[Source not recorded]
It is as though a chapter has closed in the annals of the winemaking movement with the death of Mr. Cyril Berry in Spain on the morning of Friday, 8th November 2002.
Cyril was a wonderful man, as anyone who knew him well will endorse. Without doubt he did more for the winemaking fraternity than anyone else. In fact there probably would not have been the unison of so many winemakers in Great Britain and overseas had it not been for his energy and acumen.
After World War II, when sugar came off the ration, Cyril founded the Andover Circle, which still flourishes today and of which he was still a member. Then Cheltenham, Bournemouth, Harrow and Hertford Circles sprang to life and gradually the bubbles of wine spread all over the country. Clubs learnt about each others’ events through a little magazine which Cyril and his dear wife Peggy produced in the upstairs bedroom of their house in Andover. This was for sale to Clubs at 6 pence a copy.
Cyril had an ebullient personality and energy which not only embraced his family and social life but also gave him the courage at a mature age to give up his safe, professional life as Editor of a local Andover paper in order to concentrate on producing the Amateur Winemaker magazine on a National scale. He also wrote the best-ever selling winemaking book ‘First Steps in Winemaking.’ Not only was the title very clever and appealing but it gave people the chance to make wines from fruits, flowers and vegetables in an easily explained manner. Yes, the recipes were ‘country’ style, often using a lot of sugar, but they gave the encouragement necessary to try them out and, in those early days, it was THE book to own. When a chicken was really a treat to be eaten just at Christmas and a bottle of wine had to be sought out and afforded only once in a while, the idea of making one’s own wine was very attractive. No rows of wine in Supermarkets then.
The main names at that time which readily come to mind after Cyril were Cyril Lucas of Bournemouth, Ben Turner of Harrow, ‘Andy’ Andrews of Hertford; they and some others got together to form a nucleus to start the National Conferences. A little later, after a Conference in Brighton, the Amateur Winemakers National Guild of Judges was formed (now N.G.W.B.J.) In those very early days Cyril was asked to assess vast volumes of competition wine at one sitting, which he manfully attempted. No wonder the Judges Guild was formed!
Clubs proliferated and prospered, friendships all over the country were cemented, winemaking graduated from granny’s country brew to commercial quality counterparts, all in essence due to Cyril Berry’s original initiative and drive. Winemaking queries were answered, informative articles published and Club News kept everyone informed. Someone once sent in to the Winemaker a recipe for a Yorkshire Pudding wine as a joke (Jack Dixon I believe – now no longer with us) and to keep the joke going Cyril printed it. He was taken aback some months later, however, when a member of the Andover Circle asked him to taste just such a ‘wine’! Many books associated with wine and beer making evolved from Cyril’s printing presses until he eventually retired and bought a holiday flat in Nerja, Spain, so as to enjoy the winter sunshine.
Although Peggy, Gay and Natalie, their daughters, and the grandchildren, were the heart of Cyril’s life, he found time for other interests such as gardening, viticulture, music and painting. He even had time to be on the local Council and received the honour of being Mayor of Andover at one time.
He was a warm, friendly, very special person, who will never be forgotten by those who loved and admired him – always with a smile and a joke on his lips – truly the Father of the winemaking movement. Blessed he was to leave us, sitting having a pre-prandial drink in the Spanish sunshine, but our heartfelt sympathies must go to Peggy and his family for his passing and the abruptness of this sad farewell. May he rest in peace.