Armit Wines is the creation of John Armit, a passionate advocate for great wine. John’s career began after leaving Oxford in 1962 when his first job was with Corney and Barrow, where a Dickensian-style apprenticeship saw him spending many hours sticking labels on bottles. By 1969, Armit had become Managing Director of the company.
Due to his knowledge of France and fluent French, he introduced a personal, and at that time, highly unusual style, which involved him actually visiting wine producers. His firmly held belief is that you do the best, and the fastest business face-to-face, which, at the same time, gave him the opportunity to detect new trends in winemaking and wine-producing areas. All this, while the competition was sitting back in their London offices waiting for somebody to send them samples.
One of Armit's first visits was to Jean‑Pierre Moueix, the emperor of Bordeaux, at the great Château Pétrus. They had lunch together and discussed painting and poetry.
After lunch, Jean Pierre offered John the exclusive agency in Britain for Châteaux Trotanoy, La Fleur Pétrus, Latour à Pomerol and Magdelaine, wines which at that time were little known - indeed, the Bordelais looked down on them, regarding them as useful blending wines. John was able to buy the 1961, 62, 64, 66 and 67 vintages in hundred case lots ‑ now regarded as the finest vintages this century. In 1978 he won the Holy Grail, Château Pétrus.
Leaving Corney and Barrow in 1981, John Armit Wine Investment Ltd, was created as a small, highly specialised company for large-scale collectors and investors in wine. John managed wine portfolios for a maximum of 100 clients, dealing only in top quality claret, much of it sold En Primeur.
In 1988 John Armit Wines Ltd was established with the purpose of providing to clients the services of a complete wine merchant, but one with a strongly contemporary feel. The company grew, reaching sales of £17.4m in 2002 through concentrating on its clients and growing the portfolio of great wines represented in the UK (click here to see our Agencies).
Recognising that the business required more professional management, in May 2004 John recruited Ian Ronald who joined as a shareholder of the company and as Chief Executive. Ian brought with him in-depth knowledge of the wine trade, gained during his five year tenure as Chief Executive of The Wine Society, and a strategy to develop John Armit Wines whilst retaining its unique ethos.
In 2005 the business rebranded to recognise the fact that the business was far more than one man, and had grown into the leading contemporary wine merchant in the UK selling to private clients, the country’s top hotels and restaurants, to leading independent specialists as well as to the UK and international trade. Based in Notting Hill, the company today employs over 40 people who work from beautiful offices on the top floor of a former film studio and since 2008 has operated a second office in Central Hong Kong.
Today, the company offers an award-winning selection of wines together with a very high level of personal service to its growing customer base. The company’s wine list incorporates many of the top Burgundies and is considered one of the best in the trade. It is a recognised Bordeaux specialist and ranks amongst the biggest importers and marketers of First Growths, including Châteaux Margaux, Cheval Blanc and Haut Brion. Armit Wines represents exclusively the exquisite Pomerol, Château Lafleur, and has strong relationships with many of the most highly regarded wines of the Médoc. The company also holds exclusive agencies for some of the finest Italian producers – in particular Sassicaia, Angelo Gaja, Bruno Giacosa and Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and is considered amongst the UK’s top specialists for this dynamic country.
The portfolio continues to grow, as does the business, where entrepreneurialism and the closest possible relationships with the world’s best winemakers are viewed as fundamental to continued success. In recent years, the company has become the exclusive agent for producers from a diverse and contrasting number of regions, such as Rioja (La Rioja Alta), Champagne (Pierre Gimonnet & Fils) and Victoria (Tahbilk), to pick out just a very few. All are united by their quality ethos and their individuality.
In October 2008 Baarsma Wine Group Holding (BWGH), a Netherlands based specialist multi channel wine distributor, took a 75% stake in Armit Wines with the balance being held by Armit Wines management team. The loyal shareholder base that had supported Armit Wines from the beginning were well rewarded. The deal placed Armit Wines in a strong position to pursue acquisition in addition to the existing organic growth strategies already in place. In 2010/11, with the transition complete, John Armit stepped down from his role as Chairman, formally retiring as a Director in March 2011. In May 2010, Ian Ronald took on the role of COO of BWGH, a position he held until January 2012 when he left the group and Mike Laing, who had joined the business back in 2005 and the Board of Directors in 2008, was appointed Managing Director. In the intervening period, the company has strengthened its capacity to distribute on an exclusive basis the world’s most exciting wines through investment in all of its teams, as well as its IT infrastructure and in the company brand while retaining its ability to participate in the fast-moving fine wine market.
Baarsma Wine Group Holding (BWGH) is a leading distributor of quality wines from all over the world with a fast growing distribution network in every sector of the wine market across North-West Europe. Established some 30 years ago in the Netherlands, BWGH has evolved into one of the main players in the European wine market, with a turnover of more than 300 million euros.
Listed in the YFS Business Directory in the Fine Wine London category.