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Chritmas promotions – well there is an interesting one. The one time of the year when even the trade can sell vast amounts of wines and spirits to a willing audience – what do the  trade do? Give it away

WHEN ASKED to write this piece I thought, oh my God I can’t write.  Nowadays with spellcheck and "txt tlk", I never write.

But after 31 years in business, 26 of those at Mentzendorff (you get less for murder these days), I thought what an opportunity to get certain things off my chest. 

The big question was, where do I start? The next question was should I telephone my lawyer  first? That qu stion, sadly, meant that I had to put a thick red line through my 20 or so gripes.  Anyway, here goes. Christmas promotions – well there is an interesting one.

The one time of the year when the trade can sell vast amounts of wines and spirits to a willing audience – what do the trade do? Give it away.  And our margins are eroded.

I know this is a very simplistic view, and business is much more complicated than it used to be in many ways, but I have to say it still puzzles me.

I am reminded of a survey done by some professor in the 1980s who worked out that if a bottle of whisky had gone up by the same percentage as a pound of butter (sorry we are now supposed to say kilo!!) since 1945, the whisky would have been upwards of £25 a bottle.

I also remember in 1975, when I first came to London, the budget of that year had a duty increase that put the cheapest bottle of wine over £2 a bottle – doom and gloom was predicted.

But you can see that by using "the rule of seven", as was taught to me by Richard Blum of Julius Wile & Co in New York (with 10% inflation, price doubles every seven years) a bottle of the cheapest wine could be £16.

Obviously, I am not suggesting that it would be good for the trade if wine was at that level, but, if the trade continue to loose or give away their margins, there will be no more trade, for a number of reasons that would be very sad.

First and foremost, I would not have a job. Secondly, the choice offered to the consumer would be very much reduced and the wines would become blander and blander.  The direct opposite of the direction  the consumer is thinking and behaving in today.

Another gripe of mine is political correctness, which is slowly dumbing down our society and making the world a duller place.  I remember when I worked for Blue Circle Cement Group.

Yes, I know you are all asking how do you manage to move from cement to Champagne, surely you get stuck in cement? I know a terrible joke, but the old ones are always the best. Anyway, we had a paint advisory department.

A woman telephoned one morning to say that she had painted her windowsill with Snowcem the night before.  When she woke up that morning, she found cat paw prints all over the windowsill, so she asked what she should do next. 

A friend of mine said, "Shoot the cat." He got a sound ticking off, but did not lose his job – in fact his boss said, "Very good answer," as my friend left his office.  Then there are meetings – how did we survive in a time without meetings? There are now meetings to discuss what should be part of the meeting that is prior to the meeting, where the agenda is set for the final meeting.

There are probably at least two further meetings, to discuss the outcome of the meeting.  I was given a joke book by Father Christmas last year – Office Jokes – and one springs to mind: "We are to continue to have these meetings every day, until I find out why no work is getting done."

I have one last thing that annoys me more than almost anything else – lifts.  When you have an office near the top floor, as we do.  You get in the lift to go down the eight floors, and somebody on the 3rd or 4th floors wants to go up — they press both up and down buttons, and when the lift doors open, they say, "Going up!" Of course I am not — the lift is going down you ……! Irritating and a complete waste of time.

But let’s face it, life is not too bad, and I have a simple recipe for calming myself down when agitated — a perfectly chilled glass of Bollinger.  Works every time you know.

Simon Leschallas is Bollinger director at Mentzendorff

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