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All the best: James Nicholson on his favourite things

By Kerry McKittrick

The 60-year-old is the owner of Wine Merchants. He lives in Killinchy, Co Down with his wife Elspeth

My best moment

I bought a racehorse 24 years ago. It was at the end of a long evening after a few beers and I hadn’t planned to buy a horse, I got talked into it. He was called Wine Merchant and he ended up winning five races at Down Royal.


My best way to relax

I love to ski and I go several times a year to the Three Valleys in France. I’ll slip down the slopes to a nice restaurant and spend a good few hours there with some friends. I used to spend half my life skiing but it seems that as I get older I have to work harder at it.

My best song

Save Your Kisses For Me by Brotherhood Of Man, because one of the biggest bets I’ve ever placed was on a horse of that name. The bet was £500 at 5/2 and I won enough money to pay for a two week holiday in Majorca. I was only 19 at the time so that was a lot of money. I’m not a big gambler, though — I’ve placed a couple of £500 bets since and lost so I’ve learnt from that.

My best job

I’ve spent the last 37 years in my best job. I wasn’t terribly successful academically so after my A-Levels I went into the family restaurant and was dispatched to the pub part of it where I spent half my time playing darts and serving customers.

We rebuilt the whole place, creating a very good restaurant with a good wine list. I got very interested in wine, started reading books about it and importing from merchants in England or beyond.

That’s how I started and I’ve been lucky to do something I’ve loved ever since. 

I’m on the board of the organisation Youth Action, and that’s also one of the best jobs I do, as I get a lot of fulfilment out of it.

My best bit of advice

Be true to yourself, have one good friend that you can call on when things are not going well, and drink less but well.

These aren’t bits of advice that anyone has given me, it’s just bits and pieces that I’ve figured out myself over the years.

My best gift

My wife was very ill with meningitis a few years ago and her best friend gave us the most beautiful golden Labrador pup called Paris. It was a wonderful, unexpected gift and Paris went on to give birth to a litter of 10. She passed away from a tumour six months ago but we still have three of her litter.

My best achievement

I look forward to owning the winner of the Champion Chase at Down Royal, as that would be the topping on the cake. If you think you’ve had your best achievement, though, then you haven’t really lived life to the full.

It should always be ahead of you.

My best buy

I travel all over Europe on wine buying trips so my Garmin satnav has to be my most practical possession.

My best film

The Graduate, starring Dustin Hoffman. I went to see it in the cinema four times. I think as a teenager your greatest wish would be to bump into Mrs Robinson. I never did.

My best book

The Byerley Turk by Jeremy James. I’m not a big fiction reader but I do read a lot of biographies. This one is about a horse and I think it’s a much more compelling tale than War Horse. I’m on a crusade to have it made into a movie.

  • JN Wine has partnered with Youth Action NI to get two under-privileged young people into work next year. Follow @jnwine on Twitter and once it reaches 5,000 followers it’ll make a donation to the charity on your behalf.

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