A Rare Pleasure Ulrich Hoffmann talks to Daniel White about the world of wine making.
If you ask me if you can have 15 bottles I will say no.” Had I heard him right? Was Ulrich Hoffmann, the owner of winemakers Hoffmann & Rathbone, really telling me that I couldn’t buy his wine?
“You can’t. There is not enough for everybody,” Ulrich explained. Engrossed, I had to delve deeper, why not? “We only sell in three or six bottles of wine, not more,” he clarified.Was this not limiting his business though? “We don’t want to sell 500 bottles to one person, we want to sell 500 bottles to 500 people because that’s what spreads it, that makes people taste it and talk about it.” However, there is always an exception to the rule. He said: “If it is a business, that is different. If they want to send out a Christmas present for their clients and need additional bottles, that is possible because they’re spreading the message for us.” Ulrich, a wine tasting judge for international competitions, moved to Sussex in 2009 after an education in the art of wine making that took him all over the world. “I grew up in Berlin and I studied wine making in the south of Germany,” he recalled. “I worked as a wine maker and an assistant wine maker in different parts of the world, from Spain to France to California.” With more than 15 years of international experience that has taken him from the prestigious Rolf-Willy Estate in Baden to the Chateau de Fieuzal in Bordeaux, why is it that he chose to settle down in England? “My wife, at the time my girlfriend, was already living in England, so we had a long distance relationship for quite a while. I came over and said ‘lets start our own thing and go for it’,” he explained. “At the end of 2009 we started the business and in 2010 we started to invest in the winery. It took us quite a while to look for the suitable building in the hub of the English wine industry, which is right here in Sussex.” Once settled, the couple combined their surnames to produce the brand of Hoffmann & Rathbone. While Ulrich is now highly regarded amongst the winemaking community, there were always fears when starting up the business. He said: “There were financial risks because as an agricultural business you can’t project the years to come.