Vale Tony Keys
One of the wine industry’s biggest advocates and sharpest critics, Tony Keys, has died at the age of 64. Tony was best known for his online newsletter The Key Report, which was uniquely critical, sometimes caustic: a provocateur and conscience for the Australian wine industry.
The surprising thing about Tony was that he was a Pom. He was born in England, where he promoted and sold Australian wines, and did not migrate to Australia until later in his life, in 1998. He was based in the western Victorian town of Lake Bolac and then moved to Bangalow, northern NSW. He had been a retailer in London, initially working in wine bars and then for the well-known Oddbins retail chain, which held a flame for Australian wine in the 1980s and 90s. Following that he established Ostlers wine merchants in Clerkenwell, which also specialised in Australian wine. One of the accolades he received was Decanter magazine’s Wine Merchant of the Year. He worked for the Australian Wine Bureau in its efforts to promote Australian wine and educate people about wine throughout the UK.
After moving to Australia he established The Key Report, a subscription newsletter, in 2002. Although he never pulled his punches and got stuck into many in the wine industry, even those he criticised seemed to respect him. Tony was doing an important job and he will quite likely prove irreplaceable. The breadth of his knowledge about the business side of wine, and its history, as well as the product itself, made him a unique voice. His prickly nature meant he offended a lot of people, but, well, there is a saying about making omelettes without breaking eggs.
All up, he had worked in the wine business for 43 years.
Tony had been fighting ill-health in recent years. He had a terminal lung condition and had hoped for a lung transplant, which never came. He posted his final Key Report on August 3, 2017, characteristically getting stuck into people, in this case Treasury Wine Estates and Langton’s Auctions.
Ever the pragmatist, Tony decided to have a living wake, which took place near Byron Bay on October 29. Inviting his friends and associates to come, he wrote:
“As much as I love you, I see no reason why you should have a party without me when I’m gone. So I am having a pre-wake that we can all enjoy together.”
Tony Keys died just after 1am on January 1st. He leaves two sons, Josh and James. The field of wine commentary will be much the poorer without him.