Not quite Sir Bob!
When I heard my colleague Bob Campbell MW (pictured) had been honoured as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, I was hoping to be able to call him Sir Bob. It just sounds good – and appropriate. No such luck: it turns out the NZ knighthoods are a separate series of awards.I have great respect for Bob’s palate, his great ability as a communicator, his humour and integrity.
Bob and I go back a long way. I first met him in the late 1980s (the exact year escapes me) when I was invited to judge in the New Zealand Easter Show, which Bob chaired. Soon, we were colleagues at Slow Food, the Italian organisation that promotes the production and consumption of healthy and sustainable food. Slow Food published a number of Slow Food Guides to the Wines of the World in the 1990s. These were encyclopaedic works, expensively translated and published in five languages (Italian, French, German, Spanish and English). Bob was the NZ correspondent, and I was Australia’s.
They were fun times. Slow Food were great people and I loved working for them – especially as the job sometimes involved flying to Italy to attend one of their ‘congresses’, which were based in the great wine regions and involved amazing exhibitions, tastings and dinners. We both continued writing for their ‘Slow’ magazine after the world wine guide folded.
We would also encounter each other in distant parts of the world. I recall judging in a wine competition in Brussels one year, when each judge had a flag on his or her table announcing their native country. I was puzzled that my table had a New Zealand flag on it. I managed to persuade Bob to accompany me to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, and we became friends over beers and bowls of moules frites.
In more recent times, we have both been working in the Six Nations Wine Challenge, conducted in Sydney each year, where we represent our own countries, me becoming increasingly irritated when New Zealand beats Australia.
We are both long-time contributors to Decanter magazine, and in recent years both act as chairs of our respective nations’ panels at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London. We both contributed to Tom Stevenson’s Wine Report in the early noughties and have judged together on numerous occasions. And now we flex our tasting arms for The Real Review.
Apart from that we hardly know each other.
There is a lot more to Bob’s long and illustrious career than I could detail here.
I have great respect for Bob’s palate, his great ability as a communicator, his humour and integrity. And he wears a Panama hat much better than I do.
Congratulations, Bob. Your award is well-earned.