Wine merchant Stephen Browett, co-owner of English Premier League soccer club Crystal Palace, explains what makes his twin passions so compatible
Mr. Browett, 55, is no stranger to the beautiful game. As well as owning the London-based fine-wine brokers, he is the co-chairman of Crystal Palace, a club he and three others bought out of administration, a form of bankruptcy protection, in 2010.
“The reason I was feeling crazy enough to buy a football club was because it was in June 2010 and that’s when we were selling the ’09 Bordeaux en primeurs,” he says. “We sold £75 million-worth of wine in the space of three months.”
The profit from those sales helped enable him to buy a 25% stake in Crystal Palace, a team he has supported since the late 1960s.
In those days, you would be lucky to find a bottle of wine in the club’s ground, he laughs, except for maybe Mateus rosé or Blue Nun in the boardroom.
How things have changed. “Prior to being an owner of the club I was just a man in the stands and I didn’t eat in the ground as it was terrible,” Mr. Browett says. Once in the driving seat, he persuaded two of France’s most distinguished winemakers, Denis Durantou of Pomerol’s Eglise Clinet and Jean-Marie Guffens of Burgundy’s Domaine Verget, to make the club’s red and white wine, respectively.
And unusually for the sport, he has introduced a bring-your-own-bottle policy for the executive boxes, which in some cases has seen people bringing in some of the world’s most sought-after wines, such as Bordeaux’s Château Montrose and top white Burgundy.
“I’m sure that people at Crystal Palace have watched football drinking better wine than at any other football club in the country,” he says.
By buying into Crystal Palace, Mr. Browett joined an elite group of football-loving wine men that includes Jean-Louis Triaud, the president of French top-division club Bordeaux and owner of Châteaux Gloria and Saint-Pierre in Saint-Julien; Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who owns a vineyard in Lombardy; and David Murray, the former owner of Glasgow Rangers, who owns Burgundy estate Domaine Jessiaume.
“Where football and wine are similar is that in a football team, just like in a wine, you need structure and you need backbone,” Mr. Browett says. He points to red Bordeaux, which, at its best, when genuinely dry, delivers an unrivaled balance of structure and ripeness.