It's every wine buff's dream to own a vinyard and in 1969, the young Tony Laithwaite had never considered that one day his dream might come true.
"I didn’t think it would actually happen." He says, recounting the story of how he came to own his first.
"For ten years I bought and sold and drove the van. [My mentor] phoned me up in a high state of fury, very early in the morning, saying 'you are going to buy my vineyard'"
Why? Tony inquired.
“'Because I offered it to Jacques [a nephew] but he said 'non', because he has a vineyard in Saint Émilion and our vineyard is only Côtes de Castillon.
"'He didn’t want it. You will buy the vineyard. You will make fantastic wine and sell it round the world and you’ll show Jacques that Côtes de Castillon can be great.'"
Tony's dreams of owning a vinyard were about to come true.
"He sold it quite a reasonable price but he didn’t give it away. It had to be replanted. It was an old French vineyard, a bit here, a bit there, so he reassembled it and then together we built the winery in an old building he had."
It was the just the beginning. Laithwaites Wine now owns vineyards in Theale, England and Castillon-La-Bataille, Bordeaux.
They have their own wine making and cellar - Le Chai au Quai - situated on the banks of the Dordogne, just down the road from their vineyards.
In addition they have a very close relationship with Viña Falernia in the Elqui Valley in Chile - their in-house winemaker Jean-Marc Sauboua has been with them for years.
Over in Australia, Tony funded the setting up of RedHeads Studio winery in McLaren Vale Australia, where Dan Parrot, the Australia and New Zealand buyer is now based there to source the best wines from the regions.
And to think, it all started with a man with a van.
Image: Tony Laithwaite in France (1980's)