Andre L. Simon
Andre Simon (1877-1970)
Andre Simon - bibliophile, gourmet, wine connoisseur, historian and writer - is unrivaled in his contribution to the "art of good living". Born in Paris, he came to London in 1902 as the English agent for the champagne house of Pommery and Greno. A year later, the editor of the Wine and Spirit Trade Review commissioned him to write twelve articles on the history of the champagne trade in England. Bitten by the bug of "printers ink", Simon went on to write over 100 books and pamphlets on wine and food. Simon's knowledge of wine and food was encyclopedic, and his literary style is imaginative, clear, concise and distinctive.
Simon collected wine books all his life, and his personal collection was one of the finest ever assembled by an individual. His love of books is well described by Hugh Johnson in the foreword to the Holland House facsimile reproduction of Bibliotheca Vinaria: "His senses of sight and touch were as well developed as his famous sense of taste. Books to him were objects of physical attraction. I remember many occasions when he took book after book from his shelves for me to admire their print, their woodcuts or their bindings."
He was one of the founders of The Wine Trade Club, and at thirty-two was elected its first president. He also founded the Saintsbury Club, a prestigious London dining club which still meets biannually.
In 1932, at the age of fifty-five, his life seemed shattered when he was discharged as Pommery and Greno's agent. But his bitterness and vow never to have any more to do with the wine trade were short-lived. Within months he was on his way to Madeira, and upon his return he attempted, unsuccessfully, to revive his adopted country's interest in Madeira wines. Shortly thereafter, he contracted with Constable, publishers, to edit a series of popular books on wine.
With the help of his friend, AJA Symons, Simon came upon the idea of forming a wine and food society, with Simon responsible for the dinners and tastings and for editing the quarterly journal that came to be known as Food and Wine. The idea quickly proved to be popular and within three weeks of its inception there were 232 members. The Wine and Food Society - later The International Wine and Food Society - consumed much of his time for the remainder of his life. The original Wine and Food Society 1933 brochure and application can be seen here.
Simon believed that "a man dies too young if he leaves any wine in his cellar," and in keeping with that philosophy, only two magnums of claret remained in his personal cellar when he died at the age of ninety-three.