One of the pioneers of English wine

It is with much sadness to announce the death last week of Colin Gillespie, founder, together with his late wife Susan, of Wootton Vineyards in Somerset and (2nd) Chairman of the English Vineyards Association (EVA) – the earlier organisation to what became WineGB – from 1981 to 1987. Major Colin Gillespie MBE had just celebrated his 98th birthday.

Stephen Skelton MW, remembers him well:

“Colin’s wines were legendary in those dim and distant days of still wines made from obscure varieties. His ‘Wootton Schönburger’ won numerous medals and trophies, including the Gore-Browne (now also known as Supreme Champion in the WineGB Awards) in 1982 for his 1981 vintage. He won the Gore-Browne again, this time with his 1985 Seyval Blanc, in 1986. Sue Gillespie was always by his side (and sometimes in front of him) organising and supporting Colin with the running of the vineyard and winery and helping with sales.

He ran the board in a very precise, military way. He was certainly a very typical vineyard owner of those old days – ex-military and a gentleman farmer – but none the worse for that and he was definitely one of the great pioneers of English wine, if only for the quality of the wines he produced which helped make us all strive to produce better and better wines.

Colin was one of the nicest, most convivial gentleman of the old school and was known to a few of us younger members of the board as ‘good lunch Gillespie’ after his habit, when questioned about an EVA meeting he’d had with the Vintners, or MAFF or HMRC, he would start by saying “well, we had a jolly good lunch” before telling us what had actually happened at the meeting. Happy Days.”