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David Sandys-Renton passes away

Published:  27 January, 2022

Wine pioneer David Sandys-Renton has died, aged 85.

A longstanding and well-liked member of the UK trade, David Sandys-Renton dedicated his life to the drinks industry. A founding member of Wines of Chile, he was also responsible for turning Hedley Wright from a small warehouse operation in one of the UK's foremost importers.

After studying engineering at Oxford, David accepted a job as a brewer in 1959 for Guinness Park Royal.

After a stint working as a PA to Lord Boyd, David became a negotiator during the labour strikes of the 1960’s. He then decided to study at Harvard Business School, accepting a position at Taunton Cider (1971-1974) on his return to the UK.

However, David subsequently returned to Park Royal in 1974 to become production director and then European director for European sales.

At the age of 46, he found himself unemployed. Nevertheless, David soon found a job at Ind Coop East Anglia as marketing director. He left the firm in 1987, armed with a burgeoning interest in wine after taking a trip to Portugal during his tenure as the group's marketing director.

As a result, David invested in a (then) cash strapped Mckinley Vintners, helping to facilitate a merger with Hedley Wright. The merger meant that David, a shareholder, could buy his way in as both companies needed cash.

He helped Hedley Wright grow from a small business into a fully-fledged wine importer/agency company, where he was a leading pioneer in Chilean Wines (Montes).

Jackson Estate (NZ) followed and then Churchill’s Port in 1993, to be joined by Henriques & Henriques Madeira and several others.

By 1999, to use his own words, “they were motoring”, selling five million cases of Chilean wine, but he wanted to retire and there was no natural successor to buy him out, so he and his partners decided to find a suitable importer to merge with. The result was a merger with Castle Growers to create HWCG. 

“I worked with David from 1993; I had asked his advice as I knew him as a customer and friend and he was the guiding light in Churchill’s joining HW,” said Joanna Delaforce.

“His sense of humour was infectious and his goal of debunking some wine trade rituals was well placed and hilarious at times. In my mind he was what the traditional wine trade needed – a sense of the ridiculous, a vintner who didn’t take himself too seriously, and was passionate about the role of wine. I owe him a lot and shall miss him,”

David is survived by his wife Sally, and four children, one of whom, Tim, provided the sketch above. 

A private funeral with memorial will be held in May (details to be announced).