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. ...
With the help of his friend, A J A 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.
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.
The International Wine & Food Society (IW&FS) ... is a worldwide organization founded in 1933 by André L. Simon, CBE, Legion d’Honneur (1877-1970), who was renowned as a bibliophile, gourmet, wine connoisseur, historian and writer. His stated purpose for the Society is still true today:
"To bring together and serve all who believe that a right understanding of good food and wine is an essential part of personal contentment and health, and that an intelligent approach to the pleasures and problems of the table offers far greater rewards than the mere satisfaction of appetite." source
André L. Simon: a short biography by his daughter
André Louis Simon was born in Paris on 28 February, 1877.
His father, an artist, died from a sunstroke while painting beside the Nile, when André was seventeen years of age. At the time, André was on a visit to England to improve his English, and he had been introduced to the Symons family, whose youngest daughter Edith, then aged fifteen, was later to become André's wife.
After completing his three years military service, André accepted the offer of a friend of his father's to join the Champagne firm of Pommery et Greno in Reims. Becoming bored with office life, André asked to be allowed to work in the cellars and there he developed great interest in the many facets of wine- making.
In 1900 he married, and in 1902 Pommery et Greno sent him to their London office. It was not long before he was giving free public lectures, illustrated by lantern slides, to help in the better understanding of wine.
It had always been André's desire to write, but he had a living to earn. On asking a friend for advice, the reply was 'do you spend every hour selling Champagne?' Therefore, in his spare time he wrote, and in 1905 his first book, The Champagne Trade in England, was published. Thereafter he wrote continuously until 1968, when his eyesight failed. He had had over a hundred books published. Although most of them were about wine, André also wrote some books on the combination of food and wine. During World War I, when André was assigned to the British Army as an interpreter, he found time to write about General Joffre, and an elementary Russian grammar. The whole edition of the grammar was sold to the War Office, and was issued to all men who went, or were being sent, to Archangel.
Returning to England after the war, André resumed selling Champagne until 1932, when he left Pommery et Greno.
In 1933, with A. J. Symons, he started the Wine and Food Society, carrying on alone after the early death of Symons. The aim of the Society was for the better understanding of food and wine, and the harmony and enjoyment of their being used together. André felt that the Society should have its own magazine, so he edited The Wine and Food Quarterly which was, and still is, sent to every member. The Society grew and is now known as the International Wine and Food Society, having many branches in America and around the world.
In 1961, when his wife became ill, André left the Society, but he was named as their Perpetual President. In 1963 André's wife died after sixty-three years of marriage. They had had a family of five children. André had felt the need for a complete change, and although eighty-six years of age, he decided to go alone, by sea, to visit for the first time the vineyards and the different branches of the Wine and Food Society in Australia and New Zealand. He celebrated his eighty-seventh birthday in Melbourne.
On his return he wrote The Wines, Vineyards and Vignerons of Australia. The following year he sailed for South Africa, which he had visited many times during his Champagne-selling days. He was happy to see it again, and also to meet the Society's branch members whom he had not met before. He spent his eighty-eighth birthday in Cape Town.
On his return, André wrote The Gazetteer of Wines, the fruit of a lifetime's study and work. It had taken him two years to write, and he had just finished reading the proofs when his eyesight failed.
Not being able to write, or see to read the old books that he had collected through the years, was a great trial to him, but having been a religious man he accepted it with cheerfulness and patience.
André died on 5 September, 1970, aged ninety-three. The Queen had graciously awarded him the CBE, and the French Government had made him an Officier de la Légion d'Honneur. The Vintners' Company had made him an honorary member of their ancient company, the first non-Englishman to have been so honoured. It had been the Vintners' Company who had lent him their hall for those lectures he had given at the beginning of the century.
J. Rouyer Guillet
Andre Simon's Dictionary of Wines, Spirits and Liqueurs, L McFarland (ed), Hutchinson, 1983.