The New Zealand wine community lost some of its sparkle this week with passing of Raymond Chan after a courageous battle with cancer. (In early 2009, Raymond had a cancerous tumour surgically removed from his left parotid (saliva) gland followed by radiation and chemotherapy).
Raymond had developed a great knowledge of wine and his detailed sense of smell, taste and balance was very special, as was his ability to communicate this to others.
As a fledgling winery, Raymond first connected with Grasshopper Rock in early 2010 and since then always took a close interest in each new vintage. I am only sorry he won’t get to see more vintages as I know he would have loved to. We hosted Raymond at the vineyard twice for vertical tastings and most recently in November 2017 when he and Sue Davies visited and tasted every wine from 2006 to 2016.
When Raymond established his Raymond Chan Wine Reviews, we were quick to make use of his wine review services. I have always valued Raymond’s reviews simply because I believe his assessment of wine has been consistent and reliable and he went the extra mile to thoroughly assess a wine presented to him.
Raymond took flak from some wine writers because he offered wine review services at $33 + gst per wine. It was a modest fee, and in my view, the money never influenced his reviews. It did open the discussion about wine reviews and money (again) which seemed to excite wine writers as far away as the UK. Raymond was always up front about why and what he charged for and was prepared to openly defend his decision. Raymond still did many reviews and winery visits at his own expense.
Raymond’s real legacy is of course his family and the people he influenced along the way. In addition, he has left a wealth of notes on his website and of special interest is his detailed reports on New Zealand wineries and vineyards he has visited over the years. His website, www.raymondchanwinereviews.co.nz, offers some great historical records which should not be lost.
Personally, I will remember Raymond’s friendship, dry humour, honesty and his great ability to read a wine and record that in words. Raymond was unique in the New Zealand wine industry and his passing leaves a real hole for many. Our sincere thanks to Sue and the family who have supported Raymond.