Paul Mapplebeck Remembered

Paul Mapplebeck died aged 87 of natural causes on September 3rd. He had hardly seemed to age over the last decade, with his energy and enthusiasm undiminished in the quarter of a century since years since he retired from ICI as a senior purchasing manager, or indeed in the fifty years during which he lived in Pinner.

He took up wine tasting as a hobby and chaired both the ICI (later Welwyn) Wine Society and the Central London Wine Society for many years. Even though they came relatively late to wine tasting, both he and his wife of more than sixty years Joyce, developed excellent palates, and between them amassed many trophies from blind tasting competitions. They were also enthusiastic collectors of wine, particularly of Paul's favourite classic Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone and Vintage Port and of Joyce's preferences for fruity white wines and Australian Shiraz. They both had strong preferences and dislikes amongst wines; neither liked acidic wines, while Joyce is known for not drinking anything with Pinot Noir in it, but being able to identify the grape, country. and vintage simply from its aroma.

In the period following his retirement, Paul and Joyce travelled to a number of fine wine regions. They were also regular attenders at trade tastings of (at the time) exotic makers such as Errazuriz of Chile and Ch Musar in Lebanon.

Paul became well known amongst amateur clubs as a presenter of wine tastings. He was unusual since many clubs rely on wine merchants and makers to show their wares. He regularly appeared at many of the clubs in London and the home counties, with occasional forays further into Eastern and Southern England. He is particularly remembered for his Special tastings (at the Central London Wine Society and elsewhere) and Grand Cru suppers at hosts' houses in London and Hertfordshire. At these tasting there were usually wines valued in the hundreds (and occasionally thousands) of pounds. His generosity was shown by the low price that he charged on these occasions.

The story of his inheriting the Central London Wine Society is instructive for people who are knowledgeable and active. One day, he was giving a tasting to the society. Afterwards, he was taken aside by the founder, Stan Baker, and asked to chair the following meeting ‘as I have to go into hospital'. Stan died a few days later, and Paul inherited the society and its meeting place in the Civil Service Club. He revived what was then a rather moribund organisation, increasing the number of meetings and persuading members to start holding tastings from their own cellars and interests.

As a lecturer, Paul would give the basic facts about the wines for the experts present, but also had stories to tell. To the younger members of the clubs, Paul was very much a man of his time. Unapologetically so. He was a British Gentleman, a patriot and a 'small c' conservative. He was reasoned, sharp-witted, smart, ironic and funny. His humoured chauvinism and non-pc jokes were alarming to younger members, but as an octogenarian who didn't type and didn't use email and used to send memos to the 'typing pool' when he was an executive in the 1960s, perhaps not surprising. But he was also fair and tolerant. He probably propelled many a wine novice along a trajectory to become a wine enthusiast with his verve, knowledge, and anecdotes about everything to do with wine.

The passion that Paul had for wine can be seen by the amount of time that he spent buying, cataloguing, tasting, and presenting. He knew many wine merchants – mostly those from whom he could get bargains. Sometimes he held or attended as many as four or five tastings in a week. He would collect the empty bottles of wine that he was proud of and developed ways of removing the labels attached with different types of adhesive. The labels were then stored in large volumes, with his notes on the wines.

Paul had a great life in wine and represented the epitome of the British keen wine amateur who helps to sustain wine societies and the fine wine trade across the UK.

Compiled by members of the Central London Wine Society

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