In memory of Harry Waugh
In long-lived testimony to the purported benefits of moderate wine consumption, Waugh retained apparent good health to the end of an exceptionally long life. He was 97 and, The Times of London noted in his obituary today, "To the end he was slim, sprightly, alert, eyesight and hearing apparently impeccable. He attended Bordeaux Club dinners, eating and drinking everything put before him, never exhibiting the slightest sign of inebriety, sleeping soundly throughout the night and never suffering a hangover or other ill-effects."
The Times, perhaps speaking with British understatement, called Waugh "one of the most revered and modestly innovative members of the British wine trade," adding that his "predilection for claret nevertheless left him open to the excellence of Californian producers."
He was indeed a trans-Atlantic figure, as well-known and loved by American wine lovers as British, particularly before his advancing years somewhat reduced his travel activity. I had the pleasure of participating in a tasting in Louisville at which he presided in the early 1980s, where he repeated his famous anecdote (I think he told it in ALL his speeches), about being asked the last time he had mistaken Bordeaux for Burgundy and replying, "Not since lunch."
Born in 1904 in Hertfordshire, Waugh entered the wine trade at 30, served in the Welsh Guards during World War II, and joined the staff of Harvey's of Bristol after the war. He is credited with popularizing the wines of Pomerol, Beaujolais and the American Zinfandel in Britain and began publishing his chatty, personable "wine diaries" in the 1950s, first circulating them privately, then in the magazine "Wine" and eventually as a series of 10 books, including his popular 1972 "Diary of a Wine Taster."
His second wife, Prue, who survives him, gave birth to their twins in 1970, and he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1994.
Join me today as we raise a glass in Mr. Waugh's memory ... and I suggest it be his beloved Burgundy or Pinot Noir. I'm sure he was only half-joking when he coined the memorable phrase, "It's a wine's duty to be red."
His full obituary in The Times of London is at http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,60-2001553360,00.html. If you would like to join in an online discussion of Waugh and his life, you'll find an active topic on our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group at http://www.wineloverspage.com/cgi-bin/sb/index.cgi?fn=1&tid=23623.
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Friday, Nov. 30, 2001