It’s a rather odd feeling when you’re subconsciously reminded of someone deceased almost daily when you only met the person a few times in your life. I’m afraid to say this is not directly emotional; rather the street I drive down in Singapore constantly is named after his family, Stevens Road.
Christopher M. Stevens, or Kit as he was known, was born in Singapore 1941, although left soon after, escaping the Japanese invasion. Apparently he was called Kit all his life due to his Singaporean nanny only being able to pronounce Christopher as ‘Kitifer’, and then obviously simplified to, Kit.
I first met Kit in New Zealand, vaguely recalling it was around 1983 or 84’ when I was a budding young sommelier and he was the first ever Master of Wine I had encountered, and I was suitably in awe of his status.
However, it was in Melbourne in the late 90s onwards that we met on a number of occasions, largely through a mutual friend and wine merchant, Ross Duke.
By this stage of his wine career, Kit was representing several French wine producers interests around the world and always scouting for new importers and spreading the word to the wine trade. He had also built up a notorious reputation for his ability to consume his product and most meetings and tastings were palpably liquid.
A champion of the long lunch myself, Kit and I struck up a rapport and I have good memories of lengthy lessons on the finer aspects of French wine at La Madrague restaurant in South Melbourne, where lunch would become dinner and the tales of wine adventures evermore colourful and intriguing.
The impression that he left on me was of a person who had great character and intellect, bordering on genius with clairvoyant understanding of wine and totally deserving of his MW status. Yet at the same time atypical in the realms of the Master of Wine fraternity and clearly a recalcitrant and maverick amongst this stoic wine-Masonic order and a constant irritation to the old school.
Of all his attributes, good or bad, Kit’s finest quality was his particularly mischievous and tireless sense of humour and there’s was rarely a moment in his company that his razor sharp wit and comedy would not be to the fore, jesting and making sure that no subject be sombre, or sober!
And he was certainly in vintage form when he scribbled this ‘Cautionary Tale’ for his good friend Michael Brajkovich MW, winemaker at Kumeu River and New Zealand’s first master of wine.
Michael stayed with us in Singapore last year and we talked of Kit, to which he shared with me this very hilarious ode to Beaujolais, and with the blessing of Kit’s son Bertie, I thought it suitably timely to post on the eve of the Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations as a pertinent remembrance of Kit and that humour and joviality are the greatest attributes a person can have.
I am reminded of when I served Barry Humphries (Dame Edna) in my sommelier days at Two Faces restaurant in Melbourne, where he dined practically every night for six consecutive weeks during his Australia review. Humphries sagacious counsel to me, “There are only two things one needs in life – Champagne and comedy”.
A Cautionary Tale
“Good Morgon, Fleurie”, cried the handsome Julienas, giving her a playful tap on the Chenas.
“Allons ma petite, faire Saint Amour – c’est un Beau jeu”.
“You do have the most Gigondas breasts”
“And you a lovely big pinot”
Nuits had begun to fall by the time they had Leyres. Together in the Chapelle du Bois for Trois glorieuses hours,
But Fleurie sighed with rapture as her Vaudesir was aroused and satisfied –
even though it left her Pouilly-Fuissé rather sore.
A few months later Fleurie went to Julienas to tell him she was in real Chiroubles this time,
but he made light of it and said the rendement could not be his.
What a Chablis trick to play on the poor girl!
But he had caught a dose of V.D.Q.S. and had not forgiven her.
In due time. After the maceration, came the vendange.
And Fleurie went to the Hospices for her Solutré confinement.
A bouncing boy was born and they called the Bâtard – Geoffrey Chambertin.
Poor soul, he grew up with a gamay leg – that’s what comes of starting life sans appellation contrôlée.
Christopher (Kit) M. Stevens MW