An Insight into the Spirit & Wine Committee

The Committee has been in existence in its current form since 2012 when the decision was taken by the Company that Masters should not pay for the wines and Champagne served in their year at Livery functions, as had been tradition in the past. This was part of “easing the Masters burden” and was a major change as hitherto the cost to Masters for drink alone was in the region of £25,000 for their year!

Since the Committee’s formation in 2012 its members have been: Allan Cheesman, Chairman (a loosely fitting hat!); Terry Barr, Past Master; and David Hunter, Secretary. In addition, Court Assistant Alan Montague Dennis joined the Committee in 2020. In total the Committee can boast nearly 200 years of trade experience!

L – R: Alan Montague-Dennis, Terry Barr, Allan Cheesman, and David Hunter

The process is not rocket science as it benefits from the full records kept of all functions including attendance, volumes consumed and cost for over 30 years. Numbers obviously vary from year to year and the recent years with Covid have been a nightmare – indeed a current issue across the Livery movement is the post pandemic reluctance to travel of go to events – FOGO!

A current issue is also a succession of small and expensive vintages – especially in Burgundy – plus inflationary pressures globally. As a result, the Committee is actively looking at sourcing wines from non-traditional regions and areas and the New World. Remember that UK wine consumption is now 60% from the New World or outside Europe.

Another issue taxing the Company is the pressure on ticket prices for events with food cost inflation, hall hire and many other factors impacting ticket prices. There are solutions being examined but the Committee will never entertain a downgrade the quality of wines and drinks that we source. We are proud of the high reputation that we have in the City for the quality of the drinks served at our functions.

Our buying process is simple. We analyse our stocks and estimate requirements for up to three years ahead and approach several industry contacts that we have. We hold several selection tastings in the year as well as tasting from our own stocks to ensure product quality.

A recent selection tasting

We purchase for our stocks which are held by Davy’s in Greenwich. Davy’s warehouse and service are second-to-none – supplying many Livery companies and Halls. We also use Davy’s to top up from their extensive wholesale list.

Masters may also suggest wines that they might like to make available for functions during their year in office and we strive to fulfil their requirements from the budget allocation.

Spirits are in our remit but with the happy generosity of our Livery and industry members we rarely purchase any spirits and at the last count we have many, many years of spirit stocks!

It is a fun Committee, and we have a full understanding of the industry, the pressures and its strengths and weaknesses.

Allan Cheesman
Chairman, Spirit & Wine Committee
Past Master 2014/15

Just one glass for the Chairman