Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Would you buy a bottle of champagne...

... from someone with dodgy French language skills?*

This was the question Frog and I were pondering, as we drove up to the borderlands of Belgium & France.

Frog is testing out several different types of sales channels for the champagne and since the house has never really gone into the world of salons or fairs, this is virgin territory for us both.

First up was a professional fair in London in September. If you discount the fact that was the day I began to miscarry, it all went very well. Wine buyers from the worlds of restaurants, distributers and retail came and sampled the family champagne. We had very positive feedback and have followed up with several solid sales prospects in the UK.

The bonus in London was that I could speak to my fellow countrymen whilst digging into some of my marketing skills and knowledge of the family house. Frog is fluent in English and relishes every opportunity to show off his ability.

Let's fast forward to last weekend, a first salon public... in Belgium. The plan was that this was a low key event where we could make our mistakes. I would do the running around, washing of glasses, keep note of sales etc., whilst Frog would do the sales spiel. The reality of course is that when you have hundreds of Wallonies wanting to get their €5 worth of entrance fee in free champagne tasting, you have to roll up the proverbial linguistic sleeves and get stuck in.

I am proud to say that I coped gallantly and even sold a decent amount of bottles myself, in between running to wash the stack of flutes at the tap set up at the back of the exhibition hall. It was a bonus to meet some lovely people from all over France who travel to sell their foods and wines. It was like eating all your favourite holiday foods in one place. We also found some friendly locals, although, the downside of a salon public is that you meet all the public. Including those you'd usually rather avoid.


  • Being situated next to a charcuterie stand from Les Ardeches, whose owner kept passing over a variety of saucissons for us to graze on during the day.
  • A lunch of foie gras sandwiches, bought from the flirty trio of guys from the PĂ©rigord.
  • The entertainment provided by the two hot tempered Basque girls. By Sunday evening, they were being dragged apart, screaming obscenities at each other, that I imagine were Euskara.


  • Handing over €700 in duties to the 'resident' Belgian customs man, who was more chunky knit cardigan and loafers than crisp HM Customs' uniform. Apparently the several flutes of champagne he consumed during the weekend didn't sweeten him up enough.
  • Frog pissing off the local celebrity and animateur of the salon, Pierrot of Lille by asking "And who are you?". Consequently, Frog had to later grovel and offer champagne, which led to him coming to our stand and interviewing Frog with a microphone. (Result: a huge crowd of Pierrot's followers crowding around the little stand and probably accounting for a good proportion of the weekend's sales.)
  • My sore aching feet.

* According to my Mum, it's also my English linguistic skills that are failing. Thank goodness the digital red pen doesn't exist yet...

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