My most vivid memory of Len Evans is of a raspy, almost high pitched English accent, which came from a cherubic face that broke into a grin without too much cajoling and then the head was thrown back in laughter. And that was all from images of him on TV being interviewed about some aspect of wine. I never actually met the man, although if you learned to love wine in Australia in the 1970’s and later it was almost at Evans’ insistence. His Complete Book of Australian Wine was encyclopedic and in the early 1970’s no one was a serious wine drinker without a copy. I guess I came closest to him, in spirit at least, when I dined in The Great Cask Hall at Rothbury Estate. Surrounded by fellow immunologists I hoped I was not the only one to realize that this was more than just a place to throw back a few glasses of wine.
And now he is gone. Described as a “legend in his own lunchtime”, Len Evans, OBE, OA, passed away on August 17. He died of a heart attack at the wheel of his car in the Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital car park where he had gone to collect his wife, Patricia after she had recovered from surgery. He was 75. Only 75, he always seemed much older, wiser. Perhaps it was all that wine, more likely it was decades of selfless effort and struggle on behalf of the the Australian wine industry and more importantly the Australian wine drinker.
His list of achievements is overwhelming. I prefer a simpler statement.
Len Evans (1930-2006), Welsh born, English raised, Australian immigrant, welder, ring barker, script writer, glass washer, and doyen of the Australian wine industry. How we needed you, how you did us proud, and now how we will miss you.