Cult Wines explains how communication will always be key
Olivia Bodle, Global Head of Events for Cult Wines, discusses events in the fine wine industry, the biggest challenge of her career, and the key of storytelling at an event.
1. What drew you to working in events in the fine wine industry?
I had been working in wine for a few years doing some work in wineries and for a wholesaler in London. I am naturally pretty gregarious and enjoy talking to customers, wine makers and almost anyone so I naturally gravitated towards any event or tasting I could help out with and attend and then moved into events full time as soon as I could.
2. How does it compare working in events for a newer company as opposed to a larger, longer established company?
I didn’t think there would be such a change moving to Cult Wines but there is a really huge difference from my previous company, Berry Bros. & Rudd.
Now working for a smaller company which is focussed on a specific part of the industry there is a much greater emphasis on performance, technology and data. Cult Wines is slightly newer, having been founded in 2007, so it doesn’t have 324 years of history to commemorate like Berry Bros. & Rudd, so there is a huge difference in the story telling between the brands.
3. Throughout your career, what is the biggest challenge you've faced when holding an event?
I used to work very closely with chefs who created some of the most difficult situations in which I had to work. It’s all down to communication in the end and chefs are very abrupt whereas I add a lot of niceties like, ‘if you don’t mind’ and ‘if it’s not too much of a bother’, when what they actually want is an order. I eventually learnt how to communicate with them but I definitely hit a few brick walls in the process.
4. What is the best event you've held in your career?
Without a second of deliberating it was an Alice in Wonderland themed 30th Birthday party for an amazing young lady in the cellars at Berry Bros. & Rudd.
I will never forget her initial phone call when she said “I just want to be a Princess for one day.” I adored her instantly and went to every length to turn the cellar into Wonderland, from finding an ambitious florist to build a 4 metre high tree underground to hand printing ‘eat me’ cheese biscuits.
The host wanted the party to be unforgettable so we turned the adjacent cellar into a private nightclub so the guests could dance into the wee hours in their fancy dress. I think this was such a success as they had full hire of the venue so had free rein of a 2 acre cellar, which is like a real Alice in Wonderland rabbit warren.
5. Do you believe there are certain issues specific to the wine industry that you have encountered in events that need to be addressed?
I believe the shipment of wines can be a bit of a black hole for events in the wine industry. It’s a black hole in terms of emissions as wines are transported by road, ship or (especially for special events) by air around the world ‘for one night only’.
Some companies, like Cult Wines, offset all emissions but that isn't an ideal situation as I don’t believe offsetting is a better fix compared to reducing emissions. There is no easy fix to this though, as customers globally will want to drink wines from all around the world.
6. What is a dream event you'd love to hold within the wine industry?
This is a real stretch of the imagination bringing both living and dead guests to a decadent dinner! I would revive a handful of the most famous winemakers of all time, I’m thinking Dom Pérignon, Robert Mondavi, Bernard Noblet and the like. They would bring along a few of their most iconic vintages at their very peak and we would share them with a selection of history’s great wine appreciators, the likes of Thomas Jefferson & Sir Winston Churchill. An appropriate location would have to be Versailles!