What do you do for a living now? I’m a wine producer in Provence.
What are your happiest memories from your time at Seaford? Winning the inter-house cross country race. Adair always won back in the day. Did that change?
What do you feel were the greatest benefits of attending Seaford? A beautiful place, good teachers and a great atmosphere. People from many different backgrounds and nationalities, and a strong sporting tradition.
Are you still in touch with many other alumni? From time to time I meet old friends and some of us stay in touch via Facebook. Most recently I’ve become reacquainted with Roy Hockley, who seems to be in touch with just about everyone from our year. He came down to our village in Provence last year for lunch. It was lovely to see him.
When was the last time you were back at the school? About seven years ago. A friend of mine was head of PR at Rolls-Royce in Goodwood. He lent me a car for the afternoon and I had the pleasure of driving up the legendary school drive in a beautiful black Phantom. Fortunately it was during the holidays, so no one could see me showing in off a car that didn’t belong to me. It would have felt very wrong if they had…
What did you do in the UK prior to moving overseas? I was in the world of telecoms for 15 years, mainly working for a company that built submarine cable systems. We would finance, build and then lease capacity on our systems running from Cornwall to New York, Cornwall to China etc. Yup, a lot of cables land in Porthcurno!
How did you come to be involved in the wine business? I had been in the wine trade since leaving college and left when I was 30. But the wine trade is a very special place. Everyone’s in it because they love the product, not because of the money. So I really wanted to get back into it. When I married (at 34) and we bought our first house in Richmond, a friend from the wine trade told me that the money we had just spent on our house could have bought us a vineyard, so I started plotting my return to the trade, but this time as a wine producer.
How long have you lived in France? We moved here in 2009, so around six-and-a-half years.
What are your plans for the future? Right now the focus is on building one of the strongest global wine brands from Provence. We’re already selling in over 40 markets around the world and are winning some of the top awards in the wine business. Waitrose is one of our best customers in the UK. Perhaps one of my children will want to take over the business at some point, but at the moment our focus is on business growth. And making sure they have the right education and life experience while they still live at home.
What advice do you have for current Seaford pupils? Don’t worry too much about deciding your definitive career-path right now. Many people don’t find their niche until they’re a little older. Focus on the subjects you enjoy the most or that you excel at. If you can do what you enjoy, then you’ll probably be good at it too. But you also need to be realistic. For example, if you enjoy golf or tennis, unless you’re already playing at the top level, you may not become a pro. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You can’t succeed in life without making a lot of them. Just make sure to take the right learning experiences from them and you will grow in experience and confidence.
Read more about the wines Stephen produces at http://www.mirabeauwine.com