Neil Empson was born in the famous agricultural district of Waikato in New Zealand and graduated from Auckland’s Sacred Heart College. His great-grandfather, Charles Empson, planted the first vineyard in Marlborough, around the year 1852. Neil formed an interest in wine work while enjoying the wine cellar and fine cuisine aboard the SS Monterey from Auckland to Oakland, California, in 1962.
Maria Gemma Empson was born in Rhode Island of Italian heritage and studied art at Finch College in New York as well as the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. The two met in 1969 and formed a plan for a French wine business, but their honeymoon to Italy changed their focus, and Neil Empson Selections was founded. Maria’s artistic skill is instrumental in the company’s marketing, and her artwork graces Bollini’s bottles.
In its early years, the business was financed by restoring and reselling classic cars, a passion Neil Empson still cultivates, in addition to enjoying swimming, yachting and following politics.