Anne Ray

Accidental oenologist, foodie, resilient and still passionate

During a chance meeting with a Burgundy winemaker, Anne was told a story that would change her life.

In the late 1800’s the winemaker’s family had lost all their vines to phylloxera, a root-eating aphid that wiped out 70% of France’s vineyards. At the end of the 60’s, having inherited a last remaining vineyard from his grandfather, the winemaker, then just a humble factory worker, patiently rebuilt the family’s estate, replanting and rebuilding piece by piece. To Anne, who at age 27 knew nothing about wine, that someone would willingly dedicate himself so selflessly to making wine must mean that wine was something worth being passionate about. She was intrigued.

She took a weekend introductory course at the Université du Vin at Suze la Rousse in southern France in 1992. Then a two-week course at Changins Haute Ecole de Viticulture et Oenologie, in Switzerland. Her initial curiosity fast became a full-blown passion. She quit her job in HR at the United Overseas Bank (now part of BNP Paribas) in 1994 and returned to the Université du Vin to take the Sommelier exam. Back in Switzerland, she audited the oenologist course at Changins and passed the Cafetier, Restaurateur et Hôtelier exam in Geneva. Anne’s dream was to open one of the first wine bars in Geneva. Then within a couple of months, her life pivoted; she got divorced and left Switzerland to takeover a wine estate and guesthouse in the south of France with her future second husband whom she met at the Université du Vin.

Life was good until six months later following a tragic car accident Anne’s life capsized again and she found herself back in Switzerland having lost her fiancé and the twins she was expecting in one fateful afternoon. Returning to work as a recruiter, Anne searched for distractions to occupy her free time. She began giving wine tasting classes at the Ecole Club Migros in Nyon. She decided to bring the class home after her classroom was sold to a fitness chain.

According to Anne, this quote from Jean Cocteau “Nothing is as serious than pleasure” is a recipe to live by.

It began as an initiation to wine tasting every two weeks, on Monday evenings. Then she started serving a few homemade snacks to accompany the wine. The snacks evolved and soon became once-a-month dinners for 12-15 people in her home. By the end of 1996 Anne was spending most of the weekend selecting and preparing a six to eight-course menu with accompanying wines. That Christmas she outdid herself and hosted 24 people for a 10-course dinner with 10 accompanying wines.

“Everything is in the preparation. It’s frantic right up until guests arrive, but when they do, the kitchen must be clean and appear under control. Like the duck swimming serenely on the lake but paddling like mad beneath the surface.”

In 2014, after 15 years as HR Director for the French-speaking part of Switzerland at Credit Suisse, Anne is offered a 60% position at Pictet. She spends her extended weekends discovering and exploring vineyards in France, Italy and Spain and returns satiated with ideas that she tries out on her partner. “We met in 2003, he is my harshest critic and is not shy in telling me when a recipe doesn’t work. I value his opinion implicitly.” These weekend escapades are Anne’s inspiration to begin organising weekend wine-tasting trips paired with meals in local restaurants and educational excursions such as truffle hunting.

Today she continues to spend her spare time researching and organising four wine-tasting weekend trips per year on top of her monthly wine-pairing/cooking class evenings and special events for companies. “I find the two activities complement each other well. When you first taste a wine, you consider how it will evolve, how it will integrate into the meal and what flavours it will bring. The same reflections as when meeting a candidate and considering them for a role and a team.”

When she’s not preparing her wine-pairing evenings, Anne is Senior HR Business Partner for Legal, Group Corporate Communications, and Organisation as well as responsible for various HR projects.

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