UK-born Simon Field, a buyer for Berry Bros. & Rudd, counts among the 322 Masters of Wine in the world dispatched around 24 countries, a title recognizing the happy few wine experts, who dedicate most of their life to wine tasting, wine picking, wine pairing and much more…
Pluris – From accounting to wine tasting, how did it all happen?
Simon Field – I studied languages at Oxford but then, wooed by the glory days of the City in the late eighties, went to work for KPMG in London, where I qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Working later in Paris, in Place Vendôme, no less, gave a valuable insight into both the private banking habits of the wealthy French but more importantly the finer points of a well-constructed restaurant wine list. I was seduced and that was that. Twenty years on, there are no regrets, although there is a good chance that my salary would have been higher if I hadn’t changed course!
What does your role as Master of Wine and buyer within Berry Bros. & Rudd consist in?
I buy wines from Champagne, the Rhône Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Spain and Portugal, in addition to the fortified range; not to forget England, of course. Selection of the range in situ is a key part of the job of course, but the accounting background has been very useful when it comes to stock control, margins and price negotiations. My biggest challenge is to ensure that the range is dynamic and fluid, whilst maintaining and nurturing existing relationships with suppliers and ensuring that one is constantly up-to-date with the delightful fluidity of this most liquid of trades. Oh, and I love writing, so plenty of flowery vintage reports and tasting notes have ensued.
What is a typical day for you?
If I am away it may well involve tasting all day long, with black teeth to show for it at dusk, or, in Champagne, some quite sore gums. A whole range of factors come into play when picking the right wines, not only the obvious ones of price-pointing, the quality-price relationship, the shape of the range and the need to both acknowledge the subjectivity of the process and to factor in the median of customer expectations. A day in the office can be infinitely varied, but more often than not will involve a little tasting and the perennial challenge of catching up with all those emails that have accumulated while I have been away.
Who are your clients?
Berry Bros. & Rudd customers are generally high-worth individuals, who are probably relatively conservative in their vinous preferences and whose average spend is on the high side. It is not a complete contradiction to add that they can also exceptionally enquiring and adventurous. Knowledge bequeaths the desire for more knowledge.
Do you have any big dream?
I’m very happy to be where I am in terms of the wine trade and very lucky too. In terms of the micromanagement of the role, I think that the Spanish range will evolve more and I would like to develop some of the lines from the more esoteric corners of southern France. Hardly a big dream, I know; more like a modest acknowledgment of the need to keep on moving and shaping the range, sculpting its beguiling evanescence with infinite patience and gratitude.