The Decanter Retailer Awards aims to offer wine drinkers in the UK an indispensable guide to the best wine shops and wine lists on the high street, so what better time to have a browse than this holiday season?
From small wine merchants to local specialists, multi-stores and supermarkets, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to wine retail. But then there’s choosing… Which wine should I take to a dinner party? Which wine should I gift? What’s the best Champagne to ring in the New Year? It seems there’s no better time than now to highlight this year’s top UK Specialist Retailers.
Head to these award-winning retailers for specialist wine selections, top service and helpful gifting advice.
How the winners were chosen: Results were determined by our expert judging panel who made their way through over one hundred entries, assessing, visiting, tasting, scoring and re-scoring before narrowing down entries to support, award and encourage those doing a brilliant job.
Best Specialist Retailers: Winners and runners-up of the 2019 Decanter Retailer Awards
Australia Specialist Retailer of the Year: The Vinorium
This Kent-based wine merchant clearly takes great pride in its Australian specialism, with an emphasis on direct sourcing and premium wines backed up by a strong online and wholesale operation. The Vinorium describes the future for Australian wine as ‘incredibly bright’ and it serves this category commendably well.
Bordeaux Specialist Retailer of the Year: Berry Bros & Rudd
Runner-up: BI Fine Wine & Spirits
Berry Bros does outstanding work celebrating Bordeaux. Not just via a mouthwatering fine wine list but also at the more affordable end of the spectrum, with initiatives to push everyday Bordeaux wines under £25. Combined with well-attended events and a drive to source lighter, more sensitively made wines, this is a compelling proposition. A more diversified entity now, BI remains a fine destination for Bordeaux lovers.
Burgundy Specialist Retailer of the Year: Goedhuis & Co
Runner-up: House of Townend
Numerous visits to the region; a dedicated website section; excellent communication and interaction; commercial success; a sumptuous and growing Burgundy range with tantalising parcels and older vintages: these were the key reasons for Goedhuis’ triumph. House of Townend’s policy of storing half its (well selected) Burgundy en primeur buys and releasing them mature at sensible prices earned particular praise from judges.
Central & Eastern Europe Specialist Retailer of the Year: Novel Wines
Runner-up: Croatian Fine Wines
Ben Franks’ mission is: ‘To work hard to introduce the UK to a range of truly unique wines.’ The clear commitment to this challenge, allied to a wide-ranging, eclectic list and excellent, personal service saw Bath based Novel Wines take top gong. The impressive and engaging Croatian Fine Wines was originally inspired by a holiday experience and is now diversifying into other regions.
Champagne and Sparkling Specialist Retailer of the Year: The Whisky Exchange
Dawn Davies MW is helping The Whisky Exchange to defy the limitations of its name, sourcing a wide-ranging and well priced fizz list. Its debut Champagne Show in late 2018 made waves and is part of a wider series of education and events. Runner-up Waitrose has an outstanding sparkling range – its impressive sales growth being testament to this strength and depth.
England & Wales Specialist Retailer of the Year: Waitrose
Waitrose has actively championed English and Welsh wine for some time and its laudable commitment shows no sign of abating. With an extensive core range, from sparkling to sweet via white, red and rosé, stores are also able to support local vineyards. Its Leckford sparkling wine, grown on the Waitrose & Partners’ Hampshire estate, is a further high-profile endorsement of the category.
Germany Specialist Retailer of the Year: Justerini & Brooks
Runner-up: The Wine Barn
Wine insiders know Justerini & Brooks not just for its strength and depth in the likes of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Piedmont. Its treasure trove of a German list, with more than 880 wines, is impeccably sourced, with names to make you drool. Runner-up The Wine Barn continues to show good growth with its exclusively German focus.
Italy Specialist Retailer of the Year: Jeroboams
Runner-up: Justerini & Brooks
Jeroboams has been undergoing a revamp and its new incarnation is buzzy and engaging – with a definite Italian accent. Wine director Peter Mitchell MW has grown the Italian range to account for 20% of the portfolio, Italianthemed events are frequent and there’s a sense of fun and passion – they’ve even got a deli. Justerini’s Italian list continues to get better; described by the judges as ‘amazing’ and ‘mouthwatering’.
Languedoc Specialist Retailer of the Year: Stone, Vine & Sun
Runner-up: Yapp Brothers
Stone Vine & Sun has long been committed to the wines of Languedoc-Roussillon but its list has not stood still, covering an excellent range of styles, appellations and producers, from classic to new wave – testament to frequent buying trips and the dedication of the team. In its 50th year, Yapp remains a benchmark for Languedoc-Roussillon wines in the UK, brilliantly mixing the iconic with the quirky.
Loire Specialist Retailer of the Year: Lay & Wheeler
Runner-up: Yapp Brothers
Lay & Wheeler’s enthusiasm for its Loire portfolio is evident in its extensive (145-strong) range, from Grolleau Gris to a 1979 Coteaux du Layon, together with its biggest-ever print campaign and tasting this year. The range, which features classics as well as newer faces, makes for delicious reading. Meanwhile Yapp’s 100% direct sourcing makes it a fine destination for Loire lovers too.
New Zealand Specialist Retailer of the Year: The New Zealand Cellar
‘They embody the vibrancy of the New Zealand wine scene,’ was how one judge put it. This innovative, buzzy operation continues to thrive, having doubled its events programme in 2019, deliberately reaching out to a younger wine-buying demographic, and now with a range that encompasses Australian and other New World wines. It’s no surprise to hear that even more plans are in the pipeline.
Organic & Biodynamic Specialist Retailer of the Year: Buon Vino
Runner-up: Wanderlust Wine
There’s a real sense of purpose and progress to Buon Vino, the Yorkshire-based specialist making waves with its range of organic, biodynamic and natural wines. More exciting plans are in the pipeline as expansion continues – a ‘Natural Wine Scale’ is being mooted to help customers. Focusing on tech innovation and consumer service has also proven successful for Wanderlust.
Regional France Specialist Retailer of the Year: The Wine Society
Runner-up: Yapp Brothers
The Wine Society really does cover parts of France that other merchants don’t reach. Its regional French offering is strong and unique, covering 172 wines, almost all directsourced, from regions such as Corsica, Lorraine, Iroulégy, Jura and Côtes du Forez – even en primeur Madiran. ‘They put energy and passion into it – and it shows,’ said one judge.
Rhône Specialist of the Year: Lay & Wheeler
Runner-up: Yapp Brothers
Lay & Wheeler continues to expand its Rhône range, which now numbers 550 wines; a mouthwatering spread of classics and newer faces, testament to intelligent sourcing and an eager buying clientele. Yapp’s list of vaunted Rhône names – from Jean- Louis Chave to Georges Vernay and beyond – almost inspires an automatic genuflection from wine lovers and remains a notable specialism for the company.
South Africa Specialist of the Year: Handford Wines
Runner-up: Museum Wines
Handford’s list is ‘a Who’s Who of what’s exciting in the Cape’, that ‘keeps up with a fastmoving wine scene’. Such were the comments about this stalwart merchant that stocks a range of over 300 South African wines, including many hard-to-get, small-allocation bottles. Museum Wines, despite its size, is remarkably proactive, growing its list with lesser-known exclusivities and focusing on South Africa at its Dorset Wine Festival.
Spain Specialist of the Year: L’Oculto
Runner-up: The Wine Society
L’Oculto’s impressive expansion continues, having opened a new site, grown the team and boosted its directsourced, eclectic list that’s dedicated to natural, organic and biodynamic Spanish wines. Another well-deserved win. Meanwhile runner-up The Wine Society provides excellent value for money across its range, including the own-labels.
Sweet & Fortified Specialist of the Year: Oxford Wine Company
A large and growing range, plus an obvious commitment to communicating and sampling the delights of its sweet and fortified selection won it for TOWC. This family-run merchant allies the best of a traditional merchant with social media initiatives like videos marrying en rama Sherry with different foods. Waitrose’s range in this category is outstanding.
USA Specialist of the Year: Roberson Wine
Runner-up: Berry Bros & Rudd
The US is becoming an increasingly impressive area of operations for Berry Bros, with an enviable and growing list, including a new own-label Pinot Noir by Au Bon Climat. But Roberson goes from strength to strength in this category, successfully maintaining momentum with an excellent list and its innovative events, online campaigns and initiatives like the Somm 3 UK premiere at its urban winery.