Dec 112012


At the tender age of 65 you have left us, although not without having imprinted your personality on the history of Spanish wine.

You started writing about wine in the 1970s and it soon became apparent that the only wines that really interested you were those from Spain. In 1981 the commercial office of the Spanish Embassy in London (ICEX) commissioned you to edit its official guide, Spanish Wine Education Notes.

I have known few people so enamoured of Spanish wine as you. Not only did you defend the lesser-known regions such as El Bierzo, Montsant, Sierras de Málaga, Ribera del Guadiana, Méntrida and Somontano, but you actively promoted them via your work. There is no region of Spain where you have not literally nosed your way in.

I always regretted not getting to know you better –and now it is too late. The first time we met was in the Osborne bodega. I lived in El Puerto de Santa María and at the time and was taking a few copas with friends in the guest bar when you came in with the Count Osborne of that time, and later we all went to have lunch at the Venta Millán. Among the many interesting topics our first conversation touched on, I remember you told me that if you had to choose a wine to drink for the rest of your life that wine would be good oloroso sherry.

Your knowledge of the inner workings of the wine trade was immense. From 1989 you had your own BBC radio programme about wine, and at the pinnacle of your professional life you wrote The New Spain. This huge and impressive book, published in 1998 and the second edition of which came out in 2004, is on my desk as I write this. The book was awarded the Glenfiddich and Lanson prizes, and later you went on to write Wines of Rioja, and Eat Spain, Drink Spain with Mario Sandoval. You wrote more than 20 books, collecting for them nine major awards.

All your friends were delighted when in1996 you were asked to become a member of the Gran Ordén de Caballeros del Vino, and a few months before you left us, member of the Brotherhood of Wine of the Ribera de Duero.

The last time we saw each other was in a London restaurant. You were sitting at a table in shirtsleeves wearing braces with the colours of the Spanish flag, drinking Rioja, and regaling your table companions with a description of the glory that is the cocido madrileño.

Adiós John.

AJ Linn

(Originally published in Spanish in Diario Sur 10 Nov 12)



Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply