C'est la vie

Cathay Pacific's Mark Sutch shares his treasured wine collection

Cathay Pacific’s Mark Sutch is a passionate oenophile, whose wine collection boasts hundreds of bottles, each carrying a cherished memory

Faisal Magray

Standing in the dining room of his classy South Mumbai apartment, Mark Sutch lightens up as he talks about the history of his favourite wine bottles. He cradles a bottle of red in his hands and says, “I am most attached to this one. It’s a Château Lynch-Bages.” You’d think the regional GM - South Asia, Middle East and Africa of Cathay Pacific would have passions starting and ending at the aviation world. But Sutch is a proud wine enthusiast, and he proclaims that this is the drink that’s been served at the airline’s first class section since 1982. “I am very close to the family that makes this wine in Bordeaux. Every time I open a bottle, it reminds me of them,” he says.

The stock that he shows us now is hardly anything of his 1,000-large collection, stored by professional wine keepers in the UK and Hong Kong, regions he’s a citizen of. Although he can’t resist buying wine from all over the world, he remains biased towards the reds that come from Bordeaux. “I think the best wines come from the left bank of Bordeaux. And if you want to go for something lighter, Burgundy wine is your go-to drink,” says the man of taste.

Sutch says that with years of experience with the beverage. He had his first glass of wine when he was 14. “My father was a wine enthusiast too. In fact, I used to buy a few bottles here and there when I was in college,” he says. But he became passionate only in 2007, when he was posted in France by Cathay.

One thing led to another and it wasn’t just about appreciating good wine anymore. He also started blending them. “The thing about wine is that there is always a story. Every year, it changes in terms of taste and quality,” he says. Today, Sutch has four personal labels — 2010 Les Freres Sutch, 2012 Le Cochon Volant, 2014 Cuvee Neuf and 2015 Staples Sutch Lynagh. “Wine making is essentially the experimentation of blending different grapes. It is like being in a chemistry lab,” he explains with fervour. Sutch makes his wine at the facilities of a wine making company in Bordeaux that helps people make their own wine. Each of his vintage labels was made into 288 wine bottles — one barrel each. “I gave away half of them as birthday and New Year presents to friends and family,” he quips.

Sutch believes that wine is bottled history — of the families that make it and of the country it is produced in. “I also keep some empty bottles that remind me of the stories behind them — where and with whom I had it,” he says. He also invests his time in reading wine magazines and exploring books that trace the wine trails around the globe. “I try to plan my holidays in such a way that I visit a winery or two every year,” he says. He has visited wine trails in Santa Barbara, western Australia, Jerez in Spain and Auckland harbor.

This passion has introduced Sutch to wine connoisseurs in India as well. “Once every two months, we meet over dinner and each one carries their special bottle of wine,” he shares. He meticulously chooses which bottle to bring by referring to the wine magazines that specify when a wine is fit to drink. There are some bottles that he has opened after 15-20 years of possessing them. “Wine-collecting is a labour of love. It is like nurturing your child for years. And when I open the vintage bottles after ages, they taste absolutely wonderful,” he says.