Obituaries

As the years go by we regrettably say goodbye to some respected colleagues, each of whom listed here were awarded membership of GOCV in their lifetime:

Alejandro Fernández (2004); David Balls (1990); David Brown (1985); Bryan Buckingham (1998); Nicholas Burridge (2003); Luis Caballero (2005); Julian Chivite Snr (1998); Carlos Falcó (2002); Jeffrey Fredericks (1993); José Ignacio García Blanco (1985); Maurizio González-Gordon Díez, Marqués de Bonanza (2003) José Hernanz (1992); Francisco López Vega (1985); Don Lovell MBE MW (1985); Henry Mason (1985); Kevin McAlindon (1996); Miguel Merino (2008); Manuel Pages Raventos (1992); John Radford (1996); Jan Read (1985); David Scatchard (1985); Nick Tarayan (1995); and Jack Tyson Highfield (1987).

Recent obituaries

Obituary: Miguel Merino

Friday 5 November, 2021

Miguel Merino

RIOJA MOURNS THE PASSING OF MIGUEL MERINO

Miguel Merino spent a long and storied career in the Rioja wine trade.  He joined Bodegas Berberana in 1976 and was instrumental in the international expansion of the winery and its brands Carta de Plata and Carta de Oro along with owner Melquíades Entrena and legendary winemaker Gonzalo Ortiz.

After Berberana was acquired by Rumasa, Merino joined his former boss and other executives in creating Cenalsa, a wine export consortium.  He soon tired of driving back and forth from Logroño to  Pamplona and fighting with distributors over a few pesetas a case. In 1994 he decided to found his own winery, Bodega Miguel Merino in Briones. His dream was to make a style of Rioja that he enjoyed, classic in style, elegant but with more up-front fruit, and his sales philosophy, to sell exclusively to his many friends and former customers. For Miguel, the wine business had to be fun.

His choice for a base was Briones, a few kilometers east of Haro, home of Rioja’s most sought-after vineyards. His home and winery in an old stone house on the edge of the village was a mecca where Miguel regaled visitors with stories and shared bottles.

Merino chose to work with consulting winemaker Manuel Ruiz Hernández, the head technician at the Rioja Oenological Laboratory in Haro and Swede Lars Torstensson, one of the former wine buyers at Sweden’s Vin & Sprit who had moved to Provence to work at Domaine Rabiega.  Rabiega’s experiments with carignan (a synonym of Rioja’s mazuelo) was the inspiration for Merino and Torstensson’s brand Mazuelo de la Quinta Cruz, vinified from a plot of mazuelo planted near the fifth station of the Via Crucis leading up to Monte Calvario (Calvary Hill) outside of Briones.

Merino was proud that his was the first stand-alone mazuelo and that it obtained a listing at Mugaritz, Andoni Luis Aduriz’ two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Rentería near San Sebastian to pair with dishes that defied pairing with other wines. The brand got attention abroad, too. The 2007 was named ‘Best Old World Red’ by Decanter magazine.

For these and other accomplishments, Miguel was inducted into the Gran Orden de los Caballeros del Vino in 2008.

Miguel was joined by his son Miguel Jr. who at one point left the winery to pursue other interests, but later returned. He will now take over operations with wife Erica.

Both Miguel and wife Susana were in poor health in recent years.  Susana passed away on September 28, and while visiting Miguel at the funeral home, although frail and speaking barely above a whisper he said, “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.”

Classic Miguel. Rioja and his many friends around the world mourn his passing.

Words kindly provided by Tom Perry @insiderioja


Obituary: Alejandro Fernandez

Monday 24 May, 2021

photo credit: El Norte de Castilla

Alejandro Fernandez died in Santander on 22 May 2021 aged 88. He became a Caballero in 2004. We are grateful to Caballero Pedro Ballesteros and the publishers of PlanetaVino for sharing this profile of the man.  It was published in the months before Alejandro Fernandez’s death. (In Spanish).

Don Alejandro

El mejor historiador del vino español es sin lugar a dudas Alain Huetz de Lemps. No creo que nadie haya analizado los vaivenes de nuestros viñedos como él. Leer su “Les Vins d’Espagne” y su magistral tesis doctoral “Vignobles et Vins du Nord-Ouest de l’Espagne” es casi obligado para entender nuestro país.

Sin embargo, en las conclusiones de su obra, en 1967, augura el declive de los vinos de la Ribera del Duero, con la eterna excepción de Vega Sicilia. La razón era la competencia imbatible que hacían los vinos de Castilla La Nueva, más fiables y de superior calidad. No era solo que no se vendiera vino de Ribera en Madrid, era que una buena parte del consumo en Valladolid y Burgos ya era de vinos sureños.

Huetz de Lemps trabajó en una España aislada y pobre, sin capacidad técnica para hacer buenos vinos: de Ribera decía la vinificación era ciertamente pintoresca, pero de un arcaísmo incontestable…. Un modo refinado de decir que se hacía una porquería de vino.

Para que el juicio de Huetz de Lemps no se cumpliera, y Ribera del Duero sea la región de insuperable calidad que es hoy, tuvo que pasar algo, que era imprevisible entonces. Lo que ocurrió es, en mi opinión, el hito más importante de los 3000 años de historia del vino español: nuestra entrada en la Unión Europea.

Entre las numerosas consecuencias que tuvo, menciono tres que me parecen muy relevantes. El Mercado Común Europeo dio acceso libre a los vinos españoles en el resto de países europeos, y además encomendaba la labor de negociar acuerdos internacionales de comercio a las instituciones europeas. Los vinos españoles se beneficiaron de la superior capacidad negociadora de Europa para abrir mercados. Desde entonces, el mercado potencial de nuestros vinos ha sido el mundo.

También llegó a España un aluvión de dinero para invertir en infraestructuras, que transformó radicalmente la accesibilidad de casi todo el país. Las montañas españolas, origen de tanta diversidad como conflicto, se hicieron irrelevantes. Hoy se va desde Madrid a Valladolid en menos de una hora. Tenemos una red de autopistas, puertos y aeropuertos que solamente los chinos superan. El apoyo europeo hizo que los vinos del interior peninsular ya nunca más fueran vinos aislados. Madrid, la ciudad que durante siglos había calmado su sed con los vinos manchegos, ya podía recibir vino del Duero.

La tercera es más sutil, pero de igual importancia. El gregarismo mediocre del franquismo dejó paso a la libertad individual. Con la democracia y la libre empresa, se podía ser diferente, romper moldes. Renació un tipo de productor que llevaba un siglo escondido, el héroe del vino.

Los héroes del vino son los que se desmarcan de lo de toda la vida para hacer realidad una visión más ambiciosa. Son los que cambian una región por su iniciativa individual, En España, hoy tenemos muchos héroes, afortunadamente.

Uno de los primeros fue don Alejandro Fernández, un productor de la entonces secundaria Ribera del Duero que hizo del nombre de su pueblo, Pesquera, una referencia en los Estados Unidos y otros grandes países del vino.

El fue uno de los primeros que confió en la calidad de sus viñedos, que adquirió el saber hacer de las grandes bodegas, y llevó lo que tenía con orgullo, sin ofrecer los insensatos chollos (llamados en lenguaje fino buenas relaciones calidad/precio), que tan habituales son en España.

La Ribera del Duero actual nada tiene que ver con la que conoció don Alain, y muy poco con la que empezó a cambiar don Alejandro. Es tierra de increíble diversidad, con un gran número de vinos insuperables, un lujo. Y ahora todos cantan las maravillas de sus suelos, la gloriosa tinta fina, las viñas en vaso, y no sé cuántas bellas historias naturalistas que, siendo verdad, no son toda la verdad. 

La verdad es también que habría que reconocer y respetar a señores como don Alejandro Fernández, porque son ellos los que hicieron que esas plantas, esos suelos y esos climas hayan despertado nuestra emoción y movilizado nuestro bolsillo.

Y no caer en la majadería, en la mezquindad, de banalizar la figura de uno de los más grandes hombres del vino español. No le conozco personalmente, don Alejandro, pero, desde aquí, gracias.       

Words kindly provided by GOCV member Pedro Ballesteros MW


Obituary: David Balls

Wednesday 24 June, 2020

David Balls 1938-2020

It is with deepest regret we announce the death of David Lawrence Edgar Balls from heart failure combined with the Covid 19 virus on Tuesday 9th June 2020.

David was a stalwart of the Rioja Promotion campaign that started in 1978 with Christopher Morgan. As an astute planner and active organiser David was well suited to running the Rioja Wine Information Centre in London. Unquestionably his contribution ensured the success of the campaign which they ran until 1983 when it was transferred to the new promotion body, Wines from Spain at the Spanish Embassy Commercial Office in London. He joined in a Public Relations capacity which included an important contribution to the development of the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino.  

A confirmed Londoner David was brought up in Chelsea near World’s End. He was educated at St Edward’s School in Oxford where he exploited his prowess as a powerful scrum half in the school’s rugby team. National Service was in 42 Commando of the Royal Marines (1957/1959) near Plymouth where his power at scrum half secured him a place in the services’ team. Indeed he was close to the Royal Navy team when Services’ rugby was far stronger. He played for Richmond and subsequently had debenture seats at Twickenham and the gatherings at their car in the West Car park were famous.

He was chosen as a member of England’s Cresta Run Bobsleigh squad in the World Championships for which his strength made him ideally suited. By a quirk of fate he got to know the future King of Spain, Juan Carlos 1, who was in one of the Spanish Bobs.

He joined Queen’s Club at Baron’s Court and played Real Tennis weekly. When the LTA put this valuable piece of Real Estate up for sale David and many other members fought the proposal, together with those living around the Club grounds ,until the members finally bought it when Queen’s found it had first refusal on proposed sales.

David was employed at the London office of English China Clays of St Austell in Cornwall for 20 years. They quarried vast quantities of clay (kaolin) that was used for china and porcelain and other products. He was living in Radnor Walk off the King’s Road and met and married his first wife Carla Browne in 1968; they had a son, Dominic in 1973, who now runs a video production company on the South Coast. After their divorce David moved to Chiswick where he met Lesley Kenny who was Marketing Director of Clinique Cosmetics. They married in 1977 and Patrick was born in 1978, now a successful photographer. Lesley became the UK Chief Executive of Estée Lauder until she tragically died of Cancer in 1997.

David was a Bon Viveur and gathered a huge number of friends who sought him out for his convivial and amusing company along with good food and wines; quite simply his presence raised the fun and enjoyment of any event. The phrase ‘David Balls Lunch’ should become part of the English language! David was an exceptional personality of sartorial elegance wearing either plain red socks with immaculate salmon pink lined suits or yellow socks with blue blazers.

Having joined Christopher Morgan they pitched for the Rioja wines promotion and won it. Their presentation was inspired and once appointed they set to work with a campaign, the timing for which proved to be ideal. Rioja wines began selling extremely well and continue to do so.

David married for a third time, Pammy Clarke in 2003 and they were immensely happy so her unexpected death in 2015 devastated him. David endured a terrible time with Covid 19 and his weak heart but his sons and families dedicated their time to him and he regularly acknowledged their love and attention. He will be missed very much.                                              

Written by Jeremy Watson


Obituary: Carlos Falcó, Marqués de Griñón

Monday 23 March, 2020

All Caballeros will be very sad to hear of the death in Madrid on Friday 20th March of Carlos Falcó, Marqués de Griñón, who passed away due to coronavirus. He was 83, to the very end an energetic and tireless ambassador for Spanish wines.

Carlos was a pioneer, with a strong influence on modern Spanish viticulture. Given his initial training as an engineer, and subsequent studies at UC Davis, he had a strong interest in the application of science to the work of the vineyard and invited the viticultural expert Richard Smart to advise.  Carlos was the driving force to create the appellation of Vinos de Pago, and in 2003, with Victor de la Serna and Paco Uribe, founded the the network of private family estates known as the Grandes Pagos de España.

Carlos became a Caballero in 2002. He represented and was active in the Spanish wine industry and business in so many diverse ways including, over time, as Founder and President of his family wineries Marqués de Griñón SA and Dominio de Valdepusa SA; Vice President of ARCO Bodegas Unidas SA, President of Durius Alto Duero SA, President of Grandes Pagos de Castilla. He was Vice President of the Academia Española de Gastronomía, and author of the book Entender de Vino.

We send our very warmest wishes to his family.


Obituary: Kevin McAlindon

Wednesday 12 February, 2020

It is with deepest sympathy the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino announce the death of member Kevin McAlindon.

Kevin McAlindon began working at Duncairn Wine Stores in Belfast after the premature death of his father Edward in the mid-1950s.  This little corner off licence was at the time more suited to bottling Guinness, selling spirits and fortified wine than table wine.  His eldest brother Denis, then working for the Foreign Office, had become acquainted with the world of wine during his time in Italy and France. It was through Denis’ initial introduction that Kevin first developed a passion and enthusiasm for wine.

During the 1960s and 1970s Kevin, by then joined by his brother Ciaran, imported and bottled casks of classed growth clarets as well as Sherry from Spain and Cyprus. In the late 1970s two factors were key in the success of what became Direct Wine Shipments. Firstly the decision to pursue direct links with vineyards and secondly the purchase of a dockside Georgian warehouse.

For the first time one could purchase a wide range of quality wines in Northern Ireland. This pioneering vision saw direct wine importing from all around the. Strong relationships with many wine luminaries including Michel Chapoutier, Jonny Hugel, Miguel Torres, Christina Forner & Mercedes Chivite were forged.

Kevin’s love of all things Spanish can be traced back to his first visit to Spain in the early 1950s. He subsequently spent much time in his various holiday homes and on buying trips. Close associations with Torres, Marqués de Cáceres, Pesquera, Vega Sicilia, Lustau, Chivite and many others flourished.

Becoming a Caballero in 1996 was a great honour for Kevin and his family. This recognition by the Spanish government was greatly appreciated. His passion for Spain never dimmed with more regional wines and smaller growers finding their way into the DWS range.

Kevin always wanted to learn more and to share his anecdotes and knowledge with customers and friends. He was very ‘democratic’ in his approach and used to emphasise to DWS staff that they had to be able to satisfy the demands of all customers, from the postman wanting a bottle for the week-end to the Lord Chief Justice. Said The Which? Wine Guide “We can think of few other companies which are passionate about both wine itself and about making sure their customers share their enthusiasm. Wine snobbery in this particular area of Belfast is refreshingly absent”.

He was part of the first group in Ireland to sit the WSET Diploma. Wine education thereafter became a big part of the DWS company ethos. Today the DWS Wine Academy offers WSET Level 1, 2 & 3 Courses plus many consumer and trade events.

Left to right: Kevin McAlindon and Josep Puig

After retirement Kevin continued to visit growers on behalf of his two sons Peter and Neal who were now running the business. He started a further retirement project, by purchasing a vineyard. With the help of his old friend Jose (Josep) Puig – pictured with Kevin above – he settled on a wonderful plot in Salanques just outside the village of Poboleda in Priorat. This truly was a lifetime’s ambition achieved. The wine ‘Creu Celta’ (Celtic Cross in Catalan) has been a great success and widely praised.


Obituary: Bryan Buckingham

Thursday 18 July, 2019

It is with deepest sympathy the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino announce the death of member Bryan Buckingham, who has died aged 90. This obituary was kindly written by GOCV members Graham Hines and Jeremy Watson.

Bryan Buckingham 1929-2019

After serving in the RAF, Bryan became a journalist, eventually to have his own named column in the News of the World during its heyday. He moved to work with Smees, the advertising agency which had the Sherry Exporters as a customer, and later worked directly for Jerez, eventually starting on their behalf, “The Sherry Institute”.

From the mid 1960’s, Bryan became pivotal in promoting Sherry in the U.K. He instigated and executed some significant events, amongst them “The Sherry Motor Rally” based in and around Jerez, bringing the horses from the Spanish National Riding School in Jerez to the Royal International Horse Show at Wembley, as well as a special one-off show for H.M. The Queen at Windsor Great Park polo ground.

He also organised the Segovia Spanish Guitar competition held at Leeds Castle in Kent. At this last event, he met distinguished and internationally recognised pianist, Jennifer Partridge, who later became his wife. 

In 1982, responsibility for Sherry promotion moved to the Spanish Embassy Commercial Office as ‘The Sherry Institute of Spain‘  where Bryan worked until retiring in 1989.

He continued to give generic Sherry talks and tastings all over Britain for wine societies and students studying for WSET qualifications up to his 80th birthday in 2008.

In June 1990,  Bryan was awarded the ‘Encomienda del Merito Civil‘ (Commander of the Order of Civil Merit of Spain) for his work over 26 years promoting Sherry throughout the U.K. He was made a member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino in 1998 to honour his contribution to the promotion of Sherry generically in the U.K. and will be sadly missed by those who knew him.

Bryan was very well known, liked and respected in the trade for his professionalism, unfailing courtesy and good humour.