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Wine to 5: Tim Lewis, owner of a cellar design and build company

Inside a professional’s everyday life, Decanter speaks to Tim Lewis, the managing director of Sorrells custom wine rooms and the Traditional Wine Rack Company.

Tim Lewis is the managing director of Sorrells custom wine rooms and the Traditional Wine Rack Company, the leading manufacturer of wine cellars/ rooms and standard racking in Europe.

How did you get here?

I spent the first part of my career working for large companies, in sales and marketing roles. However I always wanted to expand my knowledge and experience in business and have long had a personal interest in wine, so when the opportunity came up to combine both I took it, purchasing Sorrells Wineracks in 2003 and then setting up Traditional Wine Rack Company.

What’s the best thing about your job?

So much, to be honest, from meeting such a diverse mixture of clients, and chatting with them about their love of wine, to working out how we can create something to add to their passion. Then seeing the team turn the ideas into reality, from design to manufacture and then installation – with the last element, the addition of the wine, springing the room into life.

And the worst?

Building cellars where we are instructed to follow a favoured design that will not accommodate all sizes of bottle – most people focus entirely on Bordeaux-style bottles.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

That I get to drink lots of fine wines!

What’s the most memorable cellar you’ve designed?

My first one, in southwest London, in 2005. It was a small L-shaped room, and myself and a friend built and installed the cellar. From that you have the other extremes, like the truly bespoke space and large cellar that we designed over two floors, built around a grand staircase.

What’s your greatest moment?

Sorrells has come a long way in its 75 years and I’m proud of the reputation and project portfolio developed over this time.

And your greatest mistake?

When I started running the company, I felt I was too busy to take time and listen to advice from good and experienced people. I look back and realise that if I had, I would have saved myself a lot of time and a ton of cash.

What advice would you give someone wanting to follow your career path?

Having a genuine interest in wine was a great starting point for me – it seems logical to pick a career related to something that you’re passionate about. What started off as a hobby and small business has become a leading wine storage manufacturing business. Also, be prepared to get involved in everything to expand your knowledge. Most of all, if you do follow my career path, please wait until I’ve retired.

Have people’s priorities changed when it comes to installing a cellar?

Yes – with the change in the climate, temperature control is becoming more important. Also, magnums and large-format bottles are becoming more popular and so cellar design is adapting to accommodate and make a feature of these.

What’s the next big thing in cellar design?

Virtual reality is a fantastic tool that enables clients to see the concept in scale, and this technology is constantly developing. Cellar management solutions are also becoming increasingly popular. Whether for investment or for enjoyment, we find many clients want a database to help them manage their wine collection in an app, and this is something under development.

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