In Memoriam – Ross Gower

By John Ford

We were so sad to hear of the death, today, of Ross Gower, one of the most talented winemakers South Africa has seen. He has fought a long, hard & courageous battle against cancer, and we all hoped he would win it.

Lynne first met Ross at Klein Constantia in 1986 when she came back to Cape Town from London to visit her family and after the first meeting and tasting of his marvellous wines, it became a ritual to go there whenever she was here to taste them again and buy some to take back to London. She had a standing joke with them that she was working on ‘Aunty’ to get that knighthood for Ross for his services to wine. He was a big man in every way but gentle and quiet and unassuming. He was worthy of all the awards and accolades he received in his career, and there were many. Being in the wine trade, we were delighted when he went out on his own with his family and set up Ross Gower Wines in the Elgin valley and we loved visiting the farm to see the Gowers and drink their wines. One really stunning memory we have is, just a couple of years ago, of drinking a bottle of Ross’s 1989 Klein Constantia Chardonnay and finding that all the character had lasted, just as he had expected it to. This wine was awarded a double gold Veritas, 4½ stars in Platter in 1991 and was selling on the farm that year for R19, when Vin de Constance was selling for R25 a bottle. We were so disappointed to discover, on receiving a copy of Vin de Constance, the book that covered the history of this special dessert wine and its rediscovery, that Ross Gower was not mentioned once. This was a huge mistake, given his major role in the renaissance of this wine. We remember the very dignified letter he wrote to Wine magazine after the book was published in which he told the story of the renaissance of the wine and gave credit to all the influences which led to it.

Another, lighter, memory is of meeting Ross, Sally and Rob at Vinexpo in Bordeaux in 2007, and being invited to attend a tasting of vintage Bruno Paillard champagnes with them. Ross had notoriously bad handwriting and his badge had been printed with the name Raul Gomez.

We still have some of his wine in our personal cellar and over the years it has become our custom to drink what we think is one of the best, a bottle of Ross’s Marlbrook, at Christmas dinner. We have never been disappointed with its quality, depth and finesse. We will continue to drink them as long as we can.

Our wine world has lost a very special, talented man. Sally and their children will no doubt continue the fine family tradition he established. We grieve with them and wish them solace and comfort in his memory.

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