July is the month of rubeus or what we call today ruby. The king of gems once worn by warriors to protect themselves from the enemy, and also one of the most over used, and correctly, terms in wine tastings these days when it comes to looking at Red Burgundy or for that matter Pinot Noir in general.

It dawned upon me the other day on sipping a Nerello Mascalese (for me Sicily’s PN) that I have never slept a night in Yorkshire or a night, let alone a siesta, actually in Sicily. I have however slept at least one night in every other County in England, and also for this blog’s sake, every ‘Regione’ of Italy, except Sicily.

The Yorkshire bit can wait for another day thankfully, but earlier this year I planned a trip to Sicilia (September 2022) to remedy my current sleeping dilemma, and of course with the help and guidance of our local man there, Tim Roberston (RWT). Tim was going to organize the visits, chauffeur me around to where we needed to go even to the vineyards on the volcano, which has also now been his home since 2014, Mount Etna. With his keen wine tour guide-eye, he was going to give up some precious time for me, in his newly purchased and slightly battered 4×4, to also visit other wine regions to be found in the Kingdom of Trinacria.

So, naturally it was a bit shocking to receive a message last week, from his Etna neighbour, to say that dear old Tim had passed away suddenly at home (1970-2022). I know that for most people as in any walk of life, we can get a little bit fed up with reading too much about other people’s demises, wether it be in the news, the press or in your daily rag. I have to admit I was always a first page turner to the ‘obituaries‘ section when the paper would turn up at the breakfast table. Alas, I have not seen a proper newspaper for a while now, so not sure what the sate of play is on that one. But this little spindly-leg of a blog today is dedicated to a dear friend who I met down here in Buenos Aires some 20 years ago now. The Argentine wine scene had not really taken off at all and needless to say the wine tourism bit was a total shambles. Well, that was until Tim here got involved with it all. He was the first chap in Latin America, against all the local odds of setting up a business in Argentina (they, los Argies, were not and are still not so keen on what they call ‘forringers‘, starting up a business, and also then succeeding in doing well at something locally). He set up Roberston Wine Tours (RWT) back in 2003 and managed to provide not only a five star service to keen, amateur and professional wine buffs. He also managed to add a genuine ‘personal’ service that even I have never come across on any wine trip I have taken in my life. Outstanding! He would visit and re-visit vineyards, bodegas, restaurants and hotels to check that everything was up to his high standards well before the client even set foot in the place. A form of perfectionism that in these dire moments I can see we are all lacking in, a bit, or maybe a lot. Tim set the standard in Mendoza. Most people today would have no idea about this. He did not focus solely in or on Argentina, he went across Los Andes, and set up an office Chile, and then went the whole hog and did the same thing in Montevideo, Uruguay. Imagine, most people did not even know where Uruguay was (I think back then the answer would have been somewhere in Africa) but Tim not only put a wine tour together of the then ,all totally, unheard of bodegas, but also put a stamp on the local wine-tourism scene that I reckon was the foundation of wine-tourism today not only in Uruguay, but also in Mendoza, Argentina. I am really sorry that he has passed over the threshold, so to speak, and condolences go to his family and friends worldwide, some I fear do not even know yet of his passing, hence the little piece here. When the news broke, a dear close Italian friend of his got in touch and said “Can you imagine a world without Tim in it”. Well, here I am two weeks later into the news and he is right. The world is defintley worst off for this type of character not being around anymore. They sure do not make them like him anymore, and I tell you this much. We are all worst off for it, that’s for sure!

Without banging on too much more, here are two or three mentions of what it was like traveling with Tim on his Italian wine trips:

Tim was the biggest reason we had such a great time in Italy. Thanks again Tim!

Tim Robertson of Robertson Wine Tours doesn’t design tours. He designs dreams…unique wineries, delicious restaurants, beautiful lodging, charming towns, cultural experiences and loads of glorious wine tastings. Italy. A dream come true. Grazie Mille Tim! And cheers to many more RWT adventures. 

Tim relaxing after a long day of showing punters around las bodegas Brasileros (2012)

Tim did an excellent job interleaving wine with exploring Italy, keeping it balanced so that we didn’t get overwhelmed with tastings. Our palates were primed before going to each region: on the eve before going to Tuscany, he recommended we explore the fabled Brunello and several other Sangiovese-centric wines. By the time we were at the tasting he had set up for us at Montalcino’s Capanna winery, we were acclimated and knew what to look for. This ensured that we maximized our time there and enjoyed these wines to the fullest. Tim really went out of his way for us to understand how the wines varied throughout the country, reflecting the independent identities of each of Italy’s regions. Whilst staying on the Amalfi Coast, he braved the narrow roads and snow-capped mountains to bring us bottles of the local Piedirosso and Tramonti. These bold wines made lasting memories of our travels in Campania. Tim made sure that what we experienced in Italy would be accessible, even when the vacation was over. Our tour of the Fèlsina winery was a memorable one, and upon our return to the States we were able to recommend a vintage of theirs when we spotted it on a menu at our favorite Italian restaurant. (You’d think we’d be tired of Italian food by this point, but you’d also be wrong.) Tim helped us to discover the “real” Italy. His patience and courteousness made learning the nuances of Italian culture accessible. The careful-chosen wine and tour guide selections set us up for success. This led to a trip that was enjoyable, educational, and most of all, memorable!

“Que descance en paz Tim” W.P.H.

‘To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything’ J.W.V.Goethe

‘You start dying slowly, if you do not travel, if you do not read, If you do not listen to the sounds of life, If you do not appreciate yourself.’ P.Neruda