Christian Bizot, former president of Champagne Bollinger, has died of a heart attack.

Bizot was 73, and only a few years into his retirement.

A much-admired perfectionist and a hard taskmaster, he was respected by anyone who had dealings with him. Those who worked closest with him are unstinting in their praise for a boss frequently described as ‘a complete gentleman and a lovely man.’

‘His standards were absolutely of the highest, and he expected the same of anyone who worked for him’ Anthony Mallaby, retired chairman of UK agents Mentzendorff said. ‘He was a complete gentleman.’

Uvine chief Christopher Burr said, ‘He was a delightful man, a very demanding, meticulous and intelligent boss. If you came to him with an idea he would say no, and you’d have to go away and justify it. He wouldn’t agree to it until you came back to him with a really strong argument. He had a good sense of humour as well – you could have a laugh with him out of the office.’

Bizot, who joined the company when he was 24, represented the fifth generation of his family to run Bollinger. Born and brought up in Paris, he did military service, a stint in banking, and time at Veuve Clicquot and wine merchants in England and the United States.

He was made president of Bollinger in 1978, and was one of those responsible for the innovative ‘RD’ line, in which the wine is aged for much longer on the lees, and which now sells some 70,000 cases in a vintage year. As chairman of Societe Jacques Bollinger, the Champagne house’s holding company, he pushed through the deal by which the Societe became the majority shareholder in Mentzendorff.

Bizot was deeply involved in the UK wine trade, and was known for his generosity. Burr described him as ‘a visionary’ in terms of his support for the Institute of Masters of Wine when it was going through a difficult patch financially. ‘Bollinger underpinned the Institute to the tune of a lot of money over time.’

He is survived by his wife Marie Helene and five sons, two of whom followed him into Bollinger but have since left, Guy to work in the French porcelain industry, and Etienne to Burgundy producer Chanson Pere et Fils, of which he is now chairman.

Written by Adam Lechmere12 July 2002