Mentzendorff History

Ludwig Mentzendorff

b.1823–d.1901

Ludwig Mentzendorff was born in 1823 at Vorpolitz, Altmark, Prussia and later joined the family merchant house of JA Mentzendorff & Co in the Russian city of Riga. Early in 1850 he was approached by the Baron Von Blankenhagen, who owned a nearby distillery, to represent his Kümmel liqueur in Great Britain under the Mentzendorff name and so on June 1st of that same year Ludwig sailed from Hamburg to London on the SS Caledonia.

On arrival he travelled to Bishop’s Stortford to stay with some fellow Prussians. There he met a prosperous English veterinary surgeon called Thomas Folks and in 1858 married his daughter Harriette.

In 1851 he began selling Mentzendorff Kümmel and in 1853 opened an office at 37 Crutched Friars in the City of London. On 1st October 1857 he wrote in High German to Jacques Bollinger offering to be his Agent für England. On 9th January 1858 Jacques replied in the same language, accepting the offer and inviting Ludwig to Aÿ at Bollinger’s expense.

Ludwig was naturalised in 1860. In 1861 he bought his first house at 47 Devonshire Place, Balham. By 1864 he held seven agencies – Bollinger being the most prestigious.

Ludwig represented Bollinger with great pride and was delighted when both Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales awarded the Champagne house their royal warrants in 1884 and 1885. Ludwig never completely retired, for up until his death, aged 78, in July 1901, his son Stanley would bring home the Bollinger correspondence for translation and he would reply in High German. Two months later the Champagne house began writing to Mentzendorff & Co in English.

Mentzendorff founder, Ludwig Mentzendorff

Stanley Mentzendorff

b.1874–d.1966

Ludwig Mentzendorff married Harriette Folks in 1858 and Stanley, their only surviving son, was born in 1874, when his father was 51. When 15 year old Stanley began working for Mentzendorff in 1889, Ludwig was already 66. By 1898, when Stanley became a partner, Ludwig was 75 and his son 24.

Stanley was a quiet, smartly dressed man without the charisma or energy of his father. He was a life-long bachelor and protector of his sister Amy. He enjoyed luxury travel, especially taking Amy on cruise liners. In 1904 he wrote to Georges Bollinger expressing his delight at the suggestion that he should travel to the vintage on the Orient Express.

Stanley made two crucial appointments. In 1897 he employed his cousin Toby Folks, a highly successful partner from 1911 to 1946. Also in 1901 he persuaded Harry J Newman, an old family friend to serve as the unofficial head of the firm.

Stanley Mentzendorff

Harry J Newman

b.1855–d.1932

Harry J “Noggs” Newman was one of those characters everyone knew. He was a close friend and distant relative of the Mentzendorff family and senior partner of Ridley & Co’s Trade Circular.

After the death of his father Ludwig in 1901, Stanley Mentzendorff approached Harry to become junior partner although Harry was effectively in charge. He worked for the company until January 1932 and for the last 10 months of his life was promoted to senior partner. He died in November of that year, in office aged 77.

He could be described as the most influential Mentzendorff partner. He worked closely with the Bollinger family and negotiated a network of overseas agencies for them from the United States to Argentina and Hong Kong. In 1904 he arranged the agency of Van Beil and Haffenden in New York for Bollinger and later secured another agency in San Francisco. Around the same date he negotiated a similar Bollinger agency with Tucker & Co of Sydney, Australia which still trades under the name of Fine Wine Partners.

He was responsible for shaping the future of Bollinger Champagne and Mentzendorff with the introduction of Bollinger Special Cuvée in 1911, suggesting the concept, the name and the label design.

His expertise in Port was renowned. In 1899 Charles Sellers in Oporto Old & New wrote Mr Newman knows all that is worth knowing in Oporto and he was a close friend of Harry Yeatman of Taylor’s. In 1911 he also became a director of Croft. In between he was an alderman, magistrate, prominent freemason and racehorse owner. He started the great Mentzendorff horse racing tradition and introduced the future partner Toby Folks to the sport.

Harry J Newman

Arthur William ‘Toby’ Folks

b.1880–d.1969

Toby Folks was Ludwig Mentzendorff’s nephew. His father was a wine and spirit merchant. Toby joined Mentzendorff in 1897 as an office clerk. In 1898 he became a traveller and two years later the Mentzendorff manager. In 1911 he was promoted to partner, then senior partner from 1932 to 1946. In total he served Mentzendorff for 49 years. Toby was responsible, more than anyone else, for the marketing success of Bollinger Special Cuvée.

Toby was the socialite partner, a live wire Mr Bollinger. He was a founder member of the Wine Trade Club in 1905, the Gastronomes in 1923 and later the 13 Club. Encouraged by Harry J Newman he promoted Bollinger on the racecourses of Britain. In 1935 he became a successful half-owner, with Mr R Middlemass of Bolivar cigar fame of what the Press called the Havana Cigar and Champagne Stable. He held many different trade offices including Chairman of the Benevolent Association (1934-1935). Harper’s dubbed him the Peter Pan of the Wine Trade.

Arthur William Folks

LT-COL Osbert Eustace Vesey KCVO, CMG, CBE

b.1884–d.1957

A direct descendant of William the Conqueror, the Honourable Osbert Eustace Vesey was raised near Guildford by his widowed mother, with four siblings and nine servants. He was educated at Eton and Sandhurst. Lieutenant-Colonel Vesey served with the 9th Lancers from 1904 to 1911 and during the First World War in Yeomanry in Egypt and France. He was awarded the OBE in 1918 for military services and this was advanced to CBE in 1919. From 1919 to 1921 he was Private Secretary to the Under-Secretary of State for Air. During the Second World War he worked at the War Office.

Prior to succeeding Harry J Newman, Vesey was a director of Newcastle-upon-Tyne wine merchants Blayney & Co Ltd. In 1935 Harper’s wrote of Colonel Vesey that he had joined Toby Folks in 1933 and was a good judge of wine and that he specialised in Champagne, Claret and Port. He was senior partner to Brigadier Brumell from 1946 to 1957, when together they made a formidable team in the face of frustrating trading problems caused by serious Champagne shortages.

In 1956 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II dubbed him a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order after 34 years service as a Gentleman at Arms. In 1948 he had been promoted to Clerk of the Cheque and Adjutant, in 1953 to Standard Bearer and in 1955 to Lieutenant. It is said that he was an extremely shy man who regularly declined to have his photograph taken.

Osbert Eustace Vesey

Brigadier Albert Edward Victor Brummell CBE, MC, TD

b.1897–d.1962

A man with two nicknames: “Tim” and the “BB”. He was a doctor’s son born in Morpeth, Northumberland in 1897. He joined the Northumberland Yeomanry in 1915 and served in northern France. Twice mentioned in dispatches, in 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross for Conspicuous Gallantry. In World War II he was secretary to Generals Wilson and Eisenhower at Allied Headquarters in North Africa and Italy.

Brigadier Brumell was partner to Colonel Vesey from 1947 and following Vesey’s death in 1957 was senior partner to Geoffrey Walker. In fact he was the last to occupy that position. In 1960 his share of the partnership was purchased by Mentzendorff & Co Ltd and he became a director of the new company. At that time four Directors were appointed; Brigadier Brumell, Geoffrey Walker, Anthony Leschallas and Christian Bizot but nobody held the position of Managing Director. Brigadier Brumell died in office in 1962.

He was a great Ambassador for Bollinger in the finest restaurants and dining rooms of London and a familiar figure on the racecourses of Britain. The Bollinger Trophy was inspired by his love of National Hunt racing. Sadly he died weeks before it could be announced. His aim had been to strengthen Bollinger’s association with British racing.6

Albert Edward Victor Brummell

Victor Leslie Seyd

b.1907–d.1991

Leslie Seyd was the first Managing Director of Mentzendorff & Co Ltd and served from 1962 to 1972. He came from a family of Prussian heritage and his father Victor Herman Seyd was senior partner in Brown, Gore & Welch agents for Georges Goulet Champagne and Leslie succeeded him before joining Mentzendorff.

Leslie was a particularly glamorous figure, who was a leading motor sport participant. In 1935, with HE Symons, he drove from London to Timbuktoo, their car becoming the first ever to cross the Sahara Desert. He won several races at the Brooklands circuit in the 1930s. Between 1939 and 1954 he competed in the Monte Carlo Rally on four occasions. He was an inspiring leader of Mentzendorff & Co Ltd for 10 years and developed a strong alliance with Bollinger Director Christian Bizot.

Leslie was President of the Wine & Spirits Benevolent Society in 1968. He served for many years on the Royal Household Wine Committee, for which he was made a Lieutenant of the Victorian Order.

Victor Leslie Seyd

Anthony Leschallas

b.1933

Anthony Leschallas was born in the picturesque village of Linton near Maidstone, Kent on 03/03/33. After some experience in the vineyards of France he joined Mentzendorff, aged 25, in 1958 and two years later was promoted as a Director of the new Mentzendorff & Co Ltd. He was a tall, handsome young man with dynamism and energy. Fifty years later his son Simon Leschallas is still actively involved in the Bollinger brand, having himself served the company for 29 years.

Anthony always believed Champagne was a people business. He worked closely with Madame Lily Bollinger and her nephew Christian Bizot and strengthened the Mentzendorff-Bollinger relationship and in 1972 he became, at 39 years, the youngest Managing Director and held the post until 1990. Anthony was a modern successor to Toby Folks as Mr Bollinger and also a great horse racing enthusiast. He was responsible for attracting several niche agencies which complimented Bollinger.

He always had an eye for a novel approach and when Bollinger ceased to use branded wooden cases for packing its Champagne, he seized the last one hundred and distributed them, as seats, to Evening Standard vendors in central London.

Anthony Leschallas

Antony Mallaby

b.1939

Antony Mallaby comes from an Army background. As a Major he served from 1959 to 1970 in the 17th/21st Lancers. Both his father and grandfather were Generals and his great uncle was a Field Marshal.

He gained wine trade experience at Martini & Rossi and John E Fells & Sons Ltd, before becoming Managing Director of Mentzendorff in 1990. Changes were afoot as the firm had recently acquired the agency of Taylor’s Port and its parent, Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman had become a second shareholder. For Mentzendorff it was the dawn of a new modern era.

Antony’s appointment coincided with the onset of a recession. The early 90s was a particularly difficult period for Champagne and hence for Bollinger and so immediate action was necessary. New avenues of retail distribution were rapidly developed for Bollinger by using customer contacts introduced by Taylor’s.

Antony Mallaby established a more structured, formal system of management, appointing Guy Bizot and Natasha Robertson as the first-ever brand managers for Bollinger and Taylor Fonseca respectively. In 1993 he expanded the agency portfolio significantly with the acquisition of Domaine Drouhin Agencies, which included Robert Mondavi and M Chapoutier. Several DDA staff joined Mentzendorff, notably Christopher Burr MW, who headed the sales and marketing side of the business. Christopher also recruited other prestigious family-owned agencies before leaving to join Christie’s in the late 90s when his position was filled by Richard Ambler.

Antony led the company until 2001, when he assumed a non-executive Director’s role before retiring to West Somerset in 2002.

Antony Mallaby

Bill Page

b.1944

Bill Page is best described as a third generation wine trader. He had been Managing Director of four different wine and spirit companies over a period of 21 years, the most recent being Ehrmanns. Prior to that he had spent considerable time within the Grants of St James/Allied Group.

Bill joined Mentzendorff at an interesting moment in its history. The Champagne market had over-inflated due to the millennium bubble and the agency portfolio was also in a considerable state of flux.

Bill had the task of bringing stability to both the agency portfolio and the Mentzendorff team. This he achieved with new additions in both areas. The creation of a young team, which was both empowered and encouraged to take responsibility, restored confidence to the company. Consequently there was a significant improvement in results which transformed the Mentzendorff image in the wine and spirit trade.

Bill Page was Managing Director of Mentzendorff & Co Ltd until standing down in 2004, when he took on the role of Non-Executive Chairman, which he held until 2006.

Bill is a major rugby enthusiast and a Non-Executive Director and trustee of the Professional Rugby Players Association. He was also responsible for creating the association between Champagne Bollinger and the England Rugby team. This is clearly seen by the presence of the Bollinger tent in the legendary West Car Park at Twickenham – where Bill’s presence is guaranteed on match days!

Bill Page

Andrew Hawes

b.1964

Andrew was born in West Sussex. His father Jimmy Hawes served in the Royal Artillery for 25 years, before joining Matthew Clark & Sons Ltd where he became known as the Mr Martell of Southern England during the 1960s and 1970s. As a boy Andrew remembers meeting various visiting wine and spirit principals. In 1985 he gained a degree in Philosophy and Politics from Warwick University and, following an introduction by his recently retired father, joined Matthew Clark as a graduate trainee.

During his eight years there he held positions in finance, sales and marketing, leaving his position as National Accounts Manager in 1994 . Andrew left to create a new UK subsidiary for Champagne de Venoge, serving as Managing Director for three years.

He joined Mentzendorff & Co Ltd in 1996 to create a National Accounts team. In 1998, under Antony Mallaby’s leadership, he was appointed to the board as National Accounts Director. The next year he became Sales Director and in 2001, following the arrival of Bill Page as Managing Director, was promoted to Sales and Marketing Director and Deputy Managing Director.

In 2004 Andrew succeeded Bill Page as Managing Director and has since concentrated on company strategy, expanding the Mentzendorff customer base; the careful selection of agencies; the development of the internal team, and evolving the traditional Principal and Agent relationships to better suit the modern market.

Andrew, who is the eleventh senior Mentzendorff executive in 157 years, takes great pride in the company’s history and traditions. He enjoys fly-fishing on the Hampshire Chalk Streams and has returned to his youthful passion of cycling – organising the annual Tour de Champagne, a ride from Calais to Épernay which raises funds for the Benevolent charity.

Andrew Hawes