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Patrick Grubb MW

Patrick Grubb MW

Became an MW 1958, died 23 March 2024

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Patrick Grubb MW has passed away.

Patrick Grubb passed the MW exam in 1958 aged 26, the youngest to have attained the title by that time. Respected and recognised by his colleagues, Patrick was chair of the education committee, then chair of the IMW 1976-77, and in 2018 enjoyed his 60-year MW celebration at Vintner’s Hall. During his career he was also selected for membership of numerous wine fraternities including La Commanderie du Bontemps de Medoc et des Graves, La Jurade de Saint-Emilion, and La Confrerie St. Etienne. In 1984 he was also inducted into the Confraria do Vinho do Porto as an Honorary Confrade and Cavaleiro (or Knight), having been proposed as a member by Quinta do Noval Vinhos, SA.

Born in Malaya, the son of a rubber planter, Patrick attended Wellington College in Berkshire before entering the wine industry in 1952, commencing a 76 year love affair with wine. His first experience was in Bordeaux, as ‘Stage’ with the prominent French wine shipping company Sichel & Co. His first role included him picking grapes alongside Corsican migrant workers, with some of the more roguish workers knife-fighting around the campfires in the evenings. It was here that Patrick became truly fluent in French, a skill that served him well throughout his career.

On returning to England he began his lengthy career with Hedges & Butler in London and then Hay & Son in Sheffield. Hay & Son were subsequently acquired by JLP Lebegue & Co, where Patrick remained for a decade and rose to Deputy Managing Director. During this time, in addition to having already been commissioned during National Service, he was also commissioned into the Honourable Artillery Company in 1954, which then became a venue for many of his Madeira tastings in later life.

In 1973 he was invited to join Sotheby, Park & Burnett (Sotheby’s) as Director and Head of their wine department. It was whilst at Sotheby’s that he was first approached to be the chief auctioneer for the then embryonic Nederburg wine auction in South Africa, which he continued to enjoy working with for the next thirty-three years. During this time Patrick also established and sponsored a bursary programme for young black South Africans entering the wine industry to study wine making abroad, principally in France. He also led auctions in Sonoma County, California, in Boston, Maine, USA, and charity auctions in Grand Cayman, for Docklands Settlements in London, and numerous others.

On leaving Sotheby’s in 1986 Patrick joined Fine Vintage Wines in Sloane Street, London, and in 1987 Patrick moved with his family to Oxfordshire where he established Patrick Grubb Selections, which he ran until his retirement aged 82, and where he imported French, Californian, New Zealand, and South African wines. Most of all, however, and perhaps the specialty for which he became most known, was his focus on Madeira – an enduring passion of his.

Throughout his life Patrick was known for his gentility, kindness, generosity, and chivalrous nature, with his daughter-in-law even nicknaming him the “walking honeypot” because of his warm, sweet and kind nature.

Patrick is survived by his wife, Jennie, and two sons, Hugo and Harry.

Patrick’s Thanksgiving service will take place on 23 May at St Leonard’s and St James’s Church, Rousham, Oxon, OX25 4QZ at 2.30pm.

Memories from Masters of Wine

By Rose Murray Brown MW
I am indebted to Patrick Grubb MW as he gave me my first job in the wine trade.  He was my boss for several years at Sotheby’s wine department in the mid-1980s and he was one of the kindest, most considerate people I have worked with.  He was a man of great integrity and a real gentleman – with an emphasis on gentle.

He taught me how to taste, to focus on the classics, invited me to join him at tastings and encouraged me to further my career in the wine industry – so it was largely thanks to Patrick that, fifteen years after we had first met, I eventually became a Master of Wine.

Whilst I was working with Patrick, he was not just heading up Sotheby’s wine department (he was a highly skilled auctioneer) – he was also beginning his work with South Africa setting up and hosting the Nederburg wine auction and he helped young black South Africans to enter the wine industry with bursary programmes.

When I first met him, he had already begun his life-long work with Madeira.  The most remarkable vintages, back to C18, would appear in our office which Patrick occasionally allowed me to taste. He continued his own business focusing on Madeira well into his old age, retiring at the admirable age of 82.  He was indeed a tireless worker and a great taster.

I am so sad to hear of the passing of such a wonderful gentleman – my thoughts are with his wife Jennie and sons.