There is much research about the value of friendships and their positive impact on mental and physical health. Accepted wisdom says that in a person’s lifetime they will only have a handful of close friends. Rarer still are those friends who can make sense of under-formed sentences, unguarded glances and half baked thoughts or pick up a conversation where it was left off several days, weeks or even months earlier. In the five or so years that I was fortunate enough to enjoy Jeremy Pringle’s friendship, we shared many conversations, about our appreciation for wine, food, books and music and about our writing. I fell hard for Jeremy’s writing – his obvious intellect, energetic quest for integrity and his appreciation of fragile and imperfect beauty.
We first connected on Twitter in conversation about a band. Wilco had released an album and were playing at The Tivoli in Brisbane. We both attended the gig, but for a number of reasons didn’t meet until later. This was to be one of the first of many passionate discussions about music, a subject where we had many overlapping preferences, though his knowledge of both trivia and technicalities always outshone mine. After eventually meeting in person, we both confessed that we’d each put rather too much thought into selecting just the right band t shirt to suit the occasion. Over time, we discovered that in the years before we met we had attended many of the same gigs, loved many of the same albums and had a touchstone of musical training and formative life experiences that informed our musical interests. We geeked out about old Silver Jews and Pavement albums, gigs with Stephen Malkmus, Rufus Wainwright and The National and marvelled at the emotional intensity of Fiona Apple’s latest album. We agreed in a quietly intense way that the double album JP got for his last birthday, Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Live At The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas’ was one of the most underrated live recordings of all time.
As Jeremy began to form a routine with his writing and his site Wine Will Eat Itself, reading and proof reading his tasting notes and articles became part of my daily routine. Snippets of background information regarding winemakers he’d met or more in depth opinions on wines he’d tasted were part of the exchange along with the minutiae of daily life. When I later became involved with running the Swirl Sniff Spit wine tasting events, Jeremy was an invaluable spring of knowledge, offering suggestions on tasting brackets, regions, producers and styles. He hosted a couple of tastings that remain in my mind as some of our most enjoyable events, a tasting of Grampians Shiraz with Julian Coldrey (of Full Pour) and an exploration of white Rhone blends with Rory Lane (The Story Wines). He was also instrumental in our decisions to host a champagne tasting with Dan Buckle of Chandon Australia and earlier a look at winemaker’s side projects with Steve Flamsteed (Giant Steps, Innocent Bystander, Salo) and Dave Mackintosh (Salo, Ar Fion) following publication of Jeremy’s first feature article in a national wine magazine which covered the same subject. On each occasion, he quietly dazzled attendees with his passion, deep knowledge and disarming humility. I felt proud to have such a clever and generous friend.
During our friendship, at seemingly alternating times, we supported one another through the loss of close friends and the derailments into depression that sometimes result. Jeremy could be hard to reach, but it was rewarding to be his friend. He probably never understood how much I valued his friendship and the perspective he could bring to a conversation, whatever the subject or its emotional gravity. Such was his habit of minimising or waving away his contribution to things. He could also be funny, with a keen sense of the ridiculous and a mischievous wit. It is heartening to see from the volume of posts across social media that so many others also valued Jeremy’s friendship and his contributions to wine writing and criticism.
As I write, I am surrounded by boxes of wine purchased on Jeremy’s recommendation and split cases we sourced together. We still had so many bottles we’d planned to share, places we wanted to eat and conversations parked for when we next caught up in person. I’ve finally begun watching ‘Breaking Bad’, one of the many TV shows and movies Jeremy recommended to me despite knowing how little TV I watch – it is of course fantastically good viewing – and will now diligently work my way through the list, perhaps skipping Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
In one of our last conversations we shared a joke about beer schooners and discussed philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s analysis of Lewis Carroll’s writings, a fine example of the kind of ground a conversation with Jeremy could cover. I’m immensely sad to lose Jeremy, to lose the opportunity to read his next article, to hear his perspective on wine and the events of the day, his recommendations for music and books. But mostly to lose a beautiful and special friend. My thoughts are with his parents, Bruce and Merryl who now find themselves in a situation no parent should ever have to bear.