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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Tom Stevenson

In the early hours of Tuesday 3 August, Kit Stevens was found dead at the bottom of the stairs, in his home. I loved the old boy. In many ways he was of the archetypal old school in the wine trade: a bit of a toff who, at his age (63), could be expected to have a drink problem and be well on the way tobecoming an old fart. Well, Kit did have a drink problem,but he was dealing with it most of the time. However, he was never an old fart. He always had a mischievous twinkle in his eye, had a wicked sense of humour and tended to start mostconversations with a little story about something in the trade that had amused him. While most of his generation couldn't think beyond claret and Port, hewas one of the earliest champions of wines from Australia and, particularly,New Zealand. He was ahead of his generation of fellow Masters of Wine in terms of New World wines because he had opened up markets in Australasia and, when he visited the region, rather than jet home, he poked around the best of the locally produced wines and kick-started some reciprocal exports back to the Old World. His attraction to this part of the world stems from strong ties at an early age: he was born in Singapore(his nanny could not pronounce Christopher properly, and her Kitofer'was why he became known as Kit'). He ended up living in New Zealand for some time,which was where I first met him,on my first visit to New Zealand in the late 1980s. Yet, despite all this New World enthusiasm,France still produced the greatest wines for him, not that you would think it from some of the things hesaid about the French! His death would have been a shock at any time - not exactly unexpected, but definitely a shock - but I had just offered him a contract to be the new Loirecontributor for Wine Report 2006, so the news was like a slap in the face. When I made him the offer, he chuckled as he asked: You do realise that I won't mince my words when I write the opinion piece, don't you?' I replied: But that's why I'm hiring you.' Kit had recently taken a special interest in the region, particularly Muscadet (which he planned to promote as an alternative to over-priced, basic-level Chablis), and was about to spend a week or two over there. Readers will never know what they are missing.