The Ups and Downs of Making Wine

One man’s story of leaving London’s corporate world to become a négociant in Provence


IN 2008, Stephen Cronk, 45, resigned from his job running a large sales division for a telecommunications company, sold his home in London, and headed to Provence with his wife, Jeany, and their three young children, to realize his dream of becoming a winemaker. He chose to become a négociant, buying and blending wine to create rosé under the Mirabeau brand.

What prompted the decision to ditch your corporate life for that of a vigneron?

Shortly after we bought our family house in London we went to visit some friends near Perpignan in southwest France. They asked me how much I had just spent on our new marital home. When I told them the answer, they said “Stephen, this vineyard you have been walking past for the last half an hour is for sale for the same price as your small terrace house with little or no garden.” That was when I had the idea to buy a vineyard, and spent the next 10 years figuring out how to do it.

Why did you choose Provence?

After a great deal of research I realized that we didn’t have enough capital to buy a wine estate—I’m not a multimillionaire banker who never has to work again—so we decided to go down the négociant route. We picked Provence because we loved their style of wine and saw Provence as a wine region that still had potential.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Making the wine has been fairly straightforward, but selling the wine into new markets has been the hardest part.

Any regrets?

None. I’m not making much money and it’s hard work. But it’s what I wanted to do and if you know what you want to do in life, it is important that you go and do it.

—Edited from an interview with Will Lyons