Wine By Royal Appointment

by Shogo Hagiwara
wifm_winter10_low-80300-year-old UK firm exploits Japan niche

As British wine retailer Berry Bros. & Rudd opened in Japan fairly recently, they are not quite a household name yet; but when it comes to tradition and history, few companies can beat them. Founded in 1698, just off St. James’s Palace in London, Berry Bros. & Rudd boasts more than 300 years of dealing with the upper echelons of British high society and beyond. The company’s client list has included the likes of George III and Edward IIV and currently features Royal Warrants from HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Charles.

Berry Bros. & Rudd enjoys fame at home and abroad thanks to its wide selection of some of the world’s best wines from vineyards across the globe that are sourced by its five Masters of Wine—an exclusive sommelier-like title held by just 279 experts.

wifm_winter10_low-81Though still behind Europe and the US in wine consumption, Japan sells more Beaujolais Nouveau then any other country. So why launch in Japan now?

“We used to have a retail store at Heathrow Airport and a great number of Japanese tourists purchased our wine there, which led us to set up a team specializing in Japanese customers,” said Hayato Shimizu, general manager of Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Japan branch. “So last year we opened in Marunouchi.”

wifm_winter10_low-82The Japan branch has about 1,000 regular customers, including doctors and executives, but is aiming to increase that number through exclusive tasting events, such as the one to be held in Tokyo in late January by Jasper Morris, a Berry Bros. & Rudd Master of Wine. Berry Bros. & Rudd doesn’t cater only to the rich and famous. The company’s Own Selection Wine, for example, includes Bordeaux and Burgundy priced for daily consumption. Wines in this range are ¥2-4,000 per bottle. For that very special occasion, however, the most expensive is the 1993 Vosne-Romanee Cros- Parantoux—at just over ¥600,000 per bottle. One of Berry Bros. & Rudd’s unique services is “en primeur”— purchasing wine before it is bottled. It could be tricky without much wine knowledge or industry connections, but the risk is greatly reduced if you buy through a reputable company such as Berry Bros. & Rudd, say experts.

If you are seriously considering investing in wine, here’s one tip from Shimizu: “It’s been said that 2009 was the best year for wine for half a century.”