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Tuesday April 11, 2000

Wine expert catered to novice tasters

Self-taught educator served as consultant
to federal government, offered courses

DONN DOWNEY The Globe and Mail

Toronto -- Andrew Sharp, one of Canada's leading wine experts whose reputation spread internationally, died last week in Toronto East General Hospital of complications from diabetes. He was 57.

A largely self-taught man, Mr. Sharp was a wine consultant to the federal department of foreign affairs, arranging wine testings to determine the best Canadian wines for Canadian embassies and trade offices.

But much of what he did was directed to the average consumer. He would tell a novice taster what he was seeing, smelling and tasting, his friend and business associate Rickman Gillard said.

His column was syndicated in a number of Canadian newspapers and in 1983 he starting producing a daily wine show for radio which was heard in both Canada and the United States. He also acted as wine editor for several trade and consumer publications.

Mr. Sharp started offering two certificate courses in 1977, instructing wine-industry personnel, restaurant owners, hoteliers, service personnel and interested amateurs in New York state and Canada.

He described the introductory course as "the art of tasting wine." Students sampled more than 70 wines and studied Mr. Sharp's Winetaster's Secrets which was included in the $225 fee, as were weekly handouts and another of his books, Vineland 1000.

The advanced course cost $195 and was described by Mr. Sharp as "stiff." Some of the wine used came from Mr. Sharp's cellar. Other sources were the Liquor Control Board of Ontario's Rare Wine Store (now Vintages) and its general listings.

In 1988, the courses were terminated so he could offer private, specially designed courses for the wine and spirits industries.

He lectured in Canada, the United States and Europe and conducted seminars on cruise lines. He was often recruited to judge wine competitions from Italy to California, and when Toronto held its first Toronto Wine and Cheese Show in 1984, Mr. Sharp was there to offer seminars.

In 1986, he established the Intervin International Wine Competition in Toronto but was at first plagued by the problem of getting more than a fraction of the gold-medal winners available in Ontario. Then, in 1990, the LCBO arranged to have an in-store promotion for Intervin gold-medal wines. That year, the competition assembled 1,549 wines from 25 countries, making it one of the world's largest.

"The LCBO is making only nine of the gold-medal winners available, which hardly seems worth the fuss and expense of a promotion," Globe and Mail wine columnist David Lawrason wrote at the time.

Today the competition alternates annually between Toronto and New York State.

Mr. Sharp was born in Watford, Ont., on July 2, 1943, and worked in marketing and management in the field of industrial and military electronics. For seven years, he was the editor of a community newspaper.

In addition to his career in the wine industry, Mr. Sharp was a Jehovah's Witness who was an ordained minister of the Gospel.

He leaves his wife Dayle and his parents, Alfred and Jean.

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