Harold Eedes, publisher of WINE magazine, passed away this afternoon, one month shy of the 15th birthday of his baby, the magazine. I got to know Harold on an Italian autostrade driving from Bergamo to Verona back in 1996 – a dreadful vintage for SA wine.
We were en route to Vin Italy in Verona, one of the largest international wine expositions, prior to lunch at a restaurant on Lake Garda with the unexpectedly named Douglas Murray. Murray was founder of Montes, one of the most serious Chilean wine producers, and our lunch was to discuss a new wine test match to be sponsored by SA Airways, after the 1995 competition with Australia ended in a whitewash. Perhaps we’d have better luck with Chile and Argentina.
Alas, the fallout from the Aussie fiasco scuppered that one and it’s been downhill for wine on SA Airways pretty much ever since. On a flight to Sao Paulo two weeks ago, business class was rationed to two bottles of French fizz – Moët and Louis de Sacy – after which glasses were topped up with Villiera. Which makes you wonder exactly what you get for the R34 000 airfare.
We’d ended up in Bergamo as there’d been a fire at Frankfurt airport and all flights had been diverted. Cas du Plessis, then editor of Wynboer, now reshaped as Winelands, was also in the car, complaining about losing his luggage. It never did catch up with him and he depended for the rest of the trip on John Platter for Jockeys and socks.
With our travel plans in disarray, Harold immediately took charge, hired a car and drove us to Verona. That was the kind of man he was: cool under pressure with the gift of common sense.
The oft-times turbulent spittoon of SA wine writing is going to miss his calming influence and level-headed take on things. Harold’s son Christian, now editor of WINE, quoted Harold to me recently: “there are precious few ‘noble’ endeavours in SA wine at the moment, but hopefully WINE magazine is one.” I can think of no better epitaph.