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Jancis Robinson MW raises a glass to Edmund Penning-Rowsell

Jancis Robinson MW

EP-R would have been 100 on 16th March. He was one of the country’s first and longest-serving wine writers, my predecessor at The Financial Times and professional mentor. He was also Chairman of The Wine Society from 1964 until his retirement in 1987 and transformed the business in the difficult post-war years. It was he who spearheaded the lifesaving move from London to Stevenage in 1965, taking advantage of incentives from the New Towns Commission. His publishing background helped him bring a new lease of life to the way The Society communicates with its members and his wealth of intelligence about growers and merchants had a beneficial influence on the development of its range of wines. He was a man of ferocious integrity and as Sebastian Payne can attest, despite what some thought, ‘took no part in selecting the wines bought.’ He was also punctilious about never mentioning The Wine Society in the FT.

Edmund’s big love and speciality, though, was claret and his book The Wines of Bordeaux is still something of a bible for Bordeaux lovers. Much of his knowledge was built up over family holidays to Bordeaux (where he famously camped in the grounds of Château Langoa-Barton and got into the habit of buying top Bordeaux at what he called a ‘prix d’amis’ - unthinkable today).

Edmund Penning-Rowsell

But apart from the tangible aspects of EP-R’s legacy, I believe that it is his attitude that is most admirable. He was never pompous or pretentious about wine, was never afraid to ask the most basic questions, and enjoyed sharing both his enthusiasm and his enviable cellar. In his trademark green ink, he kept meticulous records of all the wines he bought and drank. I do hope The Wine Society has some of them somewhere.

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