Drinks trade loses ‘great character’ with sudden death of Simon Leschallas

Much-loved past master of both the Vintners’ and Distillers’ Companies, as well as Champagne brand specialist, and “great character” Simon Leschallas, has died aged 64.

Picture credit: thewinetastingco.com

News reached the drinks business this morning that Simon had died suddenly yesterday, leaving behind his wife Jo and young family.

Described by former colleagues as a “great character” and “absolute star”, db is also extremely sad to report this loss to the UK drinks trade, having enjoyed Simon’s jolly company and generous spirit over the past two decades.

According to Alan Montague-Dennis, prestige business director at Mentzendorff, Simon – otherwise known as The Tank – started his career working for Blue Circle cement in Cheshire.

Following in the footsteps of his father Anthony Leschallas, Simon joined Mentzendorff in 1978 and remained a director for 29 years, becoming “widely-known and respected throughout the wine trade”.

For Montague-Dennis, Simon will be best remembered for his time working as brand ambassador for Champagne Bollinger, and was instrumental in forging sponsorships with the Open Golf, Royal Ascot, and the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.

Following his departure from Mentzendorff in 2009, Simon formed a new company called St Aubyn Leschallas Wines Ltd, mainly importing Vondeling from South Africa, as well as taking on a role as brand ambassador for Charles Heidsieck Champagne.

Simon was also a past master of the Vintners’ Company and the Worshipful Company of Distillers, as well as a trustee of the Wine Trade Sports Club.

James Simpson MW, managing director of Pol Roger Portfolio, and former colleague of Simon’s at Mentzendorff, expressed his shock at this tragic news, which reached him yesterday.

Describing Simon as “an absolute star”, he said that “with his death, the trade loses yet another great character.”

Simpson, like Montague-Dennis, recalled Simon’s powerful role establishing Bollinger Champagne in the UK, and also wrote the following personal tribute, which we have reproduced below:

“Happened to be a Lords last night watching the cricket when I heard; it was particularly poignant in that, during my time working at Mentzendorff, I had worked very closely with Simon in the Bollinger Tent on the corner of the Nursery Ground and then in the Dedans Bar. Had some terrific times there opening vast numbers of bottles, meeting some of the England cricketers and making smoked salmon sandwiches to the accompaniment of the Real Tennis.

“Yesterday was also the first day of the Open Championships; an event with which Simon was associated for much of his career. He was a terrific host of the iconic red and white striped Bollinger Tent; I was lucky enough to be there with him at seven Opens during my time at Mentzendorff; from torrential rain at Lytham through to baking heat up at St. Andrews (and a dip in the bay every evening).  

“And, despite my moving to Pol Roger, Simon continued to be a great friend and the perfect role model. 

“He related brilliantly to everyone he met (whether junior or senior), he had a charming sense of humour and, to cap it all, was a fabulous Master of the Vintners’ Company.”

Our thoughts are very much with his family at this extremely sad time.

13 Responses to “Drinks trade loses ‘great character’ with sudden death of Simon Leschallas”

  1. Charles Crawfurd says:

    How very sad. I last saw Simon in January and he seemed to be on the mend but obviously a false dawn. One of the trade’s characters of which sadly there seem fewer and fewer. All should raise a glass of Bolly in his memory and I hope they have already laid on extra stocks for him in heaven. Rest in peace Simon.

  2. Tom Stevenson says:

    A lovely man and a great character, who will be greatly missed.

  3. Dave Roles says:

    Simon was always a great pleasure to meet at tastings and events, his wit and humour along with his wonderful stories will be greatly missed.

  4. Simon never failed to make the St Austell gang smile with his charm and gentle mischievousness. I spoke to him on Wednesday to invite him to a dinner in November ‘Perfect’, he said, I’m already at a lunch that day so I’ll come straight on, I may be a bit tipsy’. What a wonderful man and what a sad loss to the wine industry. We will miss him greatly.

  5. Simon was simply tremendous fun to be with. We enjoyed a wonderful week with him at Vondeling in January this year and are deeply saddened by the news of his untimely departure. He has been a strong advocate for Pinkster and a joy to work with. We will miss him terribly and will open some Vondeling magnums this evening in his honour.

  6. Cyril Brun says:

    We will all miss Simon a lot. I will keep in mind our last meeting 10 days ago which was a pure moment of indulgence enjoying a few glass of Champagne together. My most sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  7. Mike Hall says:

    What horrible news. Simon joined the trade the same year as I did and he probably had the best job in the wine trade selling Bollinger. He was a delight to deal with and always had a smile on his face. He represented the trade as it used to be – fun and vocational, the passing of which I lament.

  8. PETER FERGUSON says:

    I really cannot believe this. What very sad news. I was with Simon at the Caledonian Club just a couple of weeks ago and he delighted in regaling me with a wonderfully risqué story which kept us laughing for quite some time. As an ex colleague of Simon and a friend thereafter, I always enjoyed spending time with him and am very saddened and shocked to learn of his passing. He was always an extremely kind and thoughtful person. My thoughts go out to his family.

  9. martin kember says:

    Sad loss.Champagne was built on great characters ….he was one of the best!

  10. Heartfelt condolences to Jo, Bertie and the rest of the family. We loved Simon here at Vondeling and cannot imagine the annual SA pilgrimage to Vondeling without him. Rest in peace, Simon…. you will be sorely missed.

  11. edwin booth says:

    Simon introduced me to Bollinger when I was a young wine buyer in my 20s. He was always huge fun to be with – witty, warm and engaging. I will always have the fondest memories of him. May his soul rest in peace.

  12. Christopher Burr says:

    A sad shock. He was a great guy. Bollinger owe a very great deal to both him and his father before him. No matter how good a wine or Champagne is, it needs selling well, in the right way, in the right places, and with the right people. Simon was a Master at all of that.

    He was always fun to meet, enjoyable to work with, and as so many people have said, he will be very sadly missed. My sincere condolences to Joanna and his family.

  13. I met Simon the week before his tragic death at 67 Pall Mall where he was hosting a Charles Heidsieck tasting, and he seemed very well. Simon was part of a group of Champagne Charlies in the eighties who were great characters. He was certainly the classiest, so much so that if you had not known, you would have assumed he and his father owned Bollinger. He will have a head start, taking back the Bollinger agency, and getting it established in his inimitable way, in his own heavenly haven.

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