Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Francis John Avery : 1941-2012

As my father wrote on the sad occasion of the death of his father so I repeat the words here:

Hal: My father is gone into his grave,
For in his tomb lie my affections;
And with his spirits sadly I survive,
To mock the expectation of the world,
To frustrate prophecies, ...
King Henry IV, Part 2, Act 5, Scene 2

It is with regret that I inform you of the recent death of my father John Avery. He was taken ill suddenly on the 18th of March, and died peacefully and painlessly on the 23rd. I have been trying to find the right words in which to pass this information on to you our loyal and may I say loving customers.

Many of the condolences that we have been sent speak of his encyclopaedic knowledge of wine, and yet his ability to pass this on to the least wine knowledgeable without appearing pompous or be-littling, encouraging their comments and in their words 'actually appearing to be interested in what they had to say'.

His worry that he would not be able to fill his fathers shoes in the wine business were totally unfounded, although in my case I fear it really will be impossible. He pioneered the New World, and he would always admit that there was an element of luck. He went to Australia to see a friend from University. Having visited California in the previous year, 1964, and met Dr Maynard Amerine and André Tchelistcheff and learnt all about varietals, vineyard management, marketing and packaging and written a thesis over his summer holiday, out of Oxford where he was studying Agriculture.

On arrival in Australia he travelled around with his friend in an old Rolls Royce, and was invited to a wine tasting club in Sydney where he met Max Lake and Ray Healey, this group introduced him to the national wines of Australia and he went on to become friends with Max Schupert, Len Evans, Murray Tyrell and many others. He was the first to import the fine wines of USA, Beaulieu and Ridge and the like, in Australia it was more main stream, he followed Geoffrey Roberts’ lead and imported the likes of McWilliams and Tyrells. In our 1969 price list we are the sole agents for Beaulieu and McWilliams and are also selling Lanzerac and Nederburg wines from South Africa. His trip extended to New Zealand when the finance director of McWilliams suggested he visited the Corbans in New Zealand, and later in judging the wines entered tended to be the top cuvees with very low volumes, but the watershed was giving Montana gold, the first time a winner that had volume Montana were the real catalyst for the future of NZ wines.

Throughout this pioneering life he never forgot the roots of the company in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Port and
Germany and we still sell more Bordeaux wine than any other region, and retain the historical contacts that my grandfather set up.

I’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you to all customers, friends and business acquaintances, your messages of condolences, warmth and love have come as a great support to the family. We shall be holding a memorial service in Bristol date to be confirmed and hope to see many of you there.

Mimi Avery
April 11th 2012

Here are some of the lovely words that have been written to myself and the family:

I am so sorry to hear about your father. I know how close all of you are as a family, so it must be devastating to have lost not only a father, but a mentor as well. He will be missed by so many around the world; only a few days ago we were making plans for the celebrations of the 25th Anniversary of Pinot Noir in Central Otago and discussing whom we might make guest of honour. John’s name was pivotal in those conversations as both a pioneer and a staunch supporter and advocate for the region over the years. As you know he was the first UK merchant to ever import a New Zealand wine into the UK, something that makes him very special to all who produce here. He was also the first person to sell Felton Road in the UK, with the unofficial 1995 vintage. You may rest assured that we will gather tomorrow, on the first day of our 2012 harvest, to share a bottle of that 1995 and toast his life.” - Nigel Greening of Felton Road, NZ

I have lost a great chum and a generous gracious humble mate. My deepest condolences. My thoughts are with you all. I did not see him often but I love knowing he was about and always readily accessible.” - Family Friend as long as I can remember, Robert Hill Smith of Yalumba, Australia

I shall always remember his unstinting support and passionate belief in Australian wines at a time when they were regarded with a mixture of circumspection and not a little snobbishness too. He was a great advocate for their quality and potential. I remember selling him wines like Yarra Yering and Ch Tahbilk back in the late eighties. That was very inspiring for a young man trying to sell New World wines into a very traditional, straight-jacketed trade.” - John Thorne, Debortoli, Australia

The wine world and world in general will never be the same without John. I have always appreciated his wisdom and incredible Knowledge and his unselfish ability to pass it on.” - Allan Scott of Allan Scott family Winemakers, New Zealand

Christophe, Charles, Eric & I considered your father as a great friend and supporter. His comments will be sadly missed. The wine trade has lost one of its heroes.” - Andrew Napier of DBR Lafite, Bordeaux

I am a long-standing Avery's customer since approx 1981. My wife and I lived in Bristol for 14 years before moving to York in 1993 but I continue to source much of my wine from the company. Once we discovered Avery's of Bristol, the advice of staff in the Park Street shop, plus your various wine offers, catalogues and supporting information (especially the en primeur offers) were enormously important to my process of discovery about wine. I subsequently went on to do WSET exams and have been involved as a wine educator (at least part-time) since 2001.” - Long time Customer Dr Gareth G Morgan DiplWSET, England

John’s generosity, infectious enthusiasm and outstanding knowledge of great wine made him an inspiration for many of us. His pioneering passion and forthright opinion helped shape the wines we drink in the UK today and it makes me very sad to think I’ll never hear John’s voice again.” - Tony Laithwaite, Friend and Founder of Direct Wines

Averys have a close team at Bristol that John treated like his extended family. John’s passion made him hugely popular with customers to whom he had unwavering dedication... his daughter Mimi will continue to represent the Averys family within the business and ensure customers receive the same care and attention that they received from John himself.” - Jay Wright, Managing Director of Virgin Wines

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