Stephen had worked in the wine business when he was younger and had given up the sector to move into a technology career. He’d always said the nicest and most interesting people worked in wine and he really missed the vibe. We were also big Rosé lovers, Stephen had proposed to me over a bottle of Rosado in Mallorca, and we had become big fans of the Provençal varieties, so we decided to try and make a career out of our passion for the pink stuff and move to the South of France.
Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
I am glad no-one told us too much to be honest, otherwise we might have never made the big jump to work for ourselves! But yes, it would have been nice to have been told that we need to trust our judgements and instinct, when I have tried to override these feelings, I often realised afterwards that the initial reaction was the best. Business is much more intuitive than we think and we spend a lot of time and energy questioning ourselves, often needlessly.
What’s your favourite wine (besides your own)?
Wine – where do you start it’s endless and I will learn forever. I love the whites of Burgundy, dry Rieslings from Germany and a good, juicy Rhône red. I also had a Corsican Vermentino the other day that blew my socks off. And I will never say no to a lovely glass of Champagne, especially if it’s good quality non-dosage.
What motivates you?
As luck would have it my passion for design, food and interiors has been given such nourishment in my role of running Mirabeau with Stephen. I love the creative side of my job and how I can express myself through digital media to help bring our brand to life. It’s fantastic to have such a multifaceted role, where you really take a shot at so many aspects of business but also at lifestyle marketing and design. It’s the chance to make things happen that really gets me out of bed every day.
What keeps you up at night?
I have always been a worrier and a poor sleeper, so all sorts of things keep me up at night, and I have usually forgotten what it was by the time I wake up. So, to be honest it is usually something that hasn’t gone to plan (which happens all the time) and that I then scenario play out in my head a myriad of different ways. I am also a nervous public speaker, especially when I have to do in French, so I usually have a sleepless night, which is totally unhelpful to the cause.
Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the wine business?
My Husband. It's so wonderful to be able to find a partner in life and in work – I’ve been lucky enough to find a father to our three children and someone who makes me comfortable with just being me and who supports and lifts me up to believe in myself.
What time do you wake up?
Several times a night and then finally at about 6am, I have always been an early bird.
Coffee or tea?
Good coffee all the way!
How often do you check your email?
I don’t want to count. This is what you sign up for running your own business and Stephen and I have always wanted to be super available and easy to reach. And then there are lots of business chats and the other platforms… I am the one in the family rather than my kids that needs a screen detox.
How do you let off steam?
Work and normal life blurs in a big way chez moi, but I just love taking some time out to sit on the terrace to read or to leaf through an interiors magazine—preferably with a glass of something nice to drink in my hand. My other passion is cooking and I could easily spend most of the day doing it, nothing better than a stack of clean plates and happy guests (or kids) sitting around my table. A big walk in the woods with Oscar my Jack Russell is what keeps me (and him) sane and I try and do that as often as I can.
What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
My kitchen favourites are constantly evolving, but I love a Rouget fillet (red mullet) on creamy polenta with ratatouille. Or a roasted vegetable salad with a basil hummus and fresh sourdough. We eat simple foods with the seasons and mostly vegetarian, though a juicy côte de boeuf with a sauce vierge and frites does make a rare and appreciated appearance.
We will normally be at home or at our Domaine in the garden with friends and family, enjoying some much-needed time together. But it’s also the time when I catch up with gardening, family admin and many other chores. Sometimes we pile into the car and drive to the Med and those are the best days!
What was your dream job growing up?
I had a long-time dream to be a fashion designer, before becoming a bit besotted with interior design. For some inexplicable reason I studied economics and politics, which did little for my creative yearning. When the kids were old enough, I finally started a mature student course at KLC and have used a lot of what I learnt in designing my house and the Domaine here and in the design process for the Mirabeau products.
Best business decision?
To buy a vineyard after seeing about 40 different ones that weren’t quite right! It’s such a scary and huge investment, but it was the best thing to finally find our land.
Worst business decision?
Jeez tough one, all decisions are a waypoint on our business journey, so I wouldn’t be the person I am without them. I have probably been too careful, especially in the early days and we could have probably moved faster, for example if we had hired earlier rather than trying to do almost everything ourselves. But at the time that was all we knew, so we moved at our own pace.
What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
First, it’s very important to access any help out there, so reach out to others who may help you – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. You also do need to watch your cash. This is frustrating when you have so many plans, but you need to make sure you last the course and often good businesses run out of cash. Barter and trade favours if you can, many others are in the same situation, so cooperation is a good and inexpensive way to amplify your voice. If you can afford to think countercyclical, then do, it often allows you to jump forward when others are running for cover. And whilst you cannot be a pushover, remain kind and ultra-polite, being successful doesn’t mean you have to be arrogant.
If you could change one thing about the wine industry today, what would it be?
Clearly more women would be a bonus, though I am seeing more and more enter the profession and that is great to see. And secondly, and it’s something we have been trying to do with Mirabeau all along, would be to keep the magic bits about wine and lose the scary, impenetrable side. A more modern approach towards the consumer, with a communication that explains, but doesn’t confuse or lecture, would be a big step forward for the industry.
Born in Munich in 1972, Cronk moved to the UK for secondary school and studied Economics and International Relations at LSE in London. A career in tech Marketing followed where she met her husband Stephen in 1997. After taking some time out to look after their three young children, Cronk started retraining in interior design, but then followed her husband’s calling to Provence in 2009 to help him realise his winemaking dream. The couple now own one of the most well-known and acclaimed rosé brands in the world. In 2015, Cronk was also elected to the board of Wines of Provence and has worked hard to give some of her communications experience back to the region that welcomed her. She is responsible for the marketing, new product design and key supplier relations at Maison Mirabeau, as well as being a keen communicator about their life in Provence to the many fans of the brand.