Philip Tuck MW
Became an MW 1999, died 20 July 2023
Philip Tuck MW tragically passed away following a cycling accident in France. He was 60 years old.
Having graduated from Sussex University, Philip started his wine trade career at Avery’s of Bristol in 1986. After five years, his drive to become a Master of Wine led him to various winemaking jobs in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, California and Italy. He returned to the UK in 1993 to help establish Hatch Mansfield with Mark Calver and Patrick McGrath MW, where he worked as Wine Director until his passing.
Phil touched so many people’s lives both within the IMW and the wider world of wine. Since becoming an MW in 1999 Phil was active member. Many will remember him from his regular attendance at study programme seminars, as the practical panel chair from 2014 – 2018 and as a member of Council. He wore many hats within the trade one of these being a judge for the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA). He began as judge in 2004 and continued to 2023.
Phil will be deeply missed by his wife Kate, son Felix, and by friends and colleagues around the globe.
If you would like to pass on your condolences to the family, the IMW can arrange this for you – please email Luke Stephen: email@example.com
Memories from Masters of Wine
By Stephen Skelton MW
Philip and I started our journey on the path to becoming MWs in the same year, 1995. We met at the Odney Club on our Year 1 course and soon struck up a friendship. For some reason we both had our squash rackets with us and played a few games in Odney’s much-underused court. Needless to say, the über-competitive Phil beat me, but he was a good fifteen years younger than me, so I got resigned to the thrashing. He was then around thirty-two and working for Hatch Mansfield, so for him the wine tasting came naturally, whilst for me, then almost fifty, I struggled with the tasting side, having not attended many professional wine tastings in my life. However, I had then been running my own vineyard and making wine for almost twenty years, so Phil and I became study-buddies with our complimentary skills.
During those first two years of studying, we met fairly frequently for tastings and usually shared a room (and in one instance a bed) on the MW study-weeks, then held in the UK. At the tastings, which we usually held at Hatch’s office in Windsor I forget who the others were, but one of us would bring six covered bottles of wine, and we would spend two hours (not the 2¼ it is today) tasting and writing up the wines. At the end of our first Year 2 course, we were eligible to take the exam, which we duly did, Philip passing the practical and me passing the theory. Philp went on to take the exam the following year and pass all but one of the papers (the marketing paper) and thus had a single paper resit. It didn’t help that his boss, Patrick McGrath, with whom he shared an office, was the marketing paper examiner! He passed the next time and became an MW.
After that, our paths crossed now and again, and we not only met at trade wine tastings, but socialised together as well. His stag night at the Hotel du Vin in Bristol, where we stayed up ‘wine tasting’ until the early hours, was a bit of a highlight. I wish I could recall what the wines were, but I am sure they were good. One member of the party fell asleep on the snooker table (shoes off as I recall) and the room I was sharing with another party member only contained a double bed which we gratefully climbed into as dawn’s early light appeared over Bristol Docks. I also attended the subsequent wedding held at his parent’s house in Devon (?) as I recall. Again, good wine flowed, Kate looked radiant, and there was dancing until well after midnight.
Phil was one of the few MWs with whom I formed a genuine friendship and I recall many good meals and tastings, whether at his house or mine, or at MW or Vintners’ events (we were both Liverymen). We were also both shareholders in Domaine Evremond, the Taittinger-led wine enterprise in Kent, and he was so looking forward to being able to get to grips with the marketing challenges of this new enterprise. He was a good man gone well before his time.
My sincere thoughts and condolences are with Kate and Felix and their families.
By Mary Gorman-McAdams MW
Phil Tuck was part of the IMW’s DNA. While not my official mentor, Phil helped me so much as an MW student. He made me feel ‘yes I can do this’. Telling me to be systematic but not formulaic, to write effusively when given a great wine, to distinguish more clearly between key and corroborative evidence and so on when building an argument. No matter how busy he was, Phil always found the time. He was inspiring, he was fun, he was clever. His commitment to the IMW and its study program were unmatched. I don’t know why, but it was endearing rather than annoying, that every time we met, he greeted me with a big smile and a ‘howya’ in a thick Irish brogue of an accent – something that I cannot even do myself. He will be sorely missed by countless. May he Rest In Peace.
By Siobhan Turner MW
Phil was one of the first MWs I met, other than those on the interviewing committee. I’ve never forgotten how generous he was with his time and knowledge when I joined the Institute team, taking the time to introduce me to all sorts of people he felt I needed to know, and spending time to explain aspects of wine that I – at that stage the holder of a mere Advanced Certificate – didn’t even know were relevant! He cared passionately about the Institute, and about wine, and he will be hugely missed by so many of us.
By Rod Smith MW
I shall miss you Philip Tuck.
With your Manzanilla-dry wit and your Comtes-de-Champagne-sparkling eyes, there was always something clever and witty and impish being planned in your mind. Unlike most, you thought before you spoke. Sometimes I could almost hear you think.
When I joined the MW programme I was allocated you as a Mentor, after a gruelling seminar in Berkshire. I met this news with a mixture of joy and trepidation. I sent you, by post (remember – actual postage stamps!) numerous essays and tasting exercises.
You replied, every time, and by return, with notes and advice that had probably taken you longer to write than my submissions had. Of course, you never passed any of them.
That was the hallmark of the great teacher that you were. It made me better – made me strive to be better. When it came to sitting the exam eighteen months later, I wanted to defer. Not ready. Not confident. Not good enough.
We spoke. You told me that my problem was that I was looking for reasons to procrastinate. But – I said – Phil, you’ve never passed anything I sent you, it would just be a waste of time.
You replied, ‘If I thought it would be a waste of time, I would not have spent the last eighteen months believing in you. Now it’s your turn. Do us both proud.’
I really hope I managed that. I passed the exam, so perhaps. You gave me a smile and a bottle of Champagne. The smile meant more. More than once, during the low points, you lifted me up. It was all take, take, take from me, and it was all give, give, give from you.
Later, when it was me attending and running seminars, you were happy to give yet more to me, and others. Offering that very rare talent – which marks out truly great teachers – of instilling in others a desire, and will, to be the best themselves that they can be. Which is what – all even – that it takes to pass the exam, and for success in general.
I always told people that I would never have passed the MW exam had it not been for you. I always thanked you. But I never thanked you enough. I think I am far from alone in that.
Later, you treated me as an equal, which I certainly am not. But that was you all over, too. My heart goes out to Kate, Felix, and all your family and friends. I hope they can take something from knowing just how much you enriched, and continue to enrich, the lives of others.
I shall miss you Philip Tuck.
By Tim Marson MW
I, along with so many others in the IMW community, am still coming to terms with this unexpected and deeply saddening news. Phil left an impression on every student who encountered him. Many speak of initial fear or intimidation – a role I think part of him enjoyed, to a degree – but also, more importantly, respect. Phil was a stickler for maintaining high standards within the Institute of which he was deeply proud to be a part. All of us who experienced his disciplined and pragmatic approach were inspired to work harder and be better tasters.
I recall as a student at my first stage 2 seminar, over late evening beers and pool in Bordeaux, realizing that this “terrifying” figure was also down-to-earth, approachable, and incredibly witty and fun to be around. When I was finally admitted to similar ranks I got to enjoy Phil’s company and humour on more level terms. I particularly remember, as a fellow British MW on American soil, Phil’s concern that he had been too harsh on the local students during a residential seminar session. Underneath that rigid, no-nonsense exterior was a caring and thoughtful man, who was passionate about the study of wine.
Phil has left an indelible mark upon the Institute, its members, and its students. I think he would be somewhat embarrassed by the amount of affection that has been outpoured at his untimely passing, but it is deserved and appropriate. He put a huge amount of his life into this organization and its people, and it is only right we respect the great man accordingly. I personally will miss his presence deeply.
By Martin Hudson MW
Phil was my mentor in my second year of MW study in 2006, and it is no exaggeration to say that I would not have passed without his advice, sometimes pithily given, and encouragement, which I especially remember during a tasting he carried out at his home in Old Basing just before the exams. His level of input to the education programme was huge. He will be sorely missed.
By Cathy van Zyl MW
Always, when a group of Masters of Wine and students get together, talk inevitably turns to Philip Tuck MW and his impact on their various MW journeys. As a student himself, as an educator, as an examiner, and even post all those roles, Phil touched so many. It was a very brief conversation with him in Bordeaux that changed how I ‘saw’ wine, and that changed my life. I wouldn’t have what I have now if it wasn’t for Phil. For us who came to know him through wine – and I suspect the same is true for everyone who worked with him or played with him – Phil was larger than life, the Fountain of Knowledge, a True North. How very much more he must be for those he loved. Our thoughts are with them during this difficult, difficult time… and will be whenever we look at a bottle of Burgundy.
By Patrick McGrath MW
A personal tribute written by Patrick is available to read on the Hatch Mansfield website here.
By Nick Bulleid MW
I was horrified to hear the sad news that we had lost Phillip Tuck MW. I had frequent contact with Philip through helping to organise the Australian Study Courses, one or two of which he attended, and later the examinations and in his role as Chair of the practical panel. He also gave me excellent gratis advice on buying white Burgundy. I was highly impressed by his tasting ability with the wines we used in the courses. He combined a cheerful personality with an absolute rigour in assessing and describing wine quality. At the courses, he was never afraid to give criticism of mistaken written or verbal descriptions, yet did so with constructive suggestions when the latter. He will be greatly missed.
By Simon Field MW
Awe-inspiring in every sense, Philip had a real presence. His smile was both gentle and hawkish ,somehow, its irony softer, more subtle and more generous than one may initially have thought. But no attempt to conceal the determination, the drive and the all embracing sense of what could and should be possible. Wishing for others to succeed, humility underscoring everything. I always enjoyed our encounters, usually at tastings or at The Decanter World Wine Awards. I always came away feeling more positive, brighter…enriched.
By David Allen MW
It is hard to believe it is possible that Phil Tuck is no longer with us – he seemed such an integral part of the IMW. We were not close friends but were student contemporaries and we talked at events – I always assumed we would share the odd glass of Bollinger over the next couple of decades. As students in the mid-1990s we often seemed to take different sides of an argument in group discussions, this wasn’t always helpful for the progress of a session, but his position was always honestly held and clearly thought out. You had to respect him and inevitably came to like him. If I recall correctly Philip passed the tasting a year after I did, in 1998 – I recall thinking it was a fiendishly difficult set of papers that I was glad I didn’t have to sit.
I have one unique and wonderful memory of Phil concerning an event that possibly nobody else even knew happened. We were at the European study course in Bordeaux (by this stage he was a mentor) when one night at Chateau de La Tour he saved the Chateau from burning down. It was later one evening and the group had moved on to the bar after a rather splendid dinner. Returning to the chateau, where we had eaten (I thought there might still be wine to be had there), I discovered smoke in the room and then saw a flame rising from a tabletop. Next in the half-lit smoky room Phil was momentarily silhouetted against the flame – a quite sinister-looking outline. Then there was a hiss it and the fire subsided. Evidently an unattended candle on had set light to a table decoration and then the tablecloth – by the time I realised what was going on the fire was out and the two of us were alone in the room. Phil was livid, complaining loudly that he had just had to use half a bottle of “decent Premier Cru Meursault” to put it out – that was the end of the matter, there was no fuss and we got back on with our evening. The building was otherwise deserted so I have no doubt the fire would have caught hold and spread quickly had Phil not been there and acted so quickly.
Philip Tuck was unique, we will not see his like again. Godspeed Phil and my deepest condolences to your family. Phil’s passing is such a huge loss to the MW community, how much greater must the grief be for his immediate family?
By Anthony Foster MW
I have known Phil for over thirty years, since well before he became an MW. At all times he was bright, cheeky and charming. A nicer guy you could never wish to meet. I cannot believe he will not appear at future trade events with that wonderful wide grin.
He will be sorely missed by so many. My heart goes out to Kate and Felix.
By Patricia Stefanowicz MW
Phil was a super guy, and a gentleman.
Phil and I were BMWs (Budding Masters of Wine) together in the mid-late 1990s. So, plenty of tastings, study sessions and Exams at the same time. He and I sat together on Education Committee and EEB and attended residentials as MWs, aiding in the education of future MWs.
More importantly, we were friends. Even at Odney (and elsewhere) Phil and I played squash, one of his (and my) passions. Phil almost always won. I think once—at Odney—I got a couple of games; Phil must have been ill at the time.
Phil did so much for the IMW and for Hatch (my favourite importer and distributor).
Sincere condolences to Kate and Felix and Phil’s family. And to Patrick and the team at Hatch. We will all miss Phil sorely.
By Andreas Wickhoff MW
I, as so many from our MW community, am still so shocked to read these unexpected sad news of Phil’s passing. He was such an inspirational man for many of us and what special kind of humour he had. First rather frightened by him sitting in Rust at the Stage 1 seminar in 2008, he taught us students at the time so much. Once you got to know Phil better, then you felt how kind of a person he was. We shared another passion aside from wine in common: biking! How excited he got discussing races and telling me stories how proud he was of his son Felix! He will be remembered as one unique person!
By John Downes MW
I was totally shocked and so saddened to hear about Phil. An immense loss to the Wine Trade and the Institute of Masters of Wine.
Phil was in my Saturday morning MW tasting group. I remember his rigorous, straight-talking and knowledgeable approach to each wine but also his humour and humility during the reveal and discussions.
He took his considerable skills and unswerving approach into the MW arena where he guided many students to a tasting pass. It was a tough, some say scary experience but it was straight-talking, ‘you’ll-have-to-up-your-game-to-pass-this-exam’ Phil that brought rich rewards.
I admired how he shot from the hip, an unusual sight in the Wine Trade.
At Hatch Mansfield’s last tasting we chatted and laughed together with a Chilean winemaker’s daughter before I watched Phil take her to each stand, smiling and laughing between serious tasting intervals, where I could see Phil ‘giving freely’ of his expertise – and opinion. I also noticed winemakers’ faces as they poured and then looked on for his approval; they too respected Phil Tuck MW.
I’ve just found some of Phil’s tasting notes. I filed them for my reference. In a world of embarrassing descriptions, Phil’s notes were structural, accurate, meaningful and useful. ‘Not a flowery word in sight.
That’s how I’ll remember Phil Tuck. Straight-talking, kind, incredibly knowledgeable, generous of his time and expertise with a dry humour that appeared when you least expected it.
My thoughts go out to his family. I have tears in my eyes. RIP Phil.
By Michael Palij MW
I didn’t know Phil particularly well but he and I bumped into each other from time to time. Including, once, in Nepal. A mate and I had just come down from bagging a few peaks and were desperate for a drink having spent a fortnight in the mountains living off tinned tuna and lentils. We’d opted for a ‘tourist’ place for a properly long-overdue rehydration with, hopefully, something faintly drinkable. We walked in and to my complete amazement there – at the next table – was Tucky and a few buddies. My jaw hit the floor but Phil just took it in his stride, introduced everyone, and pulled out a bottle of Comtes de Champagne. My, oh my, did that hit the spot.
Phil was one of the wine world’s great stalwarts and universally both liked and respected. He was a man of his word, sharp as a tack, the consummate host and he was always genuinely interested in my and my company’s well-being. Inevitably he would take the mick, gently, and in a way that always left me smiling and feeling slightly better than I had before. Phil was greatly admired by his students and he worked tirelessly to advance the Institute’s educational ambitions.
Phil died doing what he loved. I hope we all do. And if he’s looking down with an impish grin and a glass of Comtes then here’s to you, Tucky, because, like the Boss says, when they built you, brother, they broke the mould.