Meet the Chairman - Andrew Fullerton
As many of our new members and guests were due to meet this year’s chairman Andrew at our fabulous dinners and tasting events, and with the world now moving online, we asked him to answer a series of questions for you all to get to know him and his plans for this year a little better. We hope you are all looking forward to meeting/ re meeting him at our future events.
Q - When did Champagne first start to appeal to you?
I first really got into Champagne whilst working with Guinness in Northern Ireland when I was 20. As the agents for Veuve Cliquot at the time we had the opportunity to drink it quite a lot and being involved in the PR and Events department, we needed to have a certain level of knowledge. I always remember discovering that Champagne was a wine which made an occasion special, rather than needing a special occasion to enjoy Champagne. Over my career with various importers I have always had the opportunity to taste and develop my knowledge of the various Grand Marques we represented. My love of Champagne led me to be invited to my very first Academy Dinner which was held in the Chester Grosvenor in 2007 which led to my quest to be invited to the course.
Q - Do you have a favourite style of Champagne?
All styles have their place in my heart, but I do particularly enjoy a Blanc de Blanc. I also have a real interest in aged Champagnes of all styles as I think that is when Champagne can become even more exciting.
Q - What year did you attend the course and what was your standout moment?
I was finally honoured with being invited onto the course in 2012 which was an incredibly special moment. Our course was a completely mind-blowing experience from start to finish so there were so many stand out moments. I remember the feeling we had drinking Jeroboams of Champagne Charlie from 1979 and 1982 was a bit special though!
Q - What changes do you intend to make over the next two years if any?
The Academy has an extraordinarily rich and proud history which I feel should be celebrated and treasured. We have a huge mix of Academicians and my aim is to make the Academy relevant to all by improving communication and hopefully increasing the educational aspect of what we do. I would also like to continue to strengthen our links with the Shippers and Houses by listening to their needs and hopefully being able to integrate their wishes into our abilities as the Academy.
Q - How has Covid-19 challenged the Academy?
This has is an extremely unique situation which the Academy has had to come to terms with. After discussions with France, The shippers and the Committee, we took the decision to suspend all events this year apart from our Alternative Cuvee tasting which will hopefully be held in October. Having to notify this year’s candidates that they wouldn’t be going to France for their once in a lifetime experience was particularly hard. Thankfully, we can hold their places until 2021 which they are all incredibly grateful for. We have literally had to pause 2020 and will start again in 2021 with the same line up of Presidential Houses and Officers of the Academy.
As a committee we have had to manage a lot of behind the scenes business that we carry out on an annual basis and I would like to pass on my thanks to them all as everyone has been affected by this crisis but every single one of them have stepped up to help. The support from the Houses has been phenomenal and their assurances of their ongoing support for the Academy has been stated time and time again.
Q - You have chosen The Benevolent/ The Drinks Trust as this year’s charity, what was the reason for this?
Now re branded as The Drinks Trust, this charity has turned out to be a perfect choice for us. I have a strong belief that we as and Academy are a trade body and therefore should support a trade charity. Their support of education and the development of younger members of the trade has always been something I admired as well as them being a representation of how our industry always tries to work together. To be a corporate partner to them along with some of the biggest names in our industry is something of which we are immensely proud. Having spoken to the Chairmen who will follow me we decided to make the Drinks Trust our charity for at least the next 3 years to maximise the support we can give them.
Q - How will the Academy continue to support The Drinks Trust this year with no events to raise money at?
We have announced a series of initiatives which will run over the coming months where we will be raising money for the Covid-19 relief strategy being administered by the Drinks Trust. We have worked with all the houses to build a significant parcel of support to allow us to fundraise over the rest of 2020. We have a very strong network of members who can be very influential when they need to be, and we will be calling on the help of all Academicians to help us implement our plans this year. Following on from a very successful raffle sale last week, we aim to provide another to raise even more money for charity. Again, I would like to thank all the hard work of the Committee and the support we have been received from the Houses and Shippers.
Q - Can we expect any tastings at all this year following the dinners being cancelled?
We aim to monitor the situation very carefully and will make decisions based on government guidance and approval from the Houses. Our plan is that once restrictions are lifted we will have an Alternative Cuvee tasting in London and now with the additional support we have received from the Houses we will also have one outside London and also in Scotland towards the end of the year. We are doing everything possible to keep our members engaged while expanding our reach within the education events we facilitate in the future.
Q - Do you see next year going back to the traditional format of events? Five dinners, the AGM, Annual vintage tasting, Chairman’s lunch and the alternative cuvee tasting?
I think that next year will change in many ways. I believe that if we are able to operate again with freedom then 2021 will be a year of celebration. Our intention would be to hold the AGM, London Dinner, Midlands, Northern and Scottish Dinners and Alternative Cuvee tasting. In addition to this we would like to continue with the 2 additional Alternative Cuvee tastings if they are supported well this year and prove to the Houses that they are relevant. The Chairman’s lunch will change format and will become a thank you to the Shippers who support us all year and also a welcome to the new Academicians who will complete the course in 2021.
We thank Andrew for his continued hard work and dedication ensuring that despite the current challenges we face, that the Academy remains strong, charitable, relevant
and loved by all of it's members, shippers and friends.