Xavier de Eizaguirre
How did you get into the wine business? 'I studied international business and my dream as a teenager was to travel the world. I decided early on to find a job that would let me travel. Luckily I found a job with Chateau Mouton Rothschild as export director; I've been with them for 34 years now. Obviously, as export director, I had to travel and I've never stopped. I'm not tired of it; every time I get on a plane to anywhere, it's very exciting.'
What else do you like about your job? 'I love meeting people and seeing new cultures. I also love sharing this beautiful product with so many people around the world. Wine is universal - everywhere you go people have an interest in it. My theory is it's because it's the last natural product in the world that's not computerised; with wine, you're dealing with Mother Nature. Every wine, every vintage is different. When people share wine, they share ideas and talk with each other - they cannot fight; wine is also peace.'
What do you think of the mainland market? 'It's fascinating because it's an emerging market. They have access to the wine but they don't know what it is, but this is not a problem. They're learning and this excites them and triggers their curiosity. It reminds me of 35 years ago, when I was dealing with the US market. At the time, they knew nothing about wines but today the US is one of the most sophisticated markets. It's what's happening in China now - people are beginning to understand wine. China is the market of the future - it will be enormous in production, consumption, interest and development. It's also cultural. With wine comes food and sophistication - it's a package.'
And the food? 'Chinese and French cuisines are similar because of the variety. I always say the great cuisines of the world were created by populations that were starving. How else do you develop a taste for such a variety of products? You need to feed many people so you taste many things. That's what happened in France over 2,000 years - famine after famine and people realised that putting milk away would create cheese. The idea of keeping food for tomorrow or the next two weeks - it's the same in China. Why do the French eat snails? At some point we had nothing else to eat, we discovered we could eat them, and they tasted better with garlic. Like some of the things I ate in China - they look horrible but taste good because at some point people cooked the ingredients in a different manner. They cooked everything they had so they wouldn't starve.'
If you weren't in the wine business, what would you do? 'I would be an adventurer. I would be an astronaut, or someone discovering the world in a different way. There's not much to discover on earth but there's lots [to see] in space - I would love to get on a shuttle into space. There is also a lot to discover under the sea but I'd get scared, I'd be claustrophobic.'