In 1985 I moved to Thresher, part of the Whitbread Group. There were many changes to the retail off licensed companies during the 80s and 90s culminating in the merger of Thresher and Victoria Wine in 1997. In 2001 I left First Quench, as the company had been renamed and took over from another past Chairman of The Academy, David Skinner, at The Benevolent, where I remained until retirement in 2006.
I was fortunate to be invited to join the Academy Course in 1970 for the hugely enjoyable and educative 10 day course. One of the highlights was drinking Krug 1928, which Henri Krug produced and asked us to guess the vintage. No one got close but we all recognised it as superb. I seem to recall him saying that it had been disgorged that morning.
We were lucky enough to share a glass of Ratafia with Madame Bollinger, who was a legend to us all and who was still running the firm at that time. We were invited into her drawing room and I remember thinking what an honour it was. Other memories certainly include the week-end in Paris when we made up for the lack of red wine on offer during the week. After the exam, which we all passed, but some with more distinction than others I remember being interviewed by Paul Krug, who was an imposing man. He looked at me over his glasses and said something like ‘’Youngman, I suppose you have learned something since you have been here’’. Until then I thought I had done reasonably well.
I became Chairman in 1988 when the Presidential House was Louis Roederer, with Jean Claude Rousseau at the helm and it was a relatively quiet but enjoyable year following the expansion from 12 to 16 Houses. The London dinner was held at The Piccadilly Hotel which had recently been renovated and renamed Le Meridien, Piccadilly.