If you have any memories you’d like to share of Patrick Sandeman, who died over the weekend in a skydiving accident, please do. Here Margaret Rand writes about how he helped to make Lea and Sandeman such a success
Patrick Sandeman, who died over the weekend in a skydiving accident, was one of the people who set the running in the British wine trade. He was a scion of the Sandeman port family, but although Sandeman lost its corporate independence many years ago fortified wine still runs in the family veins. His mother was a Valdespino, of the distinguished sherry family; and Valdespino sherries were among the first wines on the shelves when Patrick and partner Charles Lea set up shop in 1988.
A number of his generation (he was 55) set up independent wine merchants in the wake of a wave of corporate takeovers, and Lea and Sandeman became the go-to London merchant for Italian wine, Austrian, sherry, Alsace, top New World – pretty much anything that had character, individuality and quality.
One shop has become four, but their policy of buying direct from producers – always the most time-consuming but the best way of buying – has never changed. Patrick travelled the world, tramping round vineyards, talking to producers, understanding how growers worked their land. If you wanted to know what sort of soil a particular wine was grown on, Patrick could tell you straight off. He knew his wines because he knew their growers.
The quality that links all Lea and Sandeman wines is that of moreishness. A wine from Lea and Sandeman will leave you rather fancying another glass. This is not a universal quality in modern wine.
The atmosphere in the shop was also individual. Patrick and his partner, Charles Lea, combined all the erudition of the traditional wine trade with a thoroughly modern attitude. One customer reports regularly going in clutching a tenner and always coming out with something delicious.
Charles is serious, Patrick always had a twinkle in those devastating blue eyes; they made a tremendous team. He will be hugely missed.