is James Nathan on his particular quest? What kickstarted his passion for low intervention wines and what continues to drive him in his search for esoteric wines?
To find out the answers to these questions (and more), we sat down (with a large glass of the obvious) and grilled him on all things PTC.
So James, what does a normal day look like for you?
I wake up at 06:40, shower, get changed, jump in the car and drive to work. I then work from 07:30-19:00 – but no two days are the same. When I’m done I head home, exercise, eat, sleep and repeat! The weekends are mostly spent with either family or friends in the countryside – ideally.
When we’re not in lockdown, I try and hit the gym after work, but if that’s not possible I try my hardest to get some fresh air every day, whether it’s going for a walk up the river at home in Hammersmith, or meeting a mate in the pub.
How did you get into the wine business?
I started at the age of 16 as a kitchen porter in a professional kitchen in the heart of London with the aim to start my cooking career early and work my way up to be a head chef or a food writer, following in the footsteps of my mother. It went a bit wobbly for a while when I decided I wanted to be a ski instructor, but after two ski seasons being a ski bum in Zermatt, my liver couldn’t take it any longer, and off I went to study a degree in agriculture in Gloucestershire. This lasted all of 8 months…
From here I went from job to job in the ski retail world in London until my mum finally called a good friend of hers, Chris Wells (previous owner of London Wine Shippers) for a Christmas job for me. I left that Christmas job 3 years later with a firm grounding in the wine trade. 8 years on here I am in the same warehouse, but with my own wine business.
Where did the name Pull The Cork come from?
We chose it because it’s a name that sticks in your brain!
Unlike some of the names of other wine merchants, Pull The Cork actually has meaning in the wine industry, and I felt when choosing the name that meaning was hugely important to convey what we did.
Why represent the low-intervention, organic, sustainable wine market?
This aspect of the wine market is really under-represented. When we started PTC, low intervention wines had been around for years, but they weren’t widely known by the general public, and we wanted to shine a spotlight on them.
Plus, so many people, myself included, love, eating real, raw and organic food, so why not follow the same ethos with what you drink?
What’s your favourite grape?
If you could choose, what would your last drink be?
Being realistic, I would probably smash through a case of Res Fortes Rose magnums. They’re as delicious as they are impressive, and they never get old.
What was the last wine to blow your mind
The only wine to truly blow my mind was one I tried at the tender age of 14 in my grandfather’s cellar. He lived on the Isle of White and some of my most cherished memories are of the time I spent with him in his final days. The wine he gave me a sip of was a 1989 Château Figeac. It was phenomenal.
Favourite sparkling wine
Still looking for one.
Red or white?
I honestly don’t have a favourite!
I think it would be mean on white to choose red, but at the same time harsh on red to choose white.
What I drink comes down to what I’m eating, and what mood I’m in. Plus, let’s not forget the wine categories extend beyond red and white – you’ve also got orange and rose to consider. And rose isn’t just a summer drink, it’s a fantastic all-rounder.
If you could change one thing about the wine industry, what would it be?
The original reason I started PTC was to remove the snottiness from the wine trade and I finally feel (not all me I must say) that this is now changing. The wine trade is no longer filled solely with the red trouser brigade.
What’s the one thing the world needs most right now?
Creativity, and a new wave of wine merchants, with new ideas – and well made, approachable wines!
How has lockdown affected PTC?
It gave us a chance to be creative with what we were offering. We knew it was either sink or swim so we took a deep breath and went big.
- We created a subscription plan for those stuck at home – this gives you choices of monthly or quarterly deliveries of super rare and hard to find wines and spirits.
- We also created weekly “Isolation Tastings” which have been a huge success.
If anything, the lockdown has made our team stronger – we’ve had a lot of hurdles to overcome, and without the strong team ethic we have, we wouldn’t have survived this. I’m fascinated to see what the other side of COVID will look like!
How do you choose winemakers?
I request samples of their products based on either of the following:
- Social presence (this is often badly judged as the label design usually has nothing to do with the flavour of the wine, but sometimes they can surprise you.)
The first time you had a hangover?
Ah, a time I choose to forget…
I was in a field with my schoolmates and we had to ask one of the senior chaps at school to buy us some White Lightning (now banned I believe, as it made people go temporarily blind). We drank 6 bottles (2L each) between the 4 of us in the woods. The rest of the evening is best not shared.