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Julian Brind MW

20 Dec 2010 by Jancis Robinson

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 wirite this.

He was chairman of the Institute in 1993 and long played an extremely important role as chair 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 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 cummerbunded figure on the dance floor.

Tags:  MW


My memories of Julian are too many to post here but as fellow trainees, sharing duties as assistants to  Don Lovell and David Peppercorn in the tasting room at IDV''s York Gate office I was fortunate to get to know him well and  over the years to benefit from an enduring friendship. Julian played to win in whatever he did but always true to what one might call "old fashioned values" . My prayers and thoughts are with Charlotte, his family  and particularly his several grandchildren whom he loved and who  will miss him greatly as do we all.  Philip Goodband MW 

22 Dec 2010 19:48 by Philip Goodband MW

Fiona Beckett wrote:

I'll remember him chiefly for his insistence that reds should be tasted before whites

It would be a very fitting memorial for Julian to continue this practice.  

21 Dec 2010 08:17 by Jancis Robinson

That's very sad news. Julian was a legend in the trade, and somebody I admired for years before I met him. When I finally did - less than a year ago - he was even more charming than I had expected. Old school, but at the same time forward thinking: he understood that supermarkets had a crucial part to play in the growth of good wine in the UK. He'll be sadly missed.

20 Dec 2010 23:43 by Simon Berry

What sad news! Julian always cut such a dapper figure - I feel he missed his metier. He should have been a David Niven-style English actor in Hollywood. He had the charm.I'll remember him chiefly for his insistence that reds should be tasted before whites a practice that I think Waitrose adheres to to this day in compiling their tasting booklet but which no other supermarket follows. I'm sure it was for the very considerate reason that one didn't have to leave the tasting with purple teeth.

20 Dec 2010 22:25 by Fiona Beckett

Huh. I'll ask them to try again.

20 Dec 2010 18:05 by Jancis Robinson

The eagle-eyed may notice that there are far more icons in the panel below than there used to be.

This is because we have added much more functionality so that comments in these boxes, and in the comments in Your views, should not longer be invariably one indigestible block of text.  I'm hoping that when I click Add below, it will faithfully reproduce my paragraphs and links.

Fingers crossed... 

20 Dec 2010 18:04 by Jancis Robinson

Very Sad news indeed, my thoughts go out to Julian's family. I had the privilege of being in his team at the IWC a couple of years ago and very much admired his ability as a taster, as well as his company for a day. A most remarkable gentleman, who will be sorely missed.

20 Dec 2010 17:10 by George Biswas

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