Judge profile: Nick Oakley
Nick Oakley is director of Oakley Wine Agencies, a leading specialist in Portuguese and Spanish wine. He has been working in the wine industry for 35 years, and founded Oakley Wine Agencies in 1990 after falling in love with Portuguese wine.
Oakley Wine Agencies works with family estates in Portugal and Spain, acting as an office for the vineyards in British and Irish markets. The agency also works with its winery partners to develops own label and branded products for large retailers, creating exciting new wines for the UK market.
How many references have you got in your portfolio?
120 perhaps. We have 10-12 vineyards in Portugal and about six in Spain that we work with, and their entire portfolio would be accessible to us. We might have 300 wines, but we probably concentrate on 80 of them at once.
How do you choose which vineyards to work with?
Our business model is to be a part of the winery team. People don’t want to be buying from a middleman, they want to be buying from the vineyard, so we work hand in hand with the wineries as their office in the UK. That means you have to establish very long term relationships.
What makes Portuguese wine special?
Portugal is an Atlantic country, so you’ve got different climatic effects going on. It’s very much not Spain – you get fresh Atlantic weather, good acidity, grape varieties which are unique to Portugal, and I just think that it has this point of difference but still tastes classically European. It’s starting to catch on very much.
What are you looking for when judging wines? What makes a Gold medal-winning wine?
To get a medal, I think your heart has to miss a beat. You have to taste the wine and say “oh wow, this has just got something about it”. It’s just this imperceptible something that makes your heart miss a beat. If it doesn’t do that, it’s just a commendable wine. To win a medal, it’s got to really catch your attention.