Geoffrey Michael Roberts: Wine Merchant. Born 23 November 1947. Died 30 April 1994
Geoffrey Roberts was importing fine Australian wine into Britain as long ago as the early 1970s. By 1980 Geoffrey Roberts Associates could boast a glamorous array of California wines from the likes of Robert Mondavi, Chalone, Sterling , Château St Jean, Château Montelena, Freemark Abbey, Trefethen and Schramsberg. Born in 1947 his life was cut short in 1994. The Geoffrey Roberts Award commemorates his work and his lifelong interest in top quality food and wine.
Son of Cyril Roberts, distinguished soldier and lawyer and Member of Staff of the National Coal Board, Geoffrey Roberts went to Eton and was called to the Bar in 1970 but abandoned the law in favour of starting the Hungerford Wine Company in the English town of that name with Richard Jacobs. The company successfully sold wine for corporate entertaining but it was a trip to Australia and a meeting with Len Evans in the early 1970s which persuaded Roberts to risk buying an entire container of Hunter Valley wines which sold out in three months.
He soon moved to Chelsea , his natural habitat, where Geoffrey Roberts Associates’ tastings become important fixtures in the wine trade diary, attended by all of the great and the good to whom he introduced the then-radical notion that great wine was made outside Europe . He was an early member of the Zinfandel Club, founded by Harry Waugh, Hugh Johnson and John Avery MW to celebrate top quality California wine in the UK . Eventually he sold the business to Les Amis du Vin but remained as a consultant, even though this required working in an industrial park on the western fringes of London where the nearest restaurant as a Spud’U'Like – very far from his natural milieu.
He ate and travelled extensively, with no apparent ill-effects on his uncommonly good looks, and once boasted of having eaten in every three-star restaurant in France . He was also a great lover of the opera and ballet and travelled frequently to San Francisco and the south of France . He was certainly a force for good and a bon viveur, which is why his loss in 1994 was felt so keenly by his many friends and associates.