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Peter Duff: an obituary

Published:  09 March, 2009

Following the death of Peter Duff we are happy to publish this obituary that has been compiled by Alcohol in Moderation in memory of its founder and the father of its executive director, Helena Conibear

Following a successful career in the motor, hotel and paper business, Peter's love of wine grew to be more than a hobby as he joined the board of the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in 1978, this has now grown to be one of the largest competitions of wine and spirits in the world, with panel sensory evaluation following tests to ensure the wines are not faulty or adulterated.

Peter, in partnership with Bryan Hope built the wine and spirit analysis part of the business, Cork-wise into a successful subsidiary. In 1983, Peter became executive director of The IWSC and was joint founder of The Wine Guild of the United Kingdom in the same year, with Lord Montagu, to represent the Naisant English Wine producers.

Peter's long association with California began in 1985, when he became consultant to Clarke Swanson, banker and vineyard owner and assisted him in purchasing an 80% holding in Averys of Bristol, becoming a Director until Averys was sold to The Hallgarten group in 1994. He also became consultant to Robert Mondavi for many years and also to The Mark Anthony Group until his death.

His work with Robert Mondavi led to formation of the Robert Mondavi Mission Programme in 1988, which sought to portray the moderate enjoyment of alcohol as an integral part of many societies, religions and cultures over the millennia. This was in the light of the US back label health warning introduced in that year, and the WHO 'less is better' resolution regarding alcohol consumption.

The initiative negotiated funds from Federal Agricultural Support via the Wine Institute and the first international conferences were held on 'The Case for Moderate Drinking', first at the QE11 centre in Westminster with speakers such as Jancis Robinson MW, Conal Gregory, then MP and Dr Thomas Stuttaford.

The programme culminated in the first open debate in the European Parliament in 1991 providing evidence of how moderate drinking could form part of a balanced diet and lifestyle.

At a luncheon Robert Mondavi's Belgian importer, Fourcroy, stood up and told the guests that this type of programme and information could be crucial to the industry's well being, and how could that information be circulated? Hence, the publication AIM-Alcohol in Moderation was born in 1991.

Peter believed passionately that there was a lack of voice for the culture of moderation, generally, within society, but specifically in regard to the moderate enjoyment of alcohol as an integral part of many societies, religions and cultures over the millennia.

He was the first to dedicate a publication to medical specialists; AIM has a Social Scientific and Medical Council of nineteen professors and specialists from around the world.

The journal and websites summarise the accumulating and continuing evidence which began with St Leger's paper in 1971 and started the scientific process of identifying the reasons why moderate drinkers of alcohol appeared to have less heart disease, ischemic stroke and late onset diabetes than abstainers or heavy drinkers.

Helena, Peter's daughter, Sherry and Alison take great pride in continuing and expanding his work in encouraging the culture of moderation today.