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OPs’ “Mr Three Per Cent” raises a glass

Phil Hude recently noted a Richard Branson tweet that only three percent of the world’s workers who get up in the morning actually love what they do – “and I reckon I’m part of that three per cent”.

“There are days when it’s tough like every retail gig,” he admitted, “but the ultimate for me is drinking wine with the people I love and it doesn’t get much better than that.”

As the resident Managing Director of fine wine merchant Armadale Cellars on High Street in Melbourne’s leafy south-east, Phil’s an engaging character who’s literally living the dream more than 30 years after completing his schooling at Parade.

A final year student of 1982, Phil conceded he wasn’t really sure of his career calling - so much so that when asked why he pitched for the fruit of the vine he jokingly blamed Bundoora’s Blue Light Disco.

“Seriously, when I got the career guide handbook in form five or six I remember distinctly not knowing what I wanted to do in life,” Phil said.

“But I loved the hospitality game, I loved socialising and I thought about how I could make a living with that. So I started with pubs because I loved hotels and I worked them for about a decade. That enhanced what Parade taught me about having an egalitarian look at people, and while there’s a lot of elitism within the wine industry our wine courses have been successful because we’ve broken the mystery down.”

Phil first undertook a course in hotel management at FIT (now Victoria University), which in retrospect “was a bit ignorant of me”. As he said: “I got half way through that and realised it was shockingly accounting-based and I should have listed to John Joss (Parade’s former accountancy teacher) more!”.

In his mid-20s, Phil, to pardon the pun, developed an insatiable thirst for wine, and at 28 took on a four-year wine course at the University of Adelaide. That his brother was an accountant for Campbell’s Winery didn’t hurt either, as it afforded Phil a rare insight into how wineries operated up the north-east – “and I thought this isn’t a bad industry”.

“The wine industry is one of the few industries in this country that has grown from not much to a billion dollar concern export-wise,” Phil said. “I probably would have made more money exporting wine to everyone on planet earth, but I’m a small, micro player in retail. Still, I’m fortunate to have a number of articles written and I am privy to many junkets around the world so I love what I do and I’ll never leave planet earth wondering.

“I linked up with a lot of wineries around the world but decided I loved selling unashamedly. Again, if I’d got into real estate or stockbroking I would have made a lot more money, but at the same time I drink the sort of wine estate agents or stockbrokers pay lots of money to enjoy.”

Through Armadale Cellars, Phil caters to a lot of high-end wine connoisseurs, but he maintains that there’s no elitism. As he said: “I know better than anyone that wine is about pleasure and socialising and stuff . . . and that’s what I do”.

A renowned wine educator because he knows there are a lot of grey areas, Phil needs no reminding of how fortunate he is to have carved his own little niche as an independent at a time when the market’s fracturing. “There’s two big chains, a few good independents and everyone in between who are struggling, but things are going okay at Armadale – not in a stupid way to anything ridiculously big, but the enjoyment factor is really there,” he said.

As a networker with no peer, Phil is rapt that his friendships from the old Parade days have endured and continue to be fostered.

“A lot of people forget where it all started and why they became successful not only in their professional lives but also as people, but I always remember,” said Phil.

“Having spent a decade in pubs I can be very colloquial which is an understatement, but at the same time if ever I’m on a tram or whatever I quite often offer someone a seat - and part of that goes back to Brother Wright forcing ‘Gentleman Junior’ on us as a book to read, to instil those morals and ethics which have never left. 

“That was all part of the discipline that Parade gave me.”

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