Simon Berry is the chairman of the UK’s oldest wine merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd that has operated from St. James’s Street, London for more than 310 years. Berry joined the company in 1977, after having worked in France for wine producers including Moët & Chandon in Champagne, Mouton-Rothschild in Bordeaux, and Prosper Maufoux in Burgundy.
Awarded the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma in 1979 and the Diploma of the British Institute of
Marketing in 1983, Berry is on the Council of the Wine & Spirits Trade Benevolent Society, while also being a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Vintners and a member of the Académie du Champagne. In addition, he is the Clerk of the Royal Cellars and the holder of the Royal Warrant of Appointment as wine merchant to HRH the Prince of Wales.
Berry lectures widely at institutions including Oxford University and Eton College, and has written for
international publications and contributed to television and radio shows. He lives in London with his wife, Lucy.
I think I may have to ask my wife about that. Actually, I am quite English and conservative in my personal style. I tend to wear a classic British suit, but I also love new gadgets and technology so, overall, I am more of a mix of styles. I believe one can be traditional and innovative at the same time; it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
I have a love of the theater, so my passion for that comes through in many of my style choices. In the
past year, I joined the board of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, which has proved to be a fascinating stimulation. I think they asked me to join because they, too, are very traditional, but they want to understand how you can change without losing yourself, as we have done successfully at Berry’s.
Place to escape
I have a lovely house in Wiltshire, where I go most weekends to switch off—and to fail to catch fish! It is quite a new thing for us, but it is wonderful.
Favorite spot in Japan
My wife and I are passionate about Japan, especially Nara. To see something on that scale is outstanding. The hotel we stayed at was nothing special, but Nara itself was beautiful.
Then in Kyoto we stayed at the Tawaraya ryokan, which was really fantastic. The only problem was that I kept hitting my head on low ceilings. The ryokan was very traditional, but it had been owned by an American who had lived there for years.
I don’t like to go to anyone for personal shaving; I had it on my wedding day and that was enough for me. However, a few months ago my wife surprised me with a visit to a new thing in London—“doctor fish” that nibble at your feet. It was astonishing. I am not sure that it will become a weekly thing, but I tell you my feet have never been so beautiful.
Dawn, a lovely lady at a wonderful business called Taylor of Old Bond Street—just around the corner
from us at St James’s Street—cuts my hair. She is an Arsenal FC supporter so I can only go to her when that team isn’t doing too well otherwise she becomes insufferable! There is a wonderful story attached to the hair salon. About 15 years ago, before the advent of email, the owner, a Mr. Taylor, had entered
into correspondence with a businessman from Japan who had indicated an interest in importing his goods from England. After about 18 months of communications, the Japanese gentleman came to London to meet Mr. Taylor and to sign the final contract. He arrived and was taken into the old-fashioned hair salon. After 20 minutes of being shown around the premises he asked politely, “Where
are the clothes?” He had assumed, incorrectly, that Taylor was the same as “tailor.” But it ended well as
he still went ahead and, instead, imported the shampoo that is still available in Tokyo.
Luxury you can’t do without
My iPad. I should be saying first-growth clarets, but I have to admit that I do love my iPad.
Feel most at home
St. James’s Street is my spiritual home and I have a very nice office there. After so many years, I think I may just stay there!
Best gift received
Apart from the fish experience? Actually I have been so very lucky with gifts—my wife is brilliant at working out what I want before I know I need it. For instance, about five years ago I mentioned in passing that I had always wanted a telescope. Six months later it was my birthday and she gave me one and, since then, I have become entirely obsessed with looking at the moon. I think it is fantastic that moon-viewing is taken so seriously in Japan.
Apart from our own website I probably spend far too much time looking at forums of wine websites. Robert Parker’s one is very good and Jancis Robinson’s is fascinating. They are all so polite. There is another good one called the ukwineforum. If you want to find out what people are thinking and talking about concerning wine, forums are where you need to go. Sometimes it’s a bit like a soap opera and can be a bit of a shock when you actually meet the people in person!
My absolute favorite meal is steak and kidney pudding. The best is at our local pub, called The Ship, in the village of Burcombe.