Averys can trace its history back to 1793 but it was in the 1920s with Ronald Avery at the helm that Averys sailed to success.
While other UK wine merchants bought wines from agents, Ronald made a point of travelling to wine estates to taste the wines with the winemakers. He was an excellent taster and by tasting in situ, he quickly discovered the best wines, producers and vintages.
The relationships he built would become the cornerstone of Averys’ success and last until this day. In 1949, after sailing his yacht to Bordeaux, he met the Moueix family, one of today’s most important Bordeaux families. They encouraged him to buy a few cases of Château Pétrus, a wine which was unknown at the time but would become one of the most expensive wines in the world.
“The great post-war champion of Pomerol, indeed Pétrus, was the late Ronald Avery,”
Christie’s Fine Wines
Ronald was a great advocate of right-bank claret at a time when it was unheard of to drink anything other than Médoc. He was the first person to list Pétrus and had stocks of the legendary Cheval Blanc from 1921.
Such was his reputation that many winemakers fresh from graduating in oenology would be keen to train under the great Ronald Avery. Famous winemakers who worked with Ronald at the start of their careers include Wolf Blass, one of Australia’s most flamboyant and well-loved winemakers.
“John Avery was the real pioneer in importing
Steven Spurrier, Where is the New World? Decanter
How could anyone follow in these footsteps? That was the question that troubled the young John Avery, Ronald’s son, at the start of his career. But it needn’t have done.
In 1964, John spent his summer holiday in California where he was so impressed by the wines that he eventually persuaded his father to start selling those of Beaulieu Vineyards. The famous names of Ridge, Heitz and Sterling would follow and Averys became one of the early supporters of Californian wines.
The following year he travelled around Australia in a Rolls-Royce and met some of Australia’s leading wine figures. He came home with an order for 10 cases of Penfolds Grange 1960. This was the first time Grange had been imported to the UK and, of course, it would go on to become Australia’s most famous wine.
“…he was the first UK merchant to ever import a New Zealand wine into the UK, something that makes him very special to all who produce here.”
Nigel Greening, Felton Road
Not content with being first to import many of the famous names of Australia and California, John began to explore New Zealand. He imported the first commercial New Zealand wines to the UK in 1978, a year before New Zealand even produced a sauvignon blanc.
Owing to his forthright opinions and excellent tasting ability, John became one of the world’s most admired wine judges. He was the first European to judge at the New Zealand Wine Show in 1978 and continued travelling and judging on wine panels around the world right up until his death in 2012.
Today, Averys’ insatiable appetite for wine excitement is embraced by a team of wine buyers and John’s daughter, Mimi, who continue to innovate and pioneer up-and-coming wine regions and winemakers.
The 5 Generations of Averys
In 1839, John’s brother, Joseph Clarke became MD of Lax & Co Wine Merchants. When he decided to sell in 1851, he bought a wine shop in Park Street, Bristol (est. 1793) and installed his brother, John, to run the business. In 1865, the cellars were rebuilt, becoming what are now our magnificent vaulted cellars at Culver Street.
In 1878, the premises were passed on to John’s sons – John Clarke, Edwin and Joseph. When the eldest son, John Clarke, died in 1919, Edwin sold his share and Joseph Avery took control of the family business.
Joseph’s son, Ronald, was born in 1899 and joined the business in 1923. He began to ship his own selections of claret, Burgundy and German wines which he bottled at the cellars in Bristol. He was a famously good blender of wines and well-known winemakers such as Wolf Blass trained under him. He was particularly fond of Cheval Blanc and is renowned for being the first to import Château Pétrus.
Francis John Avery
John was described by Jancis Robinson MW as ‘one of the great characters of the British wine trade’. He was a notoriously good taster and instrumental in bringing New World wines to UK wine drinkers. Iconic names such as Ridge from California, Felton Road from New Zealand and Penfolds Grange from Australia were first imported to the UK by John. John sadly passed away in March 2012 and is much missed by the Averys team and customers.
Today, it is 5th generation, Mimi Avery, who is introducing Averys to a new generation of wine drinkers. Mimi loves nothing more than meeting customers at tastings and events around the UK and sharing her family’s passion for wine.