When it comes to the British food and drink scene, few names have had quite the longevity of Rick Stein: the renowned chef, restaurateur and presenter is quite simply an institution.
His sons are following in his footsteps, with youngest son Charlie carving his path in the wine industry.
Like his father, he has also become a familiar face on television, regularly appearing on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and co-hosting Wine, Dine and Stein with brother Jack. Often Charlie can be found around the restaurants checking on customers, but he also hosts masterclasses and wine dinners.
Following completion of his Wine & Spirit qualifications, Charlie went on to work at the new-wave London wine merchants, The Vintner as marketer and purchaser before moving into sales.
He’s now a Director across all of the Stein restaurants, and responsible for its successful online wine shop.
We caught up with him for a glass or two of the good stuff…
What was your first experience of wine?
My dad, Rick, used to take me filming during the original shows in the 1990s and we were doing a piece with his great friend and wine extraordinaire Bill Baker.
The sequence was filmed near Mylor on the River Fal in Cornwall and we were choosing Muscadet to go with the local native oysters.
I was in awe of Bill and his knowledge and got to try an oyster and some Muscadet and I was blown away by the combination. I think I was about 10 or 11.
What’s the first winery you remember visiting?
Rothbury Estate in Australia’s Hunter Valley region in New South Wales. It was set up in the 1970s by a friend of my parents – Len Evans – and we would stay there when we visited Australia in the winter when the restaurant was closed.
Len was a proper Australian character, a great restaurateur, and had one of the best palates in the industry. I will always remember the brown snake that lived in the bushes outside our room, which absolutely terrified me!
What was the first wine you tasted which really caught your attention?
After the airing of Rick’s first TV show (Taste of The Sea) the phone in the restaurant didn’t stop ringing – it was a complete game charger for the business.
As a celebration, Rick made us all lobster and chips that evening with a bottle of Puligny Montrachet. I can’t remember the producer, but I’m sure it would have been someone like Etienne Sauzet and an early 1990s vintage. That was pretty special.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue it as a career?
Randomly, I was standing by the central lake in Hanoi in Vietnam. I was helping on Rick’s South East Asian series, and kept missing the very early calls.
The crew took pity on me and realised that I probably wasn’t that interested in TV production, but I’d been talking about wine the whole trip.
Pete, the sound man, suggested I might pursue a career in wine – and the rest is history!
What’s been your best day on the job?
I’m a huge fan of South African wine, so the day we went out to Swartland in the Western Cape Province – and tasted with the legend Eben Sadie was certainly one to remember.
What was it like growing up with a famous father?
He was famous most of my life, so it’s always just been a part of the lives of my brothers and I. I’m incredibly proud of his impact on the culinary landscape of this country.
If you were going to buy your dad a bottle for his birthday, what would it be and why?
Probably a white Burgundy, but nothing too fancy – perhaps a Rully from the Côte Chalonnaise which is a subregion of Burgundy where you can still find relatively affordable wines.
Who is your winemaking hero – and why?
Eben Sadie – his knowledge is unmatched. I have so much respect for what he’s done for South African wine.
If you could only drink one grape for the rest of your life, what would you choose and why?
Chenin blanc because it’s so versatile; you can get it dry, semi-dry, sweet, sparkling and that means I wouldn’t get bored easily.
What’s your death-row bottle?
Probably something from the largest format possible – to delay the inevitable! So, a Goliath of my birthday year Chateau Petrus (1985).
Shop some of Charlie's favourite wines here.