The Committee

  • Andrew Fullerton

    Mr Chairman - 2020

    I am the Managing Director of three RTM led wine businesses, who specialise in business development, brand creation, supply and strategy. I am the founder of Urban Vines Ltd, and previously held several positions within Irish Drinks companies. Having previously gained marketing experience with companies such as Guinness, Red Bull and C&C Group, I then fell into the world of wine and have never looked back. Having grown up in a commercial horticultural family home, the links to the world of wine are deeply ingrained. Now working with major importers throughout Europe and the USA, supplying wines and developing custom made wines, my journey continues.

    Having been told of the Academy in 2007 it was not until 2012 that I completed the course and found the experience one of the best I have ever encountered. Having travelled the world to visit wineries and events for the last 20 years, the Academy Course stood out as an experience that could never be replicated. The ongoing network provided by the Academy is like nothing else in the industry.

    I then joined the committee in 2015 and aim to continue to develop the relevance of the Academy to the Houses, Shippers and trade during my year in office. The Academy is a very special organization that links members from the last 63 years with those who are only now discovering the true honour of becoming accepted into its membership.

     

  • Valerie Simpson

    Administrator

    I joined my family’s firm of Fields Wine Merchants in Chelsea in the 1970’s, working for my father.

    In 1976 I was invited to go on the Champagne Academy Course and duly arrived in Epernay with 11 other candidates to find that not only was I the only female, but that some of our hosts had not realized that they had a woman on the course for the first time, causing a few humorous logistics, Valerie being very much a man’s name in France. In those days there were just 12 houses participating in the Academy and the course took two weeks, which included a weekend in Paris.

    That time on the Course was the most magical ever and one that I will never forget. We arrived at Paris airport to be met by Andre Rouzaud, of Louis Roederer . The next day started off at 9.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning with an introduction to Champagne by none other than Patrick Forbes of Moet et Chandon. Some of my amazing memories are of dining with Madame Odette Pol Roger and being tutored in their tasting room by Paul, Remi and Henry Krug. Sitting next to Prince Guy de Polignac at dinner one night, he said I should be sure to contact his cousin when I next visited Monaco, none other than Prince Rainier.

    Retiring from the wine trade, I moved to Birmingham in 1992 where I became the CA’s regional representative for the Midlands.

    In 2008 I moved back to London and took over the role of Administrator, a job that I very much enjoy.

  • David Ramsey

    Regional Organiser - Scotland

    My career in the wine trade started in 1984 when I worked for Victoria Wine in London in the retail side of their operation. Following on from this I moved to Scotland and joined Forth Wines Ltd, a large regional wholesaler, where I worked for 11 years ending up as the buyer. I left Forth Wines in 2002 and for the next 7 years worked for myself, having started a small wholesale business. In 2009 I joined Corney & Barrow where I am now working in private client sales.
    I attended the 2000 Champagne Academy course along with several current and past members of the committee. It was a fantastic week of hard work but also great fun and highly educational. I left the course feeling that I was as up-to-speed on Champagne and all its facets as I possibly could be. Surprisingly, considering the quality of the other candidates on my course, I won the Golden Magnum!
    I have been organising the Scottish Dinner since 2000.

     

  • Paul Walker

    Vice Chaiman

    I’ve been in the Hospitality & Wine industry for over 15 years, originally starting in small Country House Hotels, working my way up to Senior Food & Beverage Management within 5 Star hotel & resorts, working with Michelin Star Chefs & award-winning wine lists. In 2016, I crossed sides, to work for William Grant & Son’s & Piper-Heidsieck and now work as an Account Manager for Pernod-Ricard, with Perrier-Jouët & G.H.Mumm Champagnes.

    I started enjoying Champagne at a relatively young age and tried my first Dom Perignon & Cristal before the age of 20, so was eager to continue my experience & learning. I attended the course in 2014, and have many fond memories Ranging from, watching a young sommelier try to sabarage a quarter bottle with a butter knife, to being invited into the Charles-Heidsieck Oenothèque, and as a group deciding upon a bottle to open. As it was one of groups birthday that day, we chose a bottle from his birth year, a 1979 Champagne Charlie en Magnum, un-disgorged. A very special bottle, enjoyed with new friends.

    I will usually defer to wine in any situation, with Champagne a favourite, and I am always impressed by Champagne Charles Heidsieck’s Brut Reserve.

  • Steve Winchcombe

    Stock controller

    I started working in the cellars for Payne & Gunter in 1983 working at many events from the Open Golf, Henley Regatta, PGA European Tour which is where my love of Champagne began. The Champagne Tent at the golf were always busy. Payne & Gunter was bought by the Compass Group in 1998. In 2005 I joined Delaware North Companies to open Wembley Stadium and Emirates Stadium. After 38 years in the Hospitality Industry I left Delaware to work as a buyer.

    I was invited to join the Champagne Academy Course in 2000 attending a fantastic week making lifelong friends and learning so much about champagne. At the Autumn event that year I was asked to join the committee with a specific task of managing the stock for our events a job that I am still doing today.

    I became Chairman in 2009 and had a fantastic year with some excellent champagnes and dinners which I have fond memories and felt very honoured to have been Chairman.

    The change of one of the tastings to offer the Champagne houses to show a style of their choice has been a great success and educational

  • Nick Bromhead

    Secretary

    I started my journey in hospitality at the age of 15 where I was working in our local Harvester restaurant, clearing tables. I grew up within the restaurant industry and whilst at University I had a fantastic opportunity to spend a year working at one of America’s best hotels in Colorado Springs. This ignited my passion and this has led to experiences in Canada, South of England, London and to my recent promotion of Hotel Manager at the Belmond Cadogan Hotel in Chelsea.

    It was whilst in London, where I was at the Ritz London in the position of Food and Beverage Manager, that I inherited the Champagne calendar and regular Champagne Dinners. This experience then led to the opportunity to join the 2015 cohort of the Champagne Academy. This immersive experience is the essence of what we aim to do in hospitality and the knowledge gained the course I will value for a lifetime. 

    My passion for hospitality has grown because I have seen the power it has on changing people's lives and I have made it my mission to inspire a new generation of hoteliers to continue this highly rewarding work.

    In 2018 I was officially welcomed onto the Champagne Academy Committee and I am looking forward to playing my part in the future of the Academy and building on the great work of the chairmen before me.

     

  • Martin Dibben

    Treasurer

    I remember when I first got the invitation to attend the champagne Academy, I had been running my restaurant, ‘Dibbens’, for under a year and had yet to leave my new baby in the hands of my team. The team promised to behave and I was pushed out the door to meet the other candidates at Heathrow Airport.  My week in the champagne region opened my eyes to this amazing wine and started my obsession about secondary fermentation. Great friendships were made with my fellow academicians and many of the champenoise who I visit very regularly.

    For me, champagne is a life style and when I was in the Chair, I hosted my dinner in the gilded hall of the Goldsmiths Livery Company. The room, lit by a 300 candle chandelier, was a fit setting for the great wines we served, with trumpet fanfares that had been composed for the evening and a bit of Opera, all my loves were bought together in one event.

    I am not going to upset anyone by stating my favourites, but I will say that being part of the Academy is an honour and pleasure when tasting the range of the 16 houses and I am a great fan of the Autumn tasting when the Houses present one of their interesting Cuvees.

     

  • Marcus Little

    Past Chairman - 2018

    I started as a Trainee Manager with the Savoy Hotel back in the early 1980’s. I spent three enjoyable years there before joining Harrods as a Christmas Temp in the wine department and was made full time, which led to 5 years of service in the corner grocery of Knightsbridge. After this I was given 7 months absence,(remove comma) so that I could work as a stagier in France and become the only person to live and work there who was allowed to use the Harrods name. It was during my time at Harrods that I was accepted into the Champagne Academy in 1987.

    After working in France I joined Grants of St. James in York, just before the first takeover and spent ten glorious years selling to the on-trade, covering the North-East and Tyneside. I ended up based at the HQ in Bristol with Matthew Clark.  Later on, I worked for a few specialist wine companies, which would focus on a particular country or region.

    For the last two years, I have been working for the largest independent winery in Italy, which is based in Piedmont, covering all trade channels of the wine business.

    My interests are Champagne, walking the dog, anyone’s dog, Champagne, sailing, combining both is even better, reading and Champagne.

     

  • Alice Archer

    Past Chairman - 2019

    I’ve been working in the wine industry for just over five years, but been interested in Champagne for a lot longer than that, from thimblefuls as a child at any family celebration, to an encounter with Ruinart at University. I currently work at a large independent called Cambridge Wine Merchants where I sell wine to the Cambridge and Oxford University colleges and am also on the buying team. Beyond this, I spent nine weeks in 2018 getting some hands-on winemaking experience at Rustenberg Wines in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and I am also enrolled on the MW study programme. My most memorable moment on the Champagne Academy course in 2015 would be having lunch in Mumm’s Moulin (windmill) á Verzernay with stunning views of the vineyards around but drinking Louis Roederer Cristal there as well. This is a classic example of the unity and collaboration of the 16 houses this one week of the year. My most memorable wines from the course included not only great vintages and prestige cuvées but also new discoveries such as the remarkably good value Folies de la Marquetterie single vineyard wine from Taittinger. I still buy a few bottles of this whenever I see it for sale.

  • Phillip Amps

    Past Chairman - 2016

    I have been a lifelong fan of Champagne and made it my personal crusade to be selected for the course by writing to all the Houses each year, sending my CV and pleading my case as to why I should get selected to go the course. After 3 years of repeat letter writing, I was called onto the course in 1997 with 6 days’ notice as someone dropped out from the original selection. Those days in Champagne on the course remain one of the highlights of my career in the wine industry and I passed the exam with distinction. I would encourage anybody who works in the wine industry who has a passion for Champagne to approach the Academy and get on the course.

    I am very lucky that my hobby is also my business and when I am not drinking wine, I will be engaging in my other favourite topic - sport. I can get very passionate about both subjects and I am very lucky that I can drink one whilst watching the other. Or do the other one when I have had too much of the other! 

    The Champagne Academy has become a very influential tool for my business, being able to invite existing and potential customers to the unique events that the Academy puts on. It is also a wonderful platform for networking with other people from the industry and other Champagne Houses. 

    I spent my year as Chairman in 2016 moving the Academy forward and instilling my passion for the Academy to others.

     

  • Craig Bonner

    Social Media

    All my life I’ve worked in hospitality and I’ve never looked back! I started off as a very young boy washing dishes in a local restaurant every Sunday and now twenty years later I’m still in the same industry. I currently work for Heritage Portfolio based up in Scotland and lucky enough to look after two five star venues, Musselburgh Racecourse and Perth Racecourse.

    In my hospitality career I’ve worked and managed hotels, bars, night clubs & restaurants and also worked from the shipper’s side of the business in some of Scotland’s leading breweries. Racecourses are by far the most exciting!

    While working for Heritage Portfolio I have been exposed into the world of Champagne and fell in love with not only the wine but the history, ethos, workmanship and the passion of the houses producing champagne.

    Early 2017 I applied for the Champagne Academy and was lucky and honoured enough to be invited to attend the course, where I had one of the most memorable weeks of my life. Tasting Les Clos Pompadour beside the vines in the Pommery Clos, listing to the cellar master at Krug educating us on how music changes the way we taste champagne and outstanding dining experiences from all the houses – a week money couldn’t buy. 

    In 2019 I was honoured to take a role on the committee and in 2020 was officially welcomed as an official member; I’m very excited for the coming years as part of this outstanding organisation!

    Committee Member 2019, Attended course 2017

  • Kevin Skeet

    Regional Organiser - Midlands

    Kevin Skeet Past Chairman As Group Operations Director for Legacy Hotels and Resorts, I lead the General Managers in our business. With an eclectic mix of hotels, both new build and beautiful listed buildings, no two days are alike. With hotels from Preston to Southampton and both branded and independent, there is a new opportunity almost every day. My hospitality career started in Shrewsbury at the then independent Radbrook Catering College. I went on to train with Trust House Forte ending up as a General Manager. A keen working relationship with wine in general and Champagne in particular led me to the early 2000s, where I supported Valerie Simpson in arranging the Midlands Academy dinners. I attended the course in 2004 where I had one of the most memorable weeks of my life. Standing in the cellars of Krug being taken through a tasting by Remi Krug still makes the hairs on my neck bristle with excitement. An incredible dinner with Pommery in Reims and a lunch with Pierre Emmanuel Taittinger and the late dearly missed Justin Llewelyn at Château de la Marquetterie, are memories that will stay with me forever. In 2017 I was honoured to take up the role of Chairman of the Academy, delivering my speech for the London dinner at Sea Containers House, with St Pauls behind me and a glass of my favourite tipple, Cuvee Louise 2002, what an occasion.

     

  • Charlotte Gordon

    Website

    My love of wine started back when I was waitressing at my local (Michelin starred) Country pub in Devon, at the tender age of 15. It soon became apparent that the world of food and wine was my passion and is now something I couldn’t imagine my life without.

    I moved to London in 2014 to pursue my dreams of becoming a sommelier and landed the dream job working at Dinner by Heston in the Mandarin Oriental, Knightsbridge. I was lucky enough to be trained by a Master of Wine and was exposed to the most expensive and famous bottles money could buy.

    I’m now passing on my love of wine by teaching as a certified WSET educator within my current role as Education and Sales Manager for Hills Prospect. I feel so lucky to love what I do.

    I attended the course in 2017 which was absolutely the best wine trip I will ever attend – the houses, the wines, the memories and the friends I made will be something I’ll cherish forever.  I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite moment from the course – there are simply too many to name. The most amazing part of it all is now belonging to this incredible group of Champagne lovers who I will continue to learn and grow from. It feels like being part of an exclusive club!

    I’ve been a committee member since 2018 and am excited to work my way up to Lady Chairman in the near future – watch this space!

  • Rob Dixon

    Newsletter

    My first role in the wine trade was one of the best you could hope for; buying Champagne and French wine for Tesco, one of the biggest purchasers of wine in the World.

    I had earned the privilege after 10 years in different positions at the UK’s biggest retailer, making my way to Senior Buying Manager. I now manage retail partnerships for Provence brand, Mirabeau.

    I quickly took to the industry, as I had a passion for wine before it became my career. My first memory of Champagne is at my Mum’s 40th birthday party, where a family friend from France attempted to sabrage a bottle of Lanson Black Label. I have now learned that Champagne does not just have to be reserved for big birthday parties and special occasions. So now I enjoy it at any opportunity and my ‘go to’ would be Charles Heidsieck Rosé Reserve or Pol Roger Pure Extra Brut.

    The week of the Champagne Academy course is a lifetime highlight in itself, but a few that stand out; dancing after lunch at Krug, dinner with Taittinger followed by the light show at Reims Cathedral and of course, learning to sabrage (properly) in a vineyard with Heidsieck Monopole!!

     

  • Peter Alderin

    Logistics

    I am the group Operations Manager for Cirrus Inns,  We have 25 beautiful Pubs and Inns ,  We love all the great things that Britain stands for - the glorious countryside, fabulous traditions, incredible hospitality and the amazing ingredients. And most of all, we adore bringing all of the above to people in our pubs and inns.

    I became a member of the Champagne academy in 2016 when I was running Searcys Champagne bar at St Pancras.  My enjoyment working in the sector had grown more and more for the passion of Champagne. I  was delighted to be selected for such a sought after experience.   But my family has always been interested in Champagne and my Grandfather had the agency for a while in Sweden in the 60s for Heidseick Monopole.  My favourite moment on the trip was having dinner at the Cote des blanc Clos de Mensil and meeting the family and drinking Krug.

    I love spending time with my wife and two boys when not working.   I also like , travelling , football, cooking whilst drinking Champagne and trying new places to eat and drink

    It was an honour to join the committee in 2018 and helping with driving it to more success in the coming years.  The champagne academy has been an amazing for me ,  and  I have met many fantastic people and awesome  friends.

     

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