Kit Stevens MW
Became an MW 1972, died 2004
Tribute by Robin Walters MW
Kit Stevens died suddenly at home in Heathfield, East Sussex on Tuesday 3rd August 2004. He was born on 28th February 1941 in Singapore. As the situation there deteriorated in the face of the rapid Japanese advance the authorities decided to evacuate all children and Kit was sent, with his grandmother, via Australia to England where he was looked after by his aunt Barbara. His mother, Pen stayed on as one of the few remaining nurses and was evacuated on the last boat to leave Singapore. The ship was bombed by the Japanese but Pen, a strong swimmer, was able to make a friendly shore after many hours. His father, Kenneth, who had been working for Dunlop, was taken prisoner and died working on the Burma railway. When Pen eventually arrived back in England she and Kit settled in Ilkley, Yorkshire, moving to Heathfield in Sussex in 1948.
Educated at Marlborough House Preparatroy School, where he was head boy, and at Charterhouse, Kit entered the wine trade with a six month stage with Williams and Humbert in Jerez. On his return he joined Hedges & Butler, then still family owned, as a trainee, subsequently becoming one of a very young sales force. He was awarded the Vintners Scholarship in 1964. In 1968 he joined H & J Wine Agencies, agents for Taittinger and Schlumberger, and a year or so later he moved on to Rigby and Evens who had just opened a London office and were agents for Louis Roederer, Patriarche and Eschenauer.
In 1972 Kit passed the Master of Wine examination, probably for him the most important event in his working life. In the same year he joined a group of French producers as Export Director. Companies in the group were Cognac Prunier, Armagnac St Vivant, Antoine Moueix, Raoul Clerget, Champagne Deutz and Gelderman, Delas, Marcel Martin in the Loire and Preiss Henny of Alsace. During his five years with this group he built up extensive contacts in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the far East.
In 1977, Kit set up his own business, Vinifera, selling on behalf of mainly French producers in the far East and Australia. It was at this time that his long and fruitful relationship with the Guigal family began. He was also instrumental in setting up a joint venture between Deutz Champagne and Montana of New Zealand which was conceived in the mid 1980’s and resulted in the launch of Deutz Marlborough Cuvee in 1988. He also turned his hand to writing, principally but not exclusively about wine, and was a regular contributor to publications in the UK, Australia and Singapore.
In 1975 Kit married Stella Downer, daughter of the then Australian High Commissioner in London. They had one son, Bertie. The marriage ended in divorce and Kit subsequently married Rosie Cormack, this marriage also ending in divorce.
He was a member of the MCC, an eager cricketer himself, although possibly more accomplished as an armchair critic, and a similarly enthusiastic golfer.
Kit was a highly talented, generous and engaging man, a great romantic and romancer, extremely knowledgeable about all things vinous and much more besides. Despite his occasional bouts of incredible rudeness and his lapses with the bottle, his friends always forgave him everything and merely looked forward to the next outpouring of exceptional wit and wisdom.
He will be sadly missed by his many friends around the world.