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. The below winners have been awarded based on innovation, drive, creativity, energy, evangelism – and even hedonism.
Decanter Retailer Awards 2019 judge Laura Clay best said it:
“I knew British wine retailers were special, I just hadn’t realised quite how special. Wine drinkers of the UK have never had it so good.
Wine merchants no longer just buy wine and hope to sell it. They train their staff so that they are qualified to help their customers; they run courses and tastings; they offer in-store tastings to encourage their customers to try something new; they deliver actually and physically but they also deliver knowledge, inspiration and a great deal of joy.
The best supermarkets that sell wine know they need to stock more than the big brands from the main regions and countries. They need to offer diversity along with value. The Decanter winners do this really well.”
We’ve highlighted this year’s top specialist retailers. Now it’s time to take a look at the best local, regional, national and online wine retailers of the year.
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.
Top UK wine retailers: Winners and runners-up of the 2019 Decanter Retailer Awards
London Neighbourhood Wine Shop of the Year: Noble Green Wines
‘Enthusiasm and energy’ characterise this Hampton Hill wine shop, which runs buzzy events, works with the local butcher and deli, supports local charities and aims to ‘make people welcome in a community-focused neighbourhood shop’. A list topping 1,100 bins and advice from well-qualified staff help to create a wonderful wine experience for anyone shopping here.
London Wine Shop of the Year: The Good Wine Shop – Kew
A phoenix-like recovery after a 2018 fire in The Good Wine Shop’s Kew site was attributed to ‘strong community foundations’. This may be down to an enviable customer loyalty rewards programme, an enticing range and a new on-premise wine service. ‘There’s a sincerity and genuine love of wine here,’ said one judge. Uncorked continues to improve its already outstanding wine list.
London Multi-Store of the Year: Vagabond Wines
Runner-up: Lea & Sandeman
Last year’s winner Lea & Sandeman – purveyors of a herculean list, 90% sourced directly from producers, with more events than ever – were just pipped to the post by Vagabond. As the impressive expansion of Vagabond continues, its deliberately pared-back list, colour-coded wine-style stations and hybrid wine bar-cum-shop model all help encourage and empower wine lovers to be adventurous in an interactive and fun way.
En Primeur Campaign of the Year: Goedhuis & Co
Runner-up: Justerini & Brooks
Both Goedhuis and Justerini reported strong numbers for their Burgundy campaigns, the latter’s mouthwatering list and excellent service being commendable. Goedhuis won through not just on the basis of sound business basics (sensible storage policy, fair pricing, and a superb list that continues to grow and improve) but also a notably proactive and personal approach to the whole en primeur experience.
Local Multi-Store of the Year: Loki Wine
Runner-up: WoodWinters Wines & Whiskies
Loki has ‘transformed the Birmingham wine scene’ and ‘just never stands still’, in the words of one judge. The original city-centre shop and bar has been upgraded, a new store opened and customer engagement improved, including successful events. Loki is now a leading British wine retailer. The WoodWinters list remains strong and the three stores are laudably community minded.
Local Wine Shop of the Year: The Whalley Wine Shop
Runner-up: Lockett Bros
A fiercely competitive field saw the approachable charms and fairly priced, well-sourced range of Lancashire’s The Whalley Wine Shop win through as the UK’s best local wine shop. Meanwhile Lockett Bros in North Berwick majors on an easygoing attitude and a newly reconfigured shop that offers cosy tasting areas and a cheese deli counter. ‘Well worth a detour,’ commented one judge.
Online Retailer of the Year: The Wine Society
Runner-up: Lay & Wheeler
Online retail becomes more competitive by the day and wine is no exception. For a traditional mail-order merchant, The Wine Society has innovated and adapted in impressive fashion. Fully 72% of its sales are now online and its user-friendly website is rich in content, with fair prices allied to a truly outstanding list and nationwide tasting events. Lay & Wheeler’s majestic list, meanwhile, finds a fitting home on its engaging site.
Newcomer of the Year: Noble Grape
Runner-up: The Tapas Room
Established in Cowbridge, Wales in 2017, Noble Grape is a welcome addition to the UK wine scene with a well-chosen list, personal MW service and a can-do attitude. The emphasis, according to owner Richard Ballantyne MW, is on ‘authenticity of style and sustainability’. Also open since 2017, The Tapas Room is an impressively accessible and unpretentious place to celebrate Spain in London through tapas and wine.
Subscription Wine Club of the Year: Vinoteca
Runner-up: Honest Grapes
Plenty of diversity in this category – a joy to judge. As runner-up, Honest Grapes is a wine merchant and club with bags of character and a dynamic feel, that’s well worth getting to know. The Vinoteca wine club is a spin-off from its London wine bars and shops. The smallish list is brilliantly chosen; subscriptions are fairly priced and deliver a real sense of discovery; and food matching is a particular (if unsurprising) forté.
Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose
A leader among the supermarkets in terms of quality and diversity of wine range, backed up by informative staff, website and literature plus a popular Drinks Festival, Waitrose won a well-deserved second win in a row as this year’s Best Supermarket of the Year.
National Wine Shop of the Year: Cambridge Wine Merchants
Runner-up: Tanners Wines
How to select a wine gift? Cambridge Wine Merchants’ helpful flow-chart choosing system starts with: ‘How much do you like the recipient?’ The personal touch and sense of humour, allied to a fine wine range, engaging events and well-diversified activities and portfolio, combine to make CWM very special. Runner-up Tanners remains an outstanding wine retailer with an encouraging focus on innovation.
Innovator of the Year: Cru World Wine
Runner-up: The Whisky Exchange
As well as its digital wizardry, fine wine company Cru impressed the judges with a clear and engaging sustainability initiative aimed at reducing carbon emissions (for example, by offering clients different shipping choices based on emissions calculations) and offsetting. The Whisky Exchange has had an exciting year, with a successful debut Champagne Show signalling its fruitful diversification.
Outstanding Wine Retailer of the Year: Waitrose
Several exciting names from very different ends of the wine spectrum were in the mix for this award. Waitrose ultimately earned the accolade through bravery, creativity and laudable commitment to the wine cause. As one judge said: ‘The pressures on them are different to many other wine retailers.’ And, while some large retailers batten down the hatches, Waitrose has steadily emerged as a mainstream standard-bearer for wine (and other causes, including sustainability). The safe option? Hardly.