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Julian Brind MW

Julian Brind MW

Became an MW 1970, IMW Chairman 1993, died 2010

Some people shouldn’t die. Certainly shouldn’t die relatively young.  Julian Brind MW who was taken from us by a heart attack yesterday was one of those.

He was probably best known as the inspiration and driving force behind Waitrose’s decidedly superior wine department, but he had myriad serious responsibilities in the UK wine trade, particularly educational ones.  Yet the overall impression he gave was as a man who was great fun to be with.  He also seemed to be one of the fittest (cue hollow laughter) members of the wine trade.  He was always playing tennis, real and otherwise, I believe.  He just looked so healthy.

He started out in the wine trade in 1964, having been taken on as a management trainee with brewers Watney Mann’s splendidly named Brown and Pank Wine & Spirit Co.  By 1970 he had passed the Master of Wine exam and as long ago as 1971 joined Waitrose, where he remained for the rest of his career, building the Waitrose wine department into a prestigious caucus of fellow Masters of Wine and ensuring that the upmarket supermarket was always extremely supportive of the Institute of Masters of Wine.  Our own Julia Harding MW began her wine career in the Waitrose wine department and told me she has always regarded Julian as her first benefactor.  He was still a consultant to Waitrose and indeed still features on their website as I write this.

He was chairman of the Institute in 1993 and long played an extremely important role as chairman of the MW panel of examiners, always playing a very straight bat when asked leading questions about what sort of questions candidates might expect in any given year.

He was a Trustee of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, forming a useful bridge between it and the MWs, Ombudsman to the Circle of Wine Writers (that’s how upright he was seen as) and in 2002 was elected President of the Wine & Spirit Association.

All of us in and around the UK wine trade are likely to find our lives diminished by the passing of one of its most likeable characters, but of course our loss is as nothing compared to that of his vivacious and beloved wife Charlotte and their family.  He will be so much missed.

Here is the biography he himself supplied for the Masters of Wine website:  “Very much enjoyed career in wine trade.  Started in Chelsea Cellar bottling wine and fortified wine – hogsheads, scantlings, the lot – so got a real feel for old wine trade.  Moved to buying wine under Don Lovell MW (marvellous gentleman) who helped me develop as a buyer and put me forward for Vintner’s Scholarship.  Was the first brewery one in 1967. Went to Waitrose after passing MW in 1970 and been there ever since.”

Julia from the Jancis team adds:  He was one of the kindest men I have ever met, even though he didn’t always want you to think that was the case and he often seemed to brush appreciation aside.  I will always be grateful to him for giving me my first job in the wine trade and continuing to be supportive of, and interested in, what I was doing at Waitrose and thereafter.  One other thing that Jancis didn’t mention was that he was a great dancer and cut a splendid cummer-bunded figure on the dance floor.

– tribute by Jancis Robinson MW, December 2010, taken from her website

 

Julian Brind, who died on December 19th aged 68 played a key role, as head wine buyer for the Waitrose supermarket chain, in driving the shift from the often stuffy old fashioned traditional wine merchant to the more democratic environment of the supermarket.  As the market for wine in Britain expanded and large industrial suppliers came on the scene, Brind led the field in developing relationships with non-European suppliers, while always insisting that quality should not be sacrificed for quantity.

Among his finds was Chateau Musar from Lebanon, and he was the first to ship a full container of New Zealand wine to Britain, beginning the explosion of interest in New World wines.  He also went down to southern France and brought back the forerunners of the wines that became the vin de pays revolution.

As head of buying for wines, beers, spirits and tobacco at the chain, Brind built one of the most respected drinks departments in the business.

Much of his success was down to the fact that he eschewed many of the buying practices that were common in rival operations.  He was no fan of big brands (Piat d’Or had no place on shelves stocked by Brind) and with some exceptions, including a competitively-priced and highly drinkable Champagne, very few wines were own label.

The fascination of wine, in his view, lay in the fact that it is not a standard product.  Nor was he greatly exercised by what his rivals were up to in the bargain basement.  The average bottle price at Waitrose was the highest among the supermarkets, with the possible exception of Marks & Spencer.

This did not mean that there were no wines to be had for under £3 a bottle but, as Brind explained: “We don’t believe we’re giving people value for money at £1.99.  The quality simply isn’t there.  We try to keep prices sharp without letting quality disappear out of the window.”

He recruited and trained a highly professional team and his commitment to quality was reflected in his insistence that they should taste the wines, beers and spirits stocked on the supermarket’s shelves on a regular basis.  This applied to all products coming out of bond prior to going on the shelves and all potential new wines.

Julian Brind was born in Scotland on November 5 1942. His father worked in the spirits trade.  After leaving Strathallan School in Perthshire in 1964 he became a management trainee with Brown and Pank, the wine subsidiary of the brewers Watney Mann.

In 1967 he won the Vintners’ Scholarship and, three years later, passed the Master of Wine exam.  Soon afterwards he joined Waitrose as central buyer, beating more than 100 other applicants to the job.  At the time of his death he was still working for the company as a consultant.

Dapper, trim and gently spoken, Brind was chairman of the board of examiners for the Institute of Masters of Wine and held a consultancy role with the Circle of Wine Writers.  He served as president of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association in 2002.

He is survived by his wife, Charlotte, and by their four children.

– tribute published in the Daily Telegraph, December 2010

 

Several years ago, when I was, strictly speaking, supposed to be doing research towards my MW dissertation at the British Library, I came across a set of recordings of Julian in the National Sound Archive, as part of the ‘Oral History of the Wine Trade’ collection.  I am not sure why I went ahead and called up Julian’s tapes to have a bit of a listen, but I did; and I was glad because they were very interesting in a general history of the wine trade sense.  There was little of direct relevance to my dissertation topic, but they were really quite entertaining.  One of the things I remember most clearly was Julian’s very modest statement at some point that ‘no one will ever listen to this anyway’, which seemed to give him the confidence to go on to make some incredibly frank comments and even the odd scandalous revelation.  I suspect it was the promise of the latter that may have kept me listening!

I thought perhaps those attending the memorial service may at least like to know of the existence of these recordings, if they don’t already.  I would certainly highly recommend them to all those who knew him well.  The online catalogue of the British Library’s Audio collection can be found at: http://cadensa.bl.uk.

– tribute by his colleague Ken McKay MW, taken from an email to another colleague Nick Room

 

Julian was a very keen and talented sportsman with a particularly infectious enthusiasm for squash, which played a major part in his life.  Having served a cricketing apprenticeship with the MCC at Lord’s after school, he concentrated on squash, tennis and latterly, real tennis, all sports that he continued to excel until he died.  Despite being utterly charming and gentlemanly off the court, Julian was fiercely competitive on it court and hated losing.  Every point was contested as if his life depended on it.  Indeed, he was the proud wine trade champion for about 15 years on the trot until he finally relinquished this title, much to his chagrin, in 1992.  All squash players throughout the Partnership, the wine trade as well as the Oxfordshire leagues where he was an extremely popular, regular player, will miss him enormously.

– tribute by his colleague Andrew Shaw, taken from an email to another colleague Nick Room

 

I am writing to say how very shocked and saddened I was to read about the sudden death of Julian.

Julian was a leading light to me in the wine business.  He was always there.  When I began as a young woman, he was very helpful and supportive which I appreciated greatly.  We became business friends over the years and I always enjoyed seeing him at Waitrose tastings.  We’d spend enough time together for him to tell me about his children and what they were up to, his tennis, and you.  He was such a gentle man in every sense of the word.  I personally will miss him a lot and I know he will leave a big gap in his professional life.  The loss for you all must be dreadful and I want to say how very sorry I am, and that I’ve been thinking about you.

My very best wishes to you all

– tribute by wine writer and TV personality Jilly Goolden, taken from an email she wrote to Charlotte Brind

 

We are all here to celebrate the life of remarkable man, Julian Hardy Brind whose smiling face greets you on the service sheet.  It’s a lovely photograph, and it was only yesterday that Charlotte let me into the secret of that special smile.  The photo was taken at home, in the garden.  It’s always difficult to summon a real smile with a professional photographer.  The secret of this one was that Charlotte stood behind the photographer and raised her shirt. Say no more.

Julian has been a great friend since we both joined the Wine Trade in the 60’s.  He was born in Delhi on the 5th November 1942.  His middle name, Hardy, was a family name, related to Admiral Hardy and Thomas Hardy the author.  He spent the first eight years of his life with his parents Ben and Eve in India.  In those colonial days Julian’s upbringing gave him natural, impeccable manners and a love of sport, particularly cricket.  Attributes that were to last a lifetime.  The family moved back to the UK when Julian was 8, firstly to Twickenham and then to Scotland where his father had been promoted to look after the King George Scotch Whisky brand for the Distillers Company Ltd.  He was educated at Strathallan School in Perthshire.

Whilst he may not have been a great academic he excelled in cricket and Rugby.  He was the youngest opening batsmen for the school.  It was at that time he met Tim Reid, who became a lifelong friend and later best man at his wedding to Charlotte (but more of that later).  Tim remembers Julian’s ferocious competitiveness – but his gentlemanly fairness, in all sport.  Towards the end of his time at School his father was concerned that Julian had no career direction so he stepped in and found him a job at Portland Cement where he spent six months as a management trainee, before working briefly as an assistant gamekeeper.

Neither seemed the right choice for Julian, surprise, surprise, so dad stepped in again and came up with a new idea that he thought would really suit Julian’s personality.  The Wine Trade he said, because “The people are nice and seem to enjoy themselves.”  How right he was.  So in 1960 Julian joined Brown and Pank, the now defunct wine and spirit subsidiary of brewer Watney Mann, as a management trainee.  Under the guidance of his boss Don Lovell MW, Julian prospered and soon became passionate about wine and started taking the trade exams.  One of his early jobs was running a bottling line. One day to his horror he discovered that he had bottled and labelled a Gevrey Chambertin as Nuits St. Georges.  Expecting to be severely reprimanded he admitted his mistake to the cellar master who casually commented “don’t worry no one will know the difference.”  HAVEN’T THINGS CHANGED!

Based in central London, Julian shared flats with various friends.  This was of course the swinging 60’s and he certainly made the best of it.  His trim, upright appearance, fine fit posture, charming manners, unwavering courtesy and inviting smile made him a great success on the social scene and with the opposite sex, a cause of envy to us all.  Yet another competitive sport in which Julian excelled!

Under the watchful eye of Don Lovell Julian progressed his career in the wine trade and in 1967 he won the coveted Vintners’ Scholarship, which gave him the opportunity to travel throughout Europe for six months visiting wineries and vineyards, and getting a real feel for the wine-making side of the industry.  He learned a huge amount about wine I am sure – but he certainly had an awesome social life as well.  I remember him telling me how he had been run out of a southern French town by some of the local men folk who disliked this charming English gentleman getting a little too close to their girlfriends!

In the late 60’s Julian was promoted to assist the company’s wine buyers, Don Lovell and David Peppercorn, with their purchasing.  He was based at the prestigious York Gate offices of International Distillers and Vintners, next to Regents Park.  At this time the company set up a wine training centre nearby and it was here that I met Julian whilst I was working with Clive Williams MW, who founded the department.  Clive was passionate about wine education and was determined to push as many of us “Young up and comers” to success in the Master of Wine Examination.  This meant rigorous tastings, and study weekends in Brighton to achieve the right level.  We certainly worked hard during the days, but I remember we lost quite heavily on the local roulette tables in the evening.  All this hard work culminated in his taking the prestigious and exacting MW exam.  At that time there were only 68 MsW so when Julian, Simon Smallwood, Philip Goodband and Sarah Morphew (who was incidentally the first lady master) passed the exam in 1970 there was great celebration.

Some months after this Julian told us he had been offered the wine buying job at Waitrose.  This was a surprise to all of us as supermarkets at that time had very little wine, and a poor reputation for quality.  Wine seemed to be just shoved on the shelves where-ever there was room.  That was all to change under Julian’s inspirational guidance.  He joined Waitrose in 1971 and after an initial steep learning curve started developing a range of quality, value for money wines for their stores.

Jeremy Roberts, his flatmate, who was also in the trade, remembers Julian coming home with piles and piles of Waitrose statistics, frantically trying to understand just how a supermarket worked.  Over the next few years he singlehandedly revolutionised the whole product concept.  He was given a free rein, and under his leadership Waitrose was the first supermarket to introduce a whole range of novel and different wines, many shipped directly from the producers.  In 1973, they became the first retailer to ship a New Zealand Sauvignon. He delighted in discovering wines that were exciting and different, such as Kanga Rouge and Wallaby White, which were launched many years before Australian wines became popular. 

Julian’s skill was always to focus on distinctive wines from individual producers, bringing excitement and innovation to supermarket wines.  In many ways his magic touch was to make the Waitrose wine department look more like that of a traditional wine merchant.  With the success, the department grew.  Julian not only excelled in selecting interesting wines but also in finding talented colleagues to join his team, including other MsW to carry on the good work and eventually take over from him when he retired in 2002.  But as a valued consultant, he continued to taste wines for Waitrose for the rest of his life.

Julian worked, not only in the tasting room at Bracknell, but also travelled extensively in his search for new wines.  He often joined suppliers on research trips and I was lucky enough to join him on many of these.  As good friends we not only worked hard, often tasting up to 100 wines a day but also relaxed in the evenings and enjoyed each other’s company.  Our visits included the lesser known vineyards of places like Jurancon and Iroulegy in South West France, as well as the classic regions of France, Spain and Portugal.  We went to Argentina and Chile in the early 1990s, when their wines were new to the UK market.  We even visited a sparkling wine producer in Brazil from whom Waitrose made just one trial shipment! 

In between work and a social life, Julian always managed to find time to play his sport.  He was captain of the Brown and Pank cricket team in the 1960’s, and was Wine Trade squash champion for many years until he was eventually knocked off his much cherished throne by one young Philip Tuck! 

He was also an extremely competitive tennis and squash player outside the wine trade matches, and a keen sailor who often competed in the annual Wine Trade Isle of Wight Regatta.  Ever active, dancing was another of his passions.  He loved jiving and Scottish reels.  He was always a popular partner.  After wine and sport, the third passion in Julian’s life was women and in 1968 he met his match in Charlotte Luard, an attractive, lively 17 year old.  They met at a party organised by his then flat mate Anthony Cresswell, who was going out with Charlotte’s sister, Araminta.  Charlotte made a great hit – so much so that she was invited out by no less than three of the guests, including Julian.  A rival for her affections was his great friend Tim Reid.  For several months Charlotte dated both of them platonically until Julian told Tim “hands off”.  The rest is history. However the only way Charlotte could tame this “wild man” was to leave the country. 

She went to South Africa and it didn’t take long before Julian followed her out and proposed.  They were married at St Marys in The Boltons in London in 1973.  Tim Reid was, of course, the best man!  Two years later the children started to arrive.  Lucinda, followed by Olivia, George and Henry.  Charlotte always said she wanted six children but there was too long a lapse after Henry, and they both decided it was time to live a life without nappies. 

Abbotsfield, near Reading, where they moved to in 1984 became the perfect family home with plenty of space for the young Brind family to grow up and develop.  Ponies, tennis, swimming – they are a sporty, lively and loving family, and as the children grew up and married, it expanded to become a welcome second home for Julian and Charlotte’s eight grandchildren.  The latest, a grandson, Bertie, was born on Tuesday this week and delivered by his father, Henry in the bathroom. 

Since his retirement, and having travelled the world so extensively, Julian was never happier than being with his family, both at home and in the timeshare properties he and Charlotte owned in Lanzarotte and Scotland where needless to say a great deal of sport was played.

So it is with great affection that we are here to remember a very special man.  A man who was devoted to his wife and family.  A man who helped revolutionise the retail wine trade, who served as a President of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, as Chairman and Trustee of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, and Chairman of the Master of Wines examination board.

Julian was the perfect English gentleman whose courtesy, kindness and gentle manners will be remembered by so many.  Family, friends, relations, colleagues, squash and tennis competitors.  Over the years many of us have shared a bottle of wine with him.   I remember tasting some young red Rhone wines with Julian.  I had my head down, writing my notes.  Julian spoke “lovely soft body with grace and elegance”.  This didn’t match my tasting notes at all, but it certainly described the attractive blonde on the other side of the room.

CHEERS JULIAN!

– address by Andrew Gordon at Julian’s Memorial Service at St James’ Church, Garlickhythe