On Friendship and Jeremy Pringle

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.

A celebration of Jeremy’s life will be held at 2pm, Friday 15 August at Taringa Baptist Church, 36 Morrow Street, Taringa.

7 thoughts on “On Friendship and Jeremy Pringle”

  1. Amazing that you can write such lovely prose at such a cool remove from JP’s passing Keira. I wish I could. I have been affected far more than i ever would have thought by his passing. JP was one of the few who was willing to challenge the status quo of wine criticism and, privately, the wine industry.

    He managed to infuriate nearly everyone he came in contact with. This was, by itself, worthy of redemption in my weird little play book. But, there was a deeper point and line of inquiry JP pursued in the best of the liberal humanist tradition that many just weren’t equipped to understand cognitively. Fortunately, many did understand him at some other level. (There were many.)

    Without belaboring the point, I will only suggest that Australia has lost its sharpest and most fragile wine intellect. I will miss him as long as I tread these vine rows.

    Please accept my deepest condolences for you, Lachy and Julian. You were wonderful friends to JP and will forever be held in great esteem for helping hold together the fragilest of vessels.

    peace and love


  2. Shocked to read of his passing. We’d only just connected via twitter regarding a shared love of wine and writing. Only knew him through words. Wish we’d had the opportunity to have sipped on some wine together.

  3. Beautifully written Keira, good on you for sharing.
    I’m so sad for your loss. I’m very sad for all of us.
    DK xx

  4. This is shocking to hear of. Keira, your article reminds me from years ago about Jeremy being so passionate & talented. We went to a terrific concert at Festival Hall with Glen & sat in the fourth row for Jeff Healey. That was a really special evening as were many other soirees & jaunts back in those days. Your article describes the typical revelling enthusiasm that Jeremy had for all the things he was ‘into’: it’s inspirational, makes me smile, & it’s how I remember him.

  5. Beautifully written. Only met him in person that one time we had lunch last year. Interesting guy and as you say, far more eloquently, big intellect, not afraid to use it but huge diversity and range of interests.

    Disagree with Dudley that he infuriated many – I’d say he challenged many (including me) to have an opinion and justify it. Not in a combative way but an inquiring and intellectual manner that was from my point of view, just him. He listened as well as he spoke. Didn’t tolerate fools but that’s fair enough :)

    Liked his take on cricket too. Would never have picked him as a Buffy fan!

  6. Thanks all for your comments. I really enjoyed that lunch Sanjay, it’s a good memory of JP in fine form. As for whether you found Jeremy infuriating or not, it depends on your own perspective and I’d suggest Sanjay has a cooler head than Dudley. I say this with the utmost love and respect for Dudley ;)

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