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Monday, June 11, 2012

MOVERS and SHAKERS: David Milligan, President of David Milligan Selections

David Milligan

David Milligan was born in Dorset, England and graduated from Eton College.  
He entered the wine trade in 1957, as a trainee, rolling barrels around the cellar and bottling wine. At that time most wine was still imported in barrel and bottled in England.  
He then joined the wine department of Charrington & Co, now Bass Charrington, and spent time in their Scotch Whisky blending operations, before becoming their main table wine buyer. In this position, he created Hirondelle, which became the best selling table wine in England.

In 1969 he was approached by customers of their Scotch Whisky blending business to move to the United States and help them develop wine businesses.  
He arrived in New Orleans that year and helped develop wine departments for the wholesale operations of the Goldring family in Louisiana and Florida.  
They also acquired an import company, Dennis & Huppert which was eventually sold to Bacardi. David moved to Miami in 1975, as President of that division.

The following year, Seagram, for whom David had successfully developed sales of their wine portfolio in Louisiana, decided to launch a fine wine division. Chateau & Estate Wines Co. He was appointed the first Southern Division manager and spent a year setting up distribution in the South.  
In 1977 he moved to New York with steadily increasing responsibilities.  
This was a period of great development for such brands as Champagne Perrier Jouet and Sandeman as well as the core Bordeaux Chateau business. In 1987 he was appointed President.

In 1990, he moved over to the National Accounts side of Seagram with responsibility for both Spirits and Wine, dealing with major on premise hotel and restaurant chains.  
In late 1995, he made the major decision to form his own company, David Milligan Selections, dealing with fine Estate wines from France as well as the major Bordeaux Chateaux, where he partnered with the leading Bordeaux negociant, Joanne Bordeaux.

He still represents his original suppliers, Domaine Fournier in the Loire, Famille Quiot in the Rhone and Provence and Chateau de Pizay in Beaujolais and Maconnais, as well as a range of other Estates.  
With his tasting and buying experience and a distribution policy of shipping direct from the producers to wholesalers in most states, eliminating the national importer mark up, they are generally regarded amongst the “Best Value” wines in each category. The company does business in most major markets.

His best news arrived when his son Alexander, on finishing college in 2004, where he majored in Marketing, went to work at Sherry Lehmann over the holidays. He was asked to stay on and was later promoted to Assistant Director of Adverting and two years later having cemented his passion for the wine business decided to join David in his business. 
He is now Vice President of the Company and involved in all aspects of the business.  
In 2010 when Diageo announced its exit from the Bordeaux business David, with the backing of his long time Bordeaux associate Joanne Bordeaux set up a US subsidiary for them, Joanne Bordeaux-USA.

They also purchased a significant portion of the Diageo inventory and set up a permanent warehouse in New Jersey to supply the US market. This company is now the No 1 importer of Bordeaux wine in the United States.  
David has been active in Wine & Food groups including the Commanderie de Bordeaux, where he is Regent Emerite of the New York Chapter and a member of the National Board of Governors and the Chevaliers du Tastevin of which he is a Grand Officier.  
In 2010 he was honored by the French Government with appointment as Officier de L'Ordre de Merite Agricole for services to the French wine industry.  
He is the author of The All Color Book of Wine and several newspaper and Magazine articles.  We are so pleased to present David Milligan as our latest Mover and Shaker!  Peachy Deegan interviewed David Milligan for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: 
What are your first memories of wine? 
David Milligan: 
Tasting the delicious 1955 Sauternes, Climens and Coutet from the barrel, before bottling, also some 1955 Vintage Ports

How has the wine industry changed for the better and for the worse since 1957? 

First, most all wine is now bottled at the point of origin and is now handled in a very professional manner.  
Secondly, the standard of vineyard management and wine making is vastly improved in almost all regions. They have never made better wine or more consistently.  
As a result, many more countries are now viable competitors on the world markets and the expansion of brands is endless.  
This has created a continually more competitive market and consumer confusion due to the proliferation of brands.

What should most people know about wine that most do not know? 

The best advice is to trust their own palates, but to be open to new experiences as their tastes develop.

How do you like being an entrepreneur in the wine industry as opposed to working for a brand that you don't own?

I enjoy the freedom of choosing which wines to represent, all of which I must enjoy personally, though I do not own any of the brands

What are your favorite wines and why?

My cellar is mainly Red Bordeaux, though I drink a lot of Sancerre and Maconnais wines and love the Reds from the Southern Rhone and, of course, Champagne.

What hopes do you have for the future of your enterprise and how are you grooming your son in the industry?

I have always learnt by doing, and he is doing the same.  

The key in the fine wine business is relationships: specially with key retailers, based on a shared appreciation for the wines.  
We have deliberately limited our portfolio to a rather small number of suppliers, so that we can do an excellent job for them and so can our distributors.  
We are, however, looking at some additions, specially in the $10 to $20 price range. 

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 

It came naturally, but I think that it is always easier to sell good wine, specially at the value pricing that we seek to achieve.

What are you proudest of and why? 

I believe that I have had many great opportunities in both the UK and the USA and have always made the most them. As a result, I am gratified by the respect that I receive.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 

To have a larger organisation that could bring more of my discoveries to market successfully.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession? 

Leadership positions in the Commanderie de Bordeaux and the Chevaliers du Tastevin wine societies, 
Appointment as Officier de L'Ordre de Merite Agricole by the French Government for services to the French Wine Trade.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 

A great restaurant

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 

Sherry Lehmann, the epitome of a fine wine store.

What is your favorite drink?


What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 

Don't go too many.  
Probably meeting a long lost friend

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 


What is your favorite Manhattan book?

Above New York

Aerial photos of the city

Who would you like to be for a day and why? 

The President for the world view briefings, the power, and meeting so many of the worlds movers and shakers

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 

No ambition for this undeserved attention.  M

aybe my street could be Milligan Way.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 


What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 

Walking the city, but that's not unique to Manhattan.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 

Winston Churchill, an amazing multi-faceted man

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 

Impressionist exhibitions

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world? 

Charitable donations. Mentoring of younger people.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it? 

Champagne Wishes and Peachy's Picks, always a good way to find great spots I may have missed.

Have you drank The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 

I have not, my palate is strictly wine these days. 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you? 

I love my job and will keep working with my son Alex for a while, as I feel responsible to my suppliers and customers.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 

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