“Cellarmaster”, the first regular wine column in an Australian publication, was written by Len Evans in The Bulletin. Evans went on to become the first Director of the Australian Wine Bureau, to write the first encyclopedia of Australian wine and to found his own wine company, Rothbury Estate, in the Hunter Valley. He wrote numerous books about wine beginning with “A Cellarmaster’s Guide to Australian Wines” in 1966.
Len Evans played a pivotal role in the development of the Australian wine industry, especially during the 1960s and 1970s. As many articles about him point out, when Evans became involved in the industry Australians drank, on average, just over five bottles of wine a year, of which four were fortified. By the time of his death in 2006, we were drinking 36 bottles a head, virtually all of it table wines.
Evans was born in Wales and emigrated to Australia in 1955. After working at various jobs, including building dingo fences, he became Assistant Food and Beverage Manager at the Sydney Chevron Hilton. His personal passion for wine led him to writing about it for The Bulletin. He also provided introductions and material for Frank Margan who, as editor of The Sunday Telegraph, wrote a weekly wine column with the title “Bacchus the Younger”. Margan went on to become the editor of Gourmet magazine. Evans also encouraged the young James Halliday, who was to become Australia’s most highly regarded wine critic and writer.
But Len Evans did more than write about wine. He was the force behind the Australian Wine Bureau, founded in 1965, which was instrumental in promoting Australian wines overseas. In 1969 he opened a restaurant in Sydney called Bulletin Place, a gathering place for winemakers, writers and wine merchants. He didn’t write just for the cognoscenti – during the 1980s he had a regular column in the Australian Women’s Weekly.
As a critic, Evans inspired Australian winemakers to improve the quality of their products and he served as a judge at many Australian wine competitions. He began his own wine-making operation in the Hunter Valley in 1969 and later owned a share of other wineries in Australia and France. A noted bon vivant, he died in 2006 at the age of 75.