NEWS2021: In memory

2021: In memory

And yet another wine year has passed. Before we again accompany the international wine events with editorial contributions as usual, we would like to remember and say goodbye to some wine personalities, wine pioneers, innovators and chroniclers of the wine industry who passed away in the past year. Some of them died because of their age, some succumbed to heart attacks, cancer and also some of them died due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

GERMANY (Würzburg) – Arranged according to countries and within these sorted according to date of death, we remember in extracts personalities who have given the wine industry – each in their own way – important and pioneering impulses.


Karl-Josef (Kajo) Christoffel (03/2021)

Karl-Josef Christoffel passed away on March 23. He was 89 years old. As owner of the Jos. Christoffel Jr. winery in Ürzig/Mosel, he looked back on up to 400 years of winegrowing tradition, according to his own statements. At the end of the last decade, the family estate cultivated around four hectares planted purely with Riesling in the Ürziger Würzgarten, the Erdener Treppchen and the rare Erdener Prälat sites to produce noble white wines. His credo: exclusively spontaneous fermentation and only in wooden barrels. The wine scene describes him as one of the most likeable, entertaining people and an outstanding winemaker in the Mosel region. In 2017, he closed his winery due to age. At that time, only five Moselle wineries ranked higher than his in the Gault-Millau and Vinum ratings.

Bernhard Spreitzer (12/2021)

Bernhard Spreitzer, senior boss, consultant and good soul of the Josef Spreitzer winery in Oestrich-Winkel, passed away on December 17, 2021, at the age of 88. Bernhard Spreitzer had taken over the business, located in Oestrich-Winkel in the heart of the Rheingau, in 1953 and once commented: “My father’s legacy – for me it was a matter of course to continue the family tradition.” It was only with him that the international trade of Spreitzer wines also began. Under his leadership, the winery even supplied Buckingham Palace and former French President Charles de Gaules. In 1983, Bernhard Spreitzer received the state honorary award as best winemaker of the year. In 1997, his sons Bernd and Andy took over the winery in the Rheingau, which was founded in 1641, and joined the VDP in 1999. Bernhard Spreitzer knew in retirement his business in good hands, his sons are not only brothers, but friends and very successful.


Steven Spurrier (03/2021)

British author, educator, wine merchant and even winemaker Steven Spurrier, was undeniably a dedicated champion of wine and once the organizer of the famous “Paris Wine Tasting” in 1976. He passed away at the age of 79 on March 9, 2021. Spurrier, who was constantly traveling to speak and teach about wine, was a beloved and highly respected figure to many in the wine industry. With his tireless enthusiasm and boundless curiosity, he also ignited the passion of many newcomers to wine. “One cannot overestimate Steven’s influence in the wine world,” condoled wine critic Bartholomew Broadbent, son of the legendary Michael Broadbent, a longtime friend and colleague of Spurrier and, like him, considered one of the most influential trade journalists and writers in the world of wine. “He was way ahead of his time, and so many projects came about because of his involvement,” says Bartholomew Broadbent. Indeed, Spurrier had wine in his blood and passed on his expertise to anyone who asked.


Benjamin de Rothschild (01/2021)

Baron Benjamin de Rothschild – banker, philanthropist, and winery owner – died of a heart attack at his home, the Château de Pregny, in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 15. He was 57 years old. He was married to his wife Ariane for 27 years. Together, the two built an empire of wine and philanthropy. The bank heir was known for his passion for sailing, liked to drive fast cars and cultivated philanthropy. But he also loved the world of wine. As the head of his branch of the famous banking family, the baron owned seven wineries in Bordeaux and other French appellations.

Thomas Nègre (02/2021)

On February 1, winemaker Thomas Nègre passed away in Montpellier at the age of 45 after a two-year serious illness and long struggle. Together with his father-in-law Bruno Pellegrini, who comes from Tuscany, Nègre had managed Château Ricardelle in Languedoc since 2003. The qualitative rise of the winery falls into this period. Especially in sales and marketing, Nègre set new signs for Château Ricardelle. Thomas Nègre is survived by his wife Ophélie and three children aged 14, 8 and 4.

Hugues Jeanjean (05/2021)

Hugues Jeanjean, fifth-generation head of Maison et Les Vignobles de Jeanjean, passed away on May 11, 2021, at the age of 89. This was announced by the group AdVini, which was born from the winery group Jeanjean. Together with his brother Bernard, he shaped the house as well as the Languedoc wine region for 60 years and was instrumental in promoting it internationally. “He was a visionary, tireless worker, leader and connoisseur,” is how AdVini pays tribute to him as a wine personality. Maison Jeanjean is now in its 6th generation and celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

Rebecca „Becky“ Wasserman (08/2021)

Becky Wasserman, a consultant to Burgundy’s more minor wineries and a connoisseur of the American wine market, died Aug. 20 of a respiratory illness. She was 84 years old. The go-getting “Becky” cultivated the contact to young vintners or even to inexperienced colleagues from Burgundy, often invited them to lunch or dinner in her house to help them with advice to get started in the wine business. From her farm near Beaune, Wasserman also gradually represented inexperienced winemakers from all over France in sales to American importers, becoming a valuable and respected mentor.

Eloi Dürrbach (11/2021)

Winemaker Eloi Dürrbach, owner of Domaine de Trévallon, located in Provence, died Nov. 12 at his winery. He was 71 years old. Eloi Dürrbach was the son of two well-known artists. His father was a sculptor and painter. His mother made tapestries and had permission from family friend Pablo Picasso to reproduce his works. She wove a tapestry on the theme of Guernica and sold it to Nelson Rockefeller. With the proceeds, she bought Trévallon, a 144-hectare estate with woods, garrigue (shrub heath) and three small hills in the Alpilles near St.-Remy de Provence, which was first used as a vacation home and later converted by Eloi into a wine domain. Eloi dropped out of his architecture studies in the early 1970s – his ambition was to start a vineyard. He grew without chemicals before that became fashionable. And when local wine regulations were changed, he simply sold his excellent red wine as a country wine (vin de pays). As founder of Domaine de Trévallon, Eloi Dürrbach made his way unwaveringly, producing great red wines for decades.

Philippe Cambie (12/2021)

Philippe Cambie, endowed with a powerful stature of 1.90 meters, was the driving force behind the increase in quality of many wineries in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He passed away on December 18 at the age of 59, just one month before his 60th birthday. A passionate winemaker, he could be warm and friendly over a good meal and a glass of wine, but as a consultant to a number of wineries, he took viticulture and winemaking very seriously. He was known for pushing his clients to make their dreams come true. Cambie also owned his own Southern Rhône wine brand, Les Halos de Jupiter, as well as co-owning two brands, the Provençal project Calendal and the California Pinot Noir project Beau Marchais.


Vassili Kourtakis (09/2021)

Vassili Kourtakis, president of Greek Wine Cellars D. Kourtakis, passed away on September 5 at the age of 84. He was considered a pioneer of modern Greek wine law and is praised by his company for his commitment to the Greek and international wine industry. It is noteworthy that under Vasssili Kurtakis, the winery became big with retsina, a traditional dry table wine in Greece that is blended with resin, but for a long time it was common in Greece to order a “kourtaki” instead of a retsina in the restaurant trade. Kourtakis took over his parents’ winery on the Attic peninsula during the 1960s after studying in Dijon. He was involved in the founding of the Comité Européen des Enterprises Vins (C.E.E.V.) and was its president for eight years, then later honorary president, and president and then honorary president of the Greek Wine Federation for 12 years. Kourtakis had withdrawn from the operational business of his winery in recent years and transferred the management to his son Dimitri. The export-oriented Kourtakis company is the largest wine producer in Greece with a turnover of about 30 million euros.


Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino (03/2021)

Alessandro de Renzi’s Sonnino died of corona in early March. He was 64 years old. The elegant, silver-haired and bearded Tuscan aristocrat – affectionately known as “Barone” – took over his family’s Castello Sonnino and Chianti vineyards in Montespertoli at the end of the 20th century. De Renzi’s Sonnino, who had grown up in Florence and studied art history, inherited the 360-hectare Sonnino estate from an uncle in the late 1980s. At that time, the estate was more or less in ruins. Now the farm has about 100 hectares of vineyards, plus olive groves, grain fields and woodland.

Pio Boffa von Pio Cesare (04/2021)

Alba mourns the death of a great barolista: Pio Boffa, the well-known owner of the Pio Cesare winery, died in mid-April at the age of 66. Pio Boffa was among the most charismatic personalities in Barolo. He led the historic family business in its fourth generation and successfully transformed it from what was once a commercial enterprise – as they all used to be – into a leading winery. He was responsible for the fact that from then on the estate concentrated in cultivation on the best vineyards of Barolo and Barbaresco. Today Pio Cesare owns 70 hectares of great sites in the Barolo and Barbaresco area. Pio Boffa was one of the first to take his wines to the United States at a young age, making them famous there. Pio Cesare is the only winery remaining in the center of Alba and still operates where Pio Cesare founded the winery in 1881. As far as Barolo is concerned, Pio Boffa had two hearts in his chest: on the one hand, he was a traditionalist and always stressed that his Barolo Pio must remain a cuvée made from different sites throughout the territory. On the other hand, with his Ornato, he was the first to bottle a single-vineyard Barolo.

See also our detailed obituary on Pio Boffa:

Andrea Franchetti (12/2021)

The wine world mourns star winemaker and mentor of Sicilian wines Andrea Franchetti from Tenuta di Trinoro in Passopisciaro (Sicily) – He died at the beginning of December at the age of 72. Andrea Franchetti bought his Tenuta Trinoro estate as a retreat with the money he earned from the sale of a painting. The idea of planting vines came later. After creating a cult wine at Tenuta Trinoro from grapes grown on vines in the remote hills of the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany, he became a key figure in the renaissance of Sicilian Etna wines at his Passopisciaro estate. Franchetti was one of the most unconventional personalities in the international wine world, rather shy, the grand entrance was not his thing, he always put his wines in front. He didn’t care about the competition or what others thought – he lived in his own world.

Franco Ziliani (12/2021)

Franco Ziliani, winemaker and revered “founding father” of the northern Italian sparkling wine appellation Franciacorta, passed away at the end of December. He was 90 years old. He set a milestone some 60 years ago with the production of his first groundbreaking vintage of a Champagne-style sparkling wine for Berlucchi, the winery he later took over through his long-standing partnership with Count Guido Berlucchi. This wine proved that the region was capable of producing high quality sparkling wine in a style similar to that of the French Champagne. Today, Franciacorta is considered one of the best sparkling wines in Italy. Today, the sparkling wine cellar is managed by his children Arturo, Cristina and Paolo.


Josef „Sepp“ Moser (03/2021)

Winemaker Josef “Sepp” Moser died on March 24, 2021, at the age of 91. He learned his love of winemaking from his father, the winemaking pioneer Prof. Dr. hc Lenz Moser. Together with his twin brother Laurenz Moser, he worked for many years in his father’s company, where he devoted himself to sales, especially to Germany, the most important export market. Only later in 1987, when “Sepp” was 57 years old, he successfully founded his own winery in Rohrendorf near Krems. He was one of the first producers to cultivate international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in Burgenland at an early stage. Also inherited from his father was his penchant for breeding vines, which led to him also making a name for himself as a specialist dealer in seedling vines.

Gerd A. Hoffmann (07/2021)

Gerd A. Hoffmann, a commercial councillor, passed away at the beginning of July. He was a highly respected personality who moved a lot behind the scenes. Hoffmann, founder of Vinova in the 1980s, then of VieVinum and Art&Antique, succumbed to a stubborn cancer after years of struggle. With him, the Austrian trade fair scene loses a mentor who, with a great deal of skill, innovative spirit and visionary thinking, helped public trade fairs with Austria as a location to achieve great renown. He received numerous awards and honors for his services, including the Bacchus Prize of the Winegrowers’ Association for special services to Austrian wine. What particularly distinguished Gerd Hoffmann, besides his qualities as a doer and visionary, were his human skills. Even competitors also appreciated him for his corporate style.

Klaus Pauscha (07/2021)

Cooper and barrel maker Klaus Pauscha was among those Austrians who revolutionized the local wine world some 20 years ago. Deceased at the beginning of July at 62, Pauscha was already a legend throughout his life: His company was among those Austrian companies that set great accents in barrel construction from the late 1980s on. After the wine scandal in 1985, Pauscha initially wanted to give up everything, but then a few Burgenland vintners came and asked him if he could produce some of these small, toasted, French barrique barrels, which were still rather unknown in the country. Pauscha recognized the situation – without him, the barrique in Austria would never have been able to triumph as quickly as it did 30 years ago like an eruption over the viticulture of Europe. Thus, the trained carpenter became a wine expert, equipped with an ingenious sense of smell. For it was he who subsequently advised Austrian vintners to reduce toasting more again. A man with a pronounced understanding of wood and foresight, as one can sum up today.

Engelbert Gesellmann (12/2021)

The wine pioneer from Deutschkreutz passed away on December 4 at the age of 86. Always friendly by nature, Engelbert Gesellmann was always looking for ways to improve the quality of his wines – and also proved open to new approaches. Be it in the planting of new red wine varieties in the 1980s or in the aging of the wines by means of biological acid reduction and aging in small French barriques. With first-class Blaufränkisch wines, he laid the foundation for a development that was brought to perfection by his son Albert. In 1988, the much acclaimed Cuvée Opus Eximium was launched. Then in 1992 followed the groundbreaking Bela Rex, another red flagship of the winery, the expression of a bold stylistic step towards the future of domestic red wine.

Falstaff-Gründer Dr. Helmut Romé (12/2021)

Dr. Helmut Romé, the doyen of Austrian wine journalism, passed away at the beginning of December at the age of 82. As a critical connoisseur of the international wine world, he had a decisive influence on the development of Austrian wine culture in the past decades. More than forty years ago now, the idea matured in Dr. Helmut Romé to develop a new magazine whose goal would be to “deepen the feeling for quality of life.” Together with Hans Dibold, he brought out the first issue of “Falstaff” in the early fall of 1980. He wrote numerous competent articles and essays on viticultural policy, wine culture, as well as on the particularities of the great wines of Europe, and thus also belonged to the professional wine journalists of his time. His book “Die großen Weine Österreichs” (The Great Wines of Austria), published in 1979, was a standard work on the subject of wine from Austria, but was wastepaper after the Clykol scandal (1985).


Alejandro Fernández (05/2021)

Alejandro Fernández can without question be counted among Spain’s most important wine personalities. He passed away on May 22 at the age of 88 in Santander, northern Spain. His death leaves “a gap that is difficult to fill” in the Castilian wine scene, his Familia Fernández Rivera company says. Fernández, together with his wife Esperanza, was the driving force behind the now world-famous “Tinto Pesquera” wine from Pesquera del Duero, the first vintage of which was harvested in 1975. Alejandro Fernandez was proud of his hometown and his Ribera del Duero region. The wine scene has long since agreed that the Spanish winemaker has made the Ribera del Duero region better known with powerful, outstanding Tempranillos.


Howard Goldberg (01/2021)

Howard Goldberg passed away in early January. He was 86 years old. The longtime New York Times editor and wine writer was knowledgeable and humble in his work. Moreover, the scene knew him as a friendly, humorous gentleman who always had a quick joke ready. An old-school journalist – a veteran of the Times – he began his career in 1970, writing wine-related articles constantly since 1984. His principles as a writer for the New York Times are also remembered in relation to his wine column. He never gave the appearance of impropriety in his wine texts, favoring one producer or trade organization over another. His books, The Complete Wine Cellar System (2003) and All About Wine Cellars (2004), became bestsellers on the American wine scene. Although he retired from the Times as editor in 2004, he remained loyal to the wine scene, writing columns and wine stories from then on and developing a loyal following on Twitter.

David Bruce (04/2021)

David Bruce, a pioneer winemaker in the Santa Cruz Mountains and an early champion of California Pinot Noir, died April 28. He was 89 years old. Born in San Francisco in 1931 and raised in a teetotal family, Bruce discovered wine while in medical school at Stanford when he tasted a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg in 1954. He says this changed his life. He graduated in 1956 with a degree in dermatology. His obsession with Burgundy then led to the purchase of 54 acres of land at an elevation of about 650 meters in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He cleared much of the land himself and planted the first 24 hectares of vines on the steep slopes. At the same time, he had a winery and a residence built. His conviction that the region of the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco was an ideal terroir for Pinot Noir was to prove him right.

Jim Clendenen (05/2021)

As co-founder and winemaker of Winery Au Bon Climat, located in the Santa Maria Valley, Jim Clendenen has been instrumental in improving California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. To achieve this, he was helped by his love of Burgundy, where he sought advice. He passed away on May 15 at the age of 68. Clendenen was a tireless advocate and guide for Santa Barbara wines. His Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from a variety of vineyards helped set the quality bar high for the region’s wines. He also traveled frequently to restaurants and wineries around the world, spreading the gospel of Santa Barbara wines and Burgundian varietals in California.

Mark Tarlov (07/2021)

Mark Tarlov succumbed to cancer at his home in New York on July 31 after a long battle. He was 69 years old. Tarlov had studied law, then first gained experience as a prosecutor and then became an employee of the U.S. Department of Justice. In parallel, his interest in the film industry developed. During his time as a film producer in the 1980s – he worked with directors such as John Carpenter, Sidney Lumet and John Waters – his passion for wine began in parallel. This subsequently led to the founding of the Evening Land, Chapter 24 and Rose & Arrow wine brands in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and in Central California. The American wine scene dubbed him a brilliant, inspiring visionary. This is based on his skill in reaching out to people from different backgrounds in the wine projects and bringing seemingly impossible tasks to a determined end by putting team spirit first and thus taking everyone involved along with him.

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