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  • Jancis Robinson
Written by
  • Jancis Robinson
20 Dec 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 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.