Richard Tanner, who built his family firm into one of the UK’s most distinguished wine merchants, has died aged 75.
Born in Shrewsbury in 1938, Richard joined the wine trade straight from school in 1956, working in both London and France.
Recalling these early days, he once said: “I borrowed an old van from my father and we picked grapes at Bourg and at Château Palmer. Madame Bollinger gave us a super lunch at Aÿ and helped to push-start the van afterwards.”
Having commissioned into the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Goorkhas, Richard spent his national service from 1958-9 with the 2nd Battalion in Singapore and on active service in Johore, Malaya. He remained a lifelong supporter of the Gurkhas.
In 1959, he joined the family business, Tanners Wine Merchants, becoming director in charge of wine, shipping, bottling and sales the following year.
He later held the posts of managing director and chairman of Tanners, as well as director of the Merchant Vintners’ buying consortium.
During his time at the helm, Tanners expanded from its existing Shrewsbury, Welshpool and Bridgnorth bases to take over Hereford merchant William Pulling & Co. Richard also launched the Tanners Claret own label in 1973, sourced from the Sichel family who had supplied the merchant since the 1890s.
As the concept of national mail order began to take off in the 1970s, Richard ensured Tanners was at the vanguard, introducing this expanding customer base to wines from the Rhône, Loire, southern France and Spain, as well as domaine-bottled Burgundies.
Outside the wine business, Richard was a keen countryman, naturalist and Master of Foxhounds, who held the post of High Sheriff of Shropshire in 2006.
He died on New Year’s Day 2014 as a result of Parkinson’s Disease and is survived by his widow Marion, daughter Lucy and son James, who has been managing director of Tanners Wines since 2006 and joint managing director with Richard Hayden since 1994.