The industry was deeply saddened to hear of the recent passing of Roger LeMoy, also previously known as Roger Brown.
LeMoy was part of wine merchant and adopted father Harry Brown’s once iconic company, H. G. Brown & Sons, before it was sold to the Heinz Corporation in 1981. He remained passionate about wine after this and worked for himself, with his reach extending across the industry.
People from across all areas of the wine sector feel his loss, from retailers to restaurants, to winemakers and suppliers, to distributors and wholesalers. Last week a number of these people came together in Sydney to pay tribute to LeMoy’s memory at Bistro Cocotte in Haberfield, a favourite for LeMoy, who was known to especially enjoy industry lunches with colleagues and industry friends.
As many attendees as COVID restrictions would allow swapped stories and raised glasses to LeMoy’s memory, celebrating his life and what he contributed to the industry, starting with one of the event organisers, wine business consultant Chris Anstee, who described LeMoy’s life.
Anstee spoke about how LeMoy, born 19 August, 1940 as the sixth child in a family of seven, came to Sydney from Noumea with his parents who were looking for employment opportunities. His mother passed when he was five years old, and with his father absent working away on ships, LeMoy was raised by one of his older siblings who was married to Harry Brown, along with couple’s son Robin and daughter Michelle (hence how he was once known as Roger Brown).
“This explains somewhat why when Harry commenced H. G. Brown & Sons after a lifetime working for Rhinecastle, it was registered as H. G. Brown & Sons Proprietary Limited. Roger joined the firm soon afterwards after completing his accountancy degree,” Anstee said.
“Roger attended Narremburn Primary School and North Sydney Boys Technical High, and he was forever grateful for the start in life and work from Harry Brown at Rhinecastle Wines and went with him when H. G. Brown & Sons was established.”
After the family business was sold to Heinz, Anstee said LeMoy ultimately ended up working independently, quoting him as being known to say: “why work for someone five days a week when you can work seven for yourself?”
Anstee continued on to describe LeMoy’s passion for wine, hospitality and target shooting (being part of the sport for 66 years). Among many other things, he was well known for his positive outlook, his love of connecting people, and his ‘cheeky’ sense of humour.
“Roger loved the wine business for sure, and anyone who sat down with Roger in recent years would have been entertained, sometimes multiple times by the same story, but he certainly had some great stories about the wine business,” Anstee said.
“Roger loved to encourage people in the wine business. That’s an old tradition I think certainly in the Australian business and in the UK wine trade where I came from. Roger was a great encourager of younger people and even if he couldn’t directly help them, he took great pride in their careers. There’s people sitting here in this room for example, that I know Roger was really proud of what they achieved – he really loved the fact that these guys have done so well in life.
“Roger loved introducing people, that was another thing about him. His mind worked in concentric circles, he loved introducing people and he loved listening to people and thinking, gee, you should meet so-and-so. He always remembered those conversations and always made the introductions.
“Roger had a very cheeky sense of humour, he had more front than Grace Brothers and he didn’t hesitate to use it. Roger’s humour I think was the one thing he kept right until the end, he would still come up with the most surprising things.”
Elements of these parts of his life were all illustrated with the multitude of stories and anecdotes that other attendees shared, some of which included wine writer and critic Huon Hooke, retailer Michael David, and sommelier Ben Moechtar.
While their stories about LeMoy were wide and varied, covering a lifetime in the industry, they all hold similar sentiments.
Hooke, for example, said: “He was an extraordinary fellow and we all loved him… he was a lovely guy and a privilege to know.”
Anstee’s wife Candy meanwhile said: “Roger was so kind. He would do things for people quietly, without big noting himself.”
On behalf of everyone at Food and Beverage Media, we extend our condolences to Roger LeMoy’s family and friends.