Monday, February 24, 2014

Michael Cox RIP


Michael Cox receiving the Order of Merit, the country's
highest honour, f
rom P
resident Sebastian Piñera, in 2010 

Many of the people who read this will have personally known Michael Cox ; some may not. For those outside the UK wine trade, Michael who died last week way before his time, was as others have said, one of the gentlemen of wine. Tall, always warmly friendly, and with words to raise a smile (he happily promoted the use of the soubriquet "Ucker" as a suffix to his name), he is one of the people of whom the expression "sadly missed" will be true. 

No UK wine trade event was - or will be - complete without him, either at conferences, making important points from the front, or raising questions from the audience; or, after hours, making jokes and shaming everybody else with his performance on the dance floor. He was also the member of of the UK wine trade of whom most people would probably most readily think when the subject turned to sport, about which he was passionate.

In the 1990s he helped to drive the Australian wine boom, at the helm of Yalumba's business in the UK. Today, it is often forgotten outside Australia, just how formative a part Yalumba has played in the shaping of the modern wine world. One big chapter of that history owes hugely to Michael's collaboration with Robert Hill-Smith, head of the family company.

After a dozen or so years of devoting himself to Australian wine, Michael turned his attention to another New World country, Chile. Again, when one considers it today, it is easy to overlook the state the UK Chilean wine market was in before Michael took over the reins as head of the generic office.

The UK wine trade - like the wine world - had changed enormously over the last 25 years. Michael Cox is one of the people who has been present at, and important to, every part of that change. I personally enjoyed his good company and benefitted from his readiness to help in any way he could. Lord Ucker's memorial service will be a very, very well-attended and very very memorable event. 

2 comments:

  1. Mike Paul5:32 p.m.

    Well done Robert. I was going to post something on my blog but it makes sense to endorse your piece which was spot on. I liked many things about Michael and I also had a huge respect for the fact that you knew exactly how he felt about the key issues of the day.He didn't hold back but managed to get over his point of view both passionately and at the same time with great charm. A very difficult balance to achieve.

    What I also admired was that he didn't take himself too seriously even when in his last role he was wearing his 'robes'. Life was to be enjoyed to the full. On that note, and I've just written to Harpers with this story, I recall in 1995 when he and I together with Yvonne May and Alison Easton organised the Southcorp\Yalumba\Rosemount party at the Roof Gardens during the London Wine Fair. We were very proud of the fact that it was the first wine tasting to be accompanied by a disco.It was a huge success and became an annual event. I recall, late that night, Michael saying to me that he'd like to be remembered as the person who first bought dancing to the Uk wine trade. Certainly he will be remembered for his dancing but he will be remembered for a lot more than that. He took the wine business very seriously but he could lighten the mood in a second. He gave the impression that he went through life being as true to himself as it is possible to be and, given the seniority of the roles he held, that demonstrates a rare talent..

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