Michael Cox, the UK head of Wines of Chile, was last night given the country’s highest honour at a party attended by Chilean president Sebastian Piñera.
Michael Cox and President Sebastian Piñera
The event, a celebration of Chile’s 200 years of independence from Spain in Vintner’s Hall in London, became raucous as a crowd of wine professionals, diplomats and journalists awaited the arrival of Sr Piñera, en route from a meeting with the Prime Minister at Downing St and a lecture at the London School of Economics.
The president, who was born in the wine region of Maipo, gave a rousing speech – punctuated by ostentatious gulps from the glass at his elbow – celebrating his country’s ancient history of winemaking.
Recalling last week’s triumphant mine rescue, he said he had asked the trapped miners what they wanted most, ‘and they told me, “a glass of wine”.’
After the speech, which was met with cheers and loud clapping, Michael Cox stepped forward to be made Comendador de la Orden al Merito de Chile, Commander of the Order of Merit of Chile.
This is the highest honour that can be bestowed on non-Chileans and is awarded to foreigners who have achieved distinction to the benefit of Chile.
The medal was presented by Tomas Muller, the Chilean ambassador, in front of the beaming president.
Muller paid tribute to Cox’s enthusiasm and hard work which were a huge help to the Chilean wine industry. ‘We consider him a true friend to Chile,’ he said.
A visibly nervous but delighted Cox, the medal pinned around his neck on a blue ribbon, told the audience, ‘I have been in the wine trade for 40 years and this is my proudest moment of those 40 years.’
He then thanked the staff of the London office of Wines of Chile, in particular Karen Sutton and Anita Jackson, without whose support ‘none of this could have happened’.
He ended, to roars from the audience, ‘I will wear this award with pride – Viva Chile!’
Written by Adam Lechmere