I FIRST MET STEVEN SPURRIER in 1977 at a wine event held at a restaurant in New York’s Midtown. I was just starting off as a wine writer, while Steven was fresh off the international triumph of his famed Judgment of Paris tasting. I was in awe, but he treated me with courtesy and kindness. That was Steven—always generous and attentive to others.
Over the years we saw each other often—at other events, at judgings—and then, for 13 years, we were consultants together for Singapore Airlines. During that time we met twice annually for a week in Singapore. Along with the third consultant, Australian Master of Wine Michael Hill Smith, we made a supreme effort to dine at every good restaurant in that food-obsessed city. We failed but had a great time trying. Every night we would meet in the hotel lobby and set off on a new adventure. Some places were extremely elegant; others were tiny four-table joints serving only one dish. But no matter where we were headed, Steven always wore a suit. He was, after all, a very proper English gentleman.
After our nightly forays, I often tried to convince him to join me in a fine single malt back at the hotel. He wasn’t at all interested and would order a glass of wine instead, even though we had been drinking wine all evening. Such was his obsession. What’s more, like his dress and manners, his tasting technique was meticulous. His assessments were accurate, intelligent, and consistent. We rarely disagreed, but when we did, the discussion was lively and erudite. (He usually won.)
In early 2019, I visited with Steven and his delightful wife, Bella, in Devon. The Spurriers had a farm there, and Steven— who over the years had sold wine, written about wine, tasted wine, judged wine, and consulted on wine—was, with a little help from climate change, finally able to make wine. He proudly presented his Bride Valley Brut, a charming and sophisticated sparkler—just like its maker.
The last time I saw him was November 2019, when he came to be chief judge at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. For three days, it was like old times in Singapore. We tasted, we laughed, we ate, and we drank. Then he returned to the U.K., and not long after came the somber note saying something vague about “declining health.”
The wine world has lost an articulate proponent; I have lost a dear and irreplaceable friend.
By Anthony Dias Blue