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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.

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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.

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