Wines of Chile European Director Michael Cox comes from a long line of wine professionals. In 1810, his great-great-great grandfather founded a successful wine importing business called Matthew Clark & Sons.
Now 202 years later, Cox has been chosen to serve as the Master of the Worshipful Company of Vintners, just as the society prepares to celebrate its 650th anniversary in a ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which will include the Queen of England as a guest.
“It is a great honor and privilege for me to become the Master of such an ancient British institution,” says Cox. “I have always been someone who respects tradition and history and the part that Livery companies such as The Worshipful Company of Vintners have played in the development of the sort of country England is today.”
“It makes me feel very proud,” he continues, “that I can help to maintain and develop those important traditions and customs that help to define Britain.”
The Worshipful Company of Vintners began in London in 1363 as a Livery Company, governing the city’s wine trade and performing political and religious functions within Middle Age European society. The Company’s power and influence waxed and waned over the years according to the ideals of kings, queens and later Parliament.
In modern times, however, the society still maintains many of its old traditions, including the famous Swan Upping ceremony (which has been canceled for 2012 due to flooding of the River Thames).
As the newest Master, Cox intends to dedicate his one-year term to preserving the group’s historical legacy, ensuring that the Worshipful Company of Vintners remains “the spiritual home of the international wine trade” through ongoing charitable activities and facilitating key relationships in the industry.
“Whilst it is true that these days much of the day to day functions of the Livery companies are ceremonial,” explains Cox, “the true aims are more to do with raising money for charity and developing fraternity and goodwill amongst members of the company.”
Wine education is another priority of the Company of Vintners, and the group was integral in founding the esteemed Institute of Masters of Wine (together with Cox’s grandfather Michael Gordon-Cox), and the Wine & Spirits Education Trust, which provides quality training for professionals in the wine and spirits business.
The Worshipful Company of Vintners’ activities have consistently upheld these core principles for more than half of a millennium.
Cox reflects, “When I think that in the famous history of the Vintners’ Company, a history that spans over six centuries, and during which there have been Civil Wars, The Great Fire of London, two World Wars, and the growth of the City of London as one of the world’s great financial centers, I am truly honored to be one of only just over 500 people who have been Master in 650 years.”
“I would like to thank my friends and colleagues in the Chilean wine trade,” he continues, “for their understanding of this opportunity that I have been given, and for allowing me to work part time for Wines of Chile for the year ahead so that I can fulfill my duties and responsibilities as Master.”
Cox’s nine-year directorship of Wines of Chile in Europe has complemented 40 years of experience in United Kingdom’s wine trade, and his prestigious position will certainly bring attention to Chile’s growing presence in the global industry.
“I am pleased that Chile, and its wines, are being given greater exposure and prominence and status as a result of my appointment,” says Cox, who promises to “try to get more Chilean wines into the cellars of the great Livery Halls in London.”
And it sounds like he’s already off to a good start.
By Gretchen Stahlman, written for Wines of Chile