After an unexpected hiatus from the Underground necessitated by being evacuated from our house and being without internet, it is with great sadness that I am writing this obituary for my old friend and Contributing Editor to The Underground Wineletter, Albert Givton.
In late November, just before a fire and then a mudslide forced us to evacuate our home in Montecito, CA, I received some very sad news.
Albert Givton, real estate investor and wine connoisseur in Vancouver, passed away in early December at age 72 after a lengthy illness. Albert was a longtime friend. And, given his knowledge of wine, enthusiasm, generosity and honest wine writing, we were fortunate to have him as one of our contributing editors.
Born in Cairo in 1945, Albert’s parents having met and married in Alexandria, Egypt, the family emigrated to Israel in 1950. Albert grew up in Israel, spending 26 months of compulsory military service which ended just before the 1967 Six Day War over Jerusalem. Unable to rejoin his unit due to the shelling and fighting, Albert manned the army’s post as a radio operator.
After the end of hostilities, he came across a deli in East Jerusalem displaying wines in the window. His purchase of a number of bottles, including an Alsatian Gewurztraminer, Pommard, Danziger Goldwasser and three other bottles, was his introduction to the world of fine wines.
In 1970, Albert left Israel for Montreal and New York, returning for a short time to Israel, before gathering up his parents, returning to Canada, settling in Vancouver in 1973.
Working in banking, Albert met and married Carol McGregor in 1974. Together they enjoyed traveling, good food and fine wines, inspiring him to start a modest wine cellar. This was no easy task given the liquor monopoly precluded the introduction of any interesting wines. Nevertheless wine became a passion for Albert, and when traveling became part of his job with a pharmaceutical firm, he started to acquire rare French wines, as many as he could afford.
Albert founded Le Tastevin Wine Club in 1977 and was president until 1997, holding six to eight tastings a year, on a region or producer. With close to 40 members, this club was arguably the impetus to Vancouver’s rapidly expanding wine culture. He published The Wine Consumer from 1985 to 1992, a 16-page newsletter that functioned as a critique of the wines available in the British Columbia state-controlled liquor stores, mailed quarterly to a peak of 800 subscribers. Albert was the Maitre of the Vancouver Branch of the Commanderie de Bordeaux from 1988 to 1997, has been a member of Conseiller du Vin de Bordeaux since 1995 and was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Merite Agricole by the French government.
In 2010, we posted an article by Albert, La Tache Tasting Notes As Well As Tasting Notes On Other Domaine De La Romanee Conti Wines. The event, organized by Albert in Vancouver, with nearly all of the wines from his cellar, was a spectacular vertical tasting of La Tache from 1966 to 1988. This article is an excellent representation of Albert’s abilities. He was a very good taster and a very good writer — a rare combination. His style of writing is honest, very clear and understandable, increasingly refreshing in a wine writing world filled with ludicrous hype (to read the La Tache article click here ). And in 2015 I posted an article on a grand wine and food event in Vancouver arranged by Albert with wines from his cellar (to read that article click here ).
Albert is the author of two books — Wine Wise An Indispensable Guide to Buying Wine in British Columbia published in 1988 and Carte Blanche, published in 1999. Carte Blanche is a chronicle of a quarter century of Albert’s wine tasting adventures from 1974 to 1999. It is extremely interesting, informative and very well written. I highly recommend it.
Albert Givton will indeed be missed.
In Vino Veritas,