Mark Driver used to work at $6 billion Horseman Capital. Then the fund’s namesake, John Horseman, retired, taking most of the firm’s investors with him and Driver thought, well I guess I should retire too, and heck, I drink a lot of sparking wine, so why not start a vineyard that produces a million bottles of the stuff a year?
That more or less seems to be the carefree, happy-go-lucky attitude that began Driver’s foray into the British wine business, as he described it to the Telegraph. That, and his wife, who told him to pick up a pet project so he wouldn’t be bored.
Driver: “Then my wife Sarah said she was worried I’d be bored not working so I had a look at the possibility of moving in to wine and I realised I wanted to do this, making wine, running my own vineyard, turning my dreams in to a reality.”
So he did. And not just any vineyard. One which is promising to be one of the biggest vineyards in Europe.
A year later, his dream is near reality. He’s got the land for a vineyard, an expert wine-maker, he just bought 600 vines, and for Christmas, he got a tractor! Driver is as giddy as a little boy who just got the best toy on the neighbourhood block.
Driver: “I gave myself a tractor for Christmas. And that’s just the start of it. It cost me £35,000 and I need another one as well.”
To anyone reading, Driver’s dreams of a vineyard may seem a bit optimistic, even a tad immature.
But that’s the best thing he has going for him; the wine’s secret ingredient. When people drink his sparking wine, they will feel his raw enthusiasm and carelessly grab life by the balls. They’ll feel spirited and free and like they did when they were five years old and wanted to be a fireman, before they knew or cared that firemen didn’t make any money.
Also, Driver is way ahead of you. It’s a massive gamble, he admitted to the Telegraph.
Driver: “There is an adage that goes: ‘How do you make a small fortune? Take a large one and invest in a vineyard’. But I like a challenge.
“I know it will be a lot of hard work. It’s a total life change.
“I know nothing about wine. I’ve just drunk a lot of it. But I have an opportunity to do something totally different with my life and I’m grasping it.”
Driver is also investing in sparking wine at a good time. The market for champagne (sparking wine from France) is bouncing back after the Lehman crash.
When the Telegraph asked Paul Langham, who also retired from finance to work a vineyard (that produces white, red, rose and sparking wine) in the UK, what he thought of Driver’s vineyard, he said, “Never put all your eggs in one basket.”
Buzz kill. But Driver has a back-up plan handy.
Driver: “If it doesn’t work out, I will go back to finance.”
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