Author: Simon Berry
Gerry Casey, who died in Bordeaux last week, was an integral part of the Wine Division for 20 years. Already well known to the company through his work with the negociant house of Mahler Besse, he was the obvious choice to run our Bordeaux Office when it was established by Christopher Berry Green in 1974.
Many current members of BB&R spent time with Gerry in Bordeaux, learning about the region through his unique insights. Also unique were his driving skills (slow down the straights, fast round the corners), although they had the advantage of keeping the occupants of the rear seats awake after a good lunch at the Plaisance in St Emilion or le Mar aux Grenouilles in Lesparre.
His Irish background, coupled with an RAF/ ham radio vocabulary, and an adult life spent almost exclusively abroad, meant that Gerry’s way of talking was instantly recognisable. He relished the English language, and his ability to write meant that his ‘Vitsits’, sent vie the trusty telex, became a required read for anyone who wanted to know what was happening in the vineyards of Bordeaux.
His French, of course, was equally immaculate (he had a wine column in the local Bordeaux newspaper for many years), even if he resolutely refused to waver from his British accent. The message on the answerphone of the office in the Boulevard President Wilson – “Ici le Repondeur de la Maison Berry Bros and Rudd…” was worth the price of the call alone. He once, famously, tried to explain the rules of cricket, in French, to a group of Bordelaise vignerons. It didn’t catch on.
Of all the things we learnt from Gerry, we could never hope to replicate one of his finest achievements: the ability to spit wine at a tasting, accurately, powerfully, and without letting a drop spill! He claimed that the best practise should happen in the bath, with a mouthful of water aimed at the big toe.
Gerry spotted Francoise in the English section of the Bordeaux library, and they were married soon afterwards. The mainstay of his life, she helped him through his final illnesses with great dedication and good humour. She, together with their children Caroline and Jerome, and everyone who knew him, will miss him greatly.