Decanter founder Colin Parnell dies

  • Tuesday 1 June 2010

Tributes are pouring in for Decanter founder Colin Parnell, who died last week after a short illness at the age of 75.

Parnell was the driving force behind Decanter, which he launched in 1975 with Tony Lord as editor. The two were working at trade magazine Wines & Spirits when they spotted a gap in the market for a consumer wine magazine.

He died last week at Trinity Hospice in Clapham, south London, after being diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago. His wife Patricia and daughter were with him at the end, which they said was peaceful.

When Decanter was launched it cost 40p. It was put together in a leaky shed beneath the arches of London's Waterloo station.

Jancis Robinson remembers Parnell’s kindness to her when, as a young ‘crinkly-haired hippie’, she joined as his assistant at Haymarket .

She recalled with what prescience he saw the possibilities of wine in the UK.

‘Colin deserves enormous credit,’ she writes on jancisrobinson.com. ‘Decanter, Britain's first consumer wine magazine, was entirely his idea…with great prescience, saw that wine was about to take off in the UK. He realised that there would be a market for a more consumer-orientated publication and, most importantly, the ads to sustain it.’

Hugh Johnson says the same: ‘Hindsight makes Decanter feel inevitable. It wasn’t like that to its creators. We owe Colin a toast in our very favourite wine.’

Parnell is remembered throughout the wine world for his dedication and his journalistic diligence.

Corinne Mentzelopoulos, owner of Chatea Margaux, remembered how at the age of 27 she had just taken over the property on the death of her father, when Parnell came to Bordeaux to interview her.

‘He was one of the first people I met from England. We shared a love of wine and we became friends.

She recalled how the enthusiasm of journalists like Parnell helped her: ‘he made me feel for the first time that I might actually be worthy of the job.’

Steven Spurrier said, 'Colin Parnell was the modest, bookish yet cheerful founder of Decanter magazine in a very different wine world to that of today. At Vinexpo in Hong Kong last week, the Decanter Bordeaux Report was translated into Chinese. What a legacy to have left the world of wine.'

Parnell had a fulfilled existence outside the wine business. He was a composer of church music and a talented musician who had played clarinet and piano with George Melly and at the legendary Ronnie Scott's in Soho.

In his last years he was the organist and choirmaster at the church of St Mary the Virgin in Selling in Kent.

Colin Parnell leaves his wife Patricia and daughter Georgina, as well as another daughter, Jane, and two grandchildren by his first marriage.

The funeral will take place on Friday 11 June at 11.45, at the church of St Mary the Virgin, Selling, Kent.

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