Laithwaite - how Tony Laithwaite built a wine empire

The Laithwaite Story
The Laithwaite Story

The Laithwaite story

It's an absolute pleasure to meet Tony Laithwaite, in person. We sit, perched on stools at the tasting table in the new(ish) Laithwaites store in London: the Laithwaites Experience at Vinopolis, SE1 opened in February 2010.

The cavernous wine cellar-come-shop sits snuggly in the railway arches adjacent to Borough Market. This isn't just any tasting table either - it's the longest one in the country, Tony tells me with a hint of pride.

It's pride well placed as Tony Laithwaite has achieved an incredible amount in his time. The impressive South-East London shop is really just the icing on a particualrly delicious cake.

He's the owner of the biggest wine merchants in the world (excluding supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury's) and has a collection of vinyards and wineries in almost every corner of the grape-growing world.

"Direct Wines, Laithwaites, Sunday Times Wine Club - we go under various names." He tells me, "And we’re the biggest. Bigger than Waitrose and Majestic."

The nicest thing about Tony is that despite all this sucess, he's quick to admit he did not achieve it all by himself. As the saying goes: behind every great man is a great woman.

Tony Laithwaite's wife of 36 years, Barbara, is creditted as his secret weapon and he's the first to say so.

"She gave it all up to come and work with me under a railway arch, much colder and damper than this one" he begins...

Image: Tony Laithwaite's first Arch

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