The microphone was set up at 5pm, when tables were laid in a large, circular room topped with chandeliers at the Savoy, London. Johnny Goedhuis, the man behind the event had been practising his speech for a while. That night, on the 27th of February, a select group of people were invited to a special evening. Special because prior to dinner they had the unique opportunity to taste a line-up of greats, which read like a story book of everything a wine lovers dreams are made of: two rooms full of 1er and Grand Crus from Bordeaux all born in 1985. Special because among the guests were Prince Robert of Luxembourg, table cards stood with names that move companies, industries and currents of thought. What mattered most at the microphone, however, was the message to be conveyed to the distinguished guests – an opportunity to participate in an evening of giving to charity.
It was incredible to see how quickly the tasting room filled on the night. As guests came through the arch of the door they were greeted with Champagne and rosé. This worked perfectly to prepare the taste buds for more serious things. Among those wines receiving the highest exclamations of joy were Château Cheval Blanc, Château Canon, Château Cos d’Estournel and Domaine de Chevalier. We found the Cos d’Estournel to be incredibly fresh for its age and Cheval Blanc to contain supple tannins, wrapped up in signature Bordeaux cassis fruit. Château Figeac was an example of pre-Parker Bordeaux, classic structure of velvety tannins, muted fruit and rolled tobacco. Suffice to say, it was a fun night for our palates.
After the tasting the guests were invited to a gorgeous 3 course dinner accompanied by La Mission Haut Brion 1985 kindly donated by Prince Robert of Luxembourg. This was followed by the charity auction. Auctioneer, Humphrey Butler orchestrated the sale of 12 lots. Some lots went quickly, others flamed bidding wars, the guests delighted to see the drama of it all in the room. Nothing could be more exalting than to bid for a good cause. The success of the evening was unquestionable, Maggie Heath and Laura Goedhuis’ fine organisation was evidenced by the smiles of the guests throughout the evening.
The name Goedhuis & Co has become synonymous with the charitable initiatives of its Chairman, Johnny Goedhuis, the man behind the Savoy dinner (organised every 2 years). Within the wine trade today, his work is unique and is setting the bar for social responsibility in our industry. There are sustainability initiatives in production, Fair Trade in distribution, and increased awareness in ecology, but somehow the trade segment has not been evolving to the same pace. It is critical then that Johnny’s exquisite evening at the Savoy raised £300,000 for 3 charities (Carefree Northants, Macintyre and Families for Children) and has raised well over 2.5 million over the years.
It must have been after midnight when the last few guests left. The microphone, which resounded with Johnny’s speech, words of gratitude and the sound of the hammer was cleared. The room, once so full and buzzing with conversation, stood empty, as if nothing had happened there. What lingered was the immeasurable impact upon the lives which the charities support, and the legacy that those who participate in giving leave behind.