Ben Franks: Wine Expert, Digital Marketing Consultant & Obsessed with Pinot Noir.
I remember the first wine I ever tried was Jacob’s Creek Grenache. I must have been young and I distinctly recall finding the acids and tannin too much to bear as a young teen but nonetheless pretending to enjoy it so I could join in with the atmosphere of wine and food. My parents weren’t big wine drinkers but they liked to have a glass with dinner every so often and were fans of Rioja, particularly the Reservas. They are more wine curious nowadays!
When I’m asked about my favourite wine, it’s a difficult thing to answer. I taste around 10 new wines a week as part of my role buying wines for Novel Wines. However, when I buy a bottle for myself I tend to try something a little different but stick to a rule a friend once told me, which was that the very best wines you can buy (reliably) are usually between £8 – £20. Generally speaking this has kept me in good stead – below £8 is drifting into supermarket and bulk wine territory, while above £20 for something you’ve never tasted before is pretty risky.
I tend to drift between wine styles. I’ll go through phases of loving white wines, then red wines, sometimes spending a little too long with a soft spot for dessert wine and port.
However, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed a delicious Pinot Noir or a racy Riesling (even the sweet ones, particularly Spatlese styles). There’s something about these two grapes where balance, subtlety and finesse come into a realm of their own. I certainly have more memories of drinking great ones.
One thing I am adamant about is that wine is very individual. Taste is subjective. If your taste is similar to mine, then you’ll love my hundreds of tasting notes, but if it’s different you might take bits and leave others, for example giving a food & wine match a go but ignoring the points I gave to it for tannin or what have you.
The most important thing to remember is why we drink wine. For me it’s about the social and experience elements. I love the way wine can be a talking point and create atmospheres and memories. That’s what it is all about. Enjoying wine with loved ones.
Digital Marketing Guru...
Over the years Ben has completed digital marketing and web design projects for a variety of different trades. As well as having worked in wine & spirits and media prolifically, Ben has also managed projects for higher education institutions like Bath Spa University and travel and tourism businesses, including the 2016 Luxury Travel Guide’s Self-Catering Provider of the year Tucking Mill.
Today Ben Franks specialises in providing high quality digital marketing solutions for the wine and spirits trade.
Whether you’re looking for a responsive, beautifully-designed e-commerce solution to increase your online sales or develop a social media strategy that really works Ben can help. The perks of having grown up in a new digital age combined with Ben’s passion for wine means the quality and passion dedicated to each project is unrivalled in his field.
Achieving the dream: Writing with passion
Ben’s dream is to write for a living about the things he loves. That’s why if you’re creating content about wine and spirits for your website, product brochure or a PR campaign, few can achieve the standard of copywriting Ben can offer you.
In 2017 Ben was honoured when Shigekazu Misawa from the Grace Winery in Japan arranged to meet him for lunch. Misawa, who is one of the purveyors of the Koshu grape variety pioneered by the body Koshu of Japan, had discovered Ben’s work through the various journalism pieces Ben had written on the Koshu variety. Misawa kindly gifted Ben a tank sample of the 2016 vintage of Grace Koshu Kayagatake and a handmade name holder from Japan.
Ben Franks has over 10 years experience in journalism and digital marketing, with over 5 years in the wine trade. He is currently the owner and managing director of Novel Wines, a UK-wide ecommerce retailer specialising in unique and undiscovered wines.
Ben began his dream of writing for a living at the age of just seven when he wrote a picture book about a dog who ends up stuck in an ice cube and calls on his neighbours for help. His parents still proudly own a copy today but luckily Ben’s spelling has much improved since!
In 2010, Ben was only 16 years old when he founded Pie Magazine, an online magazine aiming to encourage young aspiring writers to send in work and get experience. At its peak, the magazine was read by over 100,000 people a month from all over the globe.
Getting into wine
During the five years Ben ran Pie Magazine he was working on the wine department in Waitrose part time while studying an English Literature degree at Bath Spa University. He can still remember the turning point in his career in 2013 when he wrote to his manager at Waitrose to ask for a £10 per week budget to spend on wine. In return, Ben would write a wine review each week for his magazine and the staff dining room. After a meeting with the branch manager in Bath, the idea was approved and for the next two years Ben wrote a weekly wine review on Waitrose’s wines.
The success of Ben’s review series led to an interview with Sam Lindo at Camel Valley in 2015. They spent over two hours tasting wines, talking about viticulture and the UK wine trade and Ben was hooked. Here was this wonderful business of wine and it wasn’t snobby at all; instead it was welcoming, exciting and challenging. Almost as soon as Ben left, he had decided to take the WSET and passed the Level 2 with Distinction in February 2015.
Ben Franks Wine was established in 2015 when Ben graduated with his degree in June. He has since written prolifically for local press like Bath Life Magazine, national trade publications such as UK Vine and international drinks magazines like Drink Me. Alongside his journalism, Ben has also trained staff in on-trade restaurants for clients like Vino Vino, hosted wine tastings all over the UK and in 2016 judged the Mercian Vineyard Association awards in England.
Ben is studying towards the WSET Diploma and currently holds the Level 3 award. In September 2016, Ben founded Novel Wines with business partner and Hungarian wine importer Gyorgy Zsiga.
In 2017, Ben joined the West of England Wine & Spirit Association (WEWSA) as one of its youngest ever committee members. He joins chair Mimi Avery, ex-UKVA chair Paul Langham, Charles Crawfurd MW and other great names in the trade.
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Red Wine Picks
- Matusko Dingac Plavac Mali 2010
- Prima Donna Tannat 2010
- Takler Kekfrankos Reserve 2013
- Domaine Francois Buffet Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds 2009
- Pilato Teran 2012
White Wine Picks
- Schloss Johanissberger Riesling Spatlese 2011
- Hubertus Clusserath Riesling Spatlese 2011
- Lismore Chardonnay 2015
- Furleigh Estate Bacchus Fumé 2014
- Oatley Leonora’s 2013
- Grace Koshu Private Reserve 2015
Beer & Spirits Picks
- Theakston’s Old Peculier
- Bath Brew House Gladiator
- Laphroaig 14YO Malt Cask
- Sipsmith Gin
Ben Franks is based in Bath, UK. If you’re also a resident of Bath, you could qualify for exemption of travel costs when you book a tasting! To find out more, visit the Private Tastings page.