See which UK supermarkets, wine merchants and independent retailers won prizes in the Decanter Retailer of the Year Awards 2017...
Decanter Retailer of the Year Awards 2017: See the winners
Winning retailers were announced during a special ceremony held at London’s Connaught hotel on Wednesday 13 September. See them below, and see also a list of runners-up.
Who were the judges?
- Peter Richards MW, awards chairman
- Christelle Guibert, Decanter‘s tastings director
- Matt Walls
- Andy Howard MW
- Fiona Beckett, Decanter‘s chief restaurant critic
Special thanks to Champagne sponsor Charles Heidsieck
Outstanding Retailer of the Year: The Wine Society
Outstanding value, impeccable range, excellent service, engaging events : The Wine Society is a well-oiled wine machine purring along in the fast lane. The Retailer Awards judges deliberate long and hard over who is the most deserving recipient of this prestigious award, but The Wine Society ended up as the unanimous choice. The wine lover’s wine merchant.
Judges’ Choice: Lay & Wheeler
The judges were keen to support and commend Lay & Wheeler’s notable improvement and renewed vigour of late. This historic merchant has been through many significant changes, most notably being acquired by Majestic in 2009. But a new team, busy year, promising list, new website and other ambitious plans all bode well for the future.
Supermarket of the Year: Booths
Booths just nicked this in a close race, the result of an excellent list – improved in the past year – and intelligent promotions such as the ‘3-for-2 on wines over £10’, which encourages experimentation. ‘It’s a pleasure shopping there,’ said one judge.
Waitrose also had a good year, with its inaugural Drinks Festival, re-structured buying team and innovations in the range.
Large Retailer of the Year: Berry Bros & Rudd
Berry Bros is a veritable hive of activity. An outstanding events programme, top-notch list, a revival of the No3 magazine, excellent service and, to cap it all, a beautiful new shop on Pall Mall saw BBR triumph.
Runner-up: Lay & Wheeler
Runner-up Lay & Wheeler, meanwhile, is making a welcome comeback to the mainstream wine scene.
Medium Size Retailer of the Year: WoodWinters
‘Thriving’, ‘energetic’, ‘exciting’, ‘a complete drinks shop’ was how the judges described WoodWinters, a respected Scottish merchant bringing its extensive range to ever more consumers, opening a new shop and expanding operations south of the border.
Runner-up: Philglas & Swiggot
Philglas & Swiggot was praised for being ‘quirky’, ‘diverse’ and ‘dynamic’.
Small Retailer of the Year: Prohibition Wines
Hard to separate these two outstanding neighbourhood merchants. Prohibition has done an outstanding job with limited resources, hooking up with Vindependents and Deliveroo, expanding its eclectic, rewarding, mouth-watering list and engaging its customers via events, newsletters and a new website.
Runner-up: Highbury Vintners
Highbury offers great range and service, and continues to improve.
Online Retailer of the Year: The Wine Society
The Wine Society professes to have ‘all guns blazing on digital at the moment’ – a revamped website with personalised home pages, free named-day delivery and excellent, ever-improving online experience saw it prevail.
Runner-up: Roberson Wine
Roberson was praised for its clean, user-friendly site and engaging online presence.
Austria Specialist of the Year: Newcomer Wines
Getting people excited about Austrian wine is what Newcomer does to great effect. ‘Buzzy’, ‘energetic’, ‘dynamic’ and ‘fabulous wines’ were how the judges described this Dalston-based wine shop and bar.
Bordeaux Specialist of the Year: Berry Bros & Rudd
Berry Bros not only enjoyed a strong en primeur performance but also continues to offer an enviable range of Bordeaux (1,212 wines in all) down to its iconic Good Ordinary Claret.
Runner-up: Justerini & Brooks
Justerini & Brooks earned praise for its efforts to ‘revive’ interest in en primeur, as well as for its engagement with the region and its customers on many levels.
Burgundy Specialist of the Year: Justerini & Brooks
Justerini & Brooks impressed with its laudably wide-ranging list, stuffed full of eye-catching names including older vintages, plus an informative website.
Runner-up: Lea & Sandeman
The judges admired Lea & Sandeman’s ‘friendly, personal’ service and list, improved this year, which majors on lesser- known producers offering great value.
Champagne Specialist of the Year: The Good Wine Shop
The Good Wine Shop in Kew is a shop worth travelling to, building a name for its exciting and competitively priced range with an emphasis on grower Champagnes.
Runner-up: The Finest Bubble
The Finest Bubble is a unique and eye-catching proposition, focused on grande marque Champagne and offering deliveries within London in two hours.
Germany Specialist of the Year: Justerini & Brooks
Two very different retailers here. Traditional St James’s merchant Justerini & Brooks’ German range was termed a ‘wish list of amazing names and bottles’.
Runner-up: The Wine Barn
Meanwhile, personal service and a focus on lesser-known producers are runner-up The Wine Barn’s strengths.
Italy Specialist of the Year: Vini Italiani
Vini Italiani is an irrepressible force on the UK Italian wine scene. It’s been quite a year for this retailer, with a new app, a site slated for Greenwich and pop-ups in London ‘piazzas’ all adding to a fabulous list and buzzy business model.
Uncorked has a small, elegantly curated Italian wine list to fit its personal, engaging style.
New Zealand Specialist of the Year: The New Zealand Cellar
The New Zealand Cellar is, in the words of one judge, ‘everything you’d want a specialist to be’. This operation is all about a wide-ranging and ever- diversifying list of Kiwi wines – but also a restless desire to innovate and communicate.
Portugal Specialist of the Year: Direct Wines/Laithwaite’s
Portugal is a category in need of a champion. This year, Laithwaite’s has taken on the challenge, growing sales significantly by refreshing the image of its 73-strong range, working closely with producers and taking an innovative, energetic approach.
Regional France Specialist of the Year: The Wine Society
The Wine Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams must be one of the busiest men in the wine trade, so occupied is he in snuffling out the brilliant value, hugely diverse treasures of regional French wine. It’s a category that accounts for 30% of this ever-impressive merchant’s business.
South Africa Specialist of the Year: Handford Wines
You just need to follow buyer Greg Sherwood’s Twitter feed to witness how Handford Wines brings not only the best South African wines into this country, but their winemakers too. Great events, a great list: overall, a great job in flying the South African wine flag in the UK.
Spain Specialist of the Year: Prohibition Wines
Both of these engaging small merchants showed an admirable commitment to the Spanish cause over the past year. Prohibition expanded and renovated an already impressive Spanish list, working hard to engage its clientele without ever taking itself too seriously.
Runner-up: Highbury Vintners
Highbury ran a tasty series of events and promotions, adding enviable esoterics to the list.
England and Wales Specialist of the Year: Waitrose
Waitrose has set the bar high when it comes to English and Welsh wine. It dominates sales, with 70% market share, and has its own vineyard and Hampshire sparkling wine brand. A great range includes fizz as well as still wines, meaning it is ‘head and shoulders above everyone else’.
Runner-up: Marks & Spencer
Marks & Spencer, meanwhile, is doing laudable work in expanding its range.
USA Specialist of the Year: Roberson Wine
Roberson continues to provide a great range of wines from across the Atlantic, adding three more agencies to a bravura list and providing a comprehensive timetable of US-themed events. In its hands, the new wave has become the establishment.
Organic/Biodynamic Specialist of the Year: Buon Vino
In the words of the judges, Buon Vino lives this category ‘heart and soul’, with a ‘lovely shop’ in Settle and an ‘exciting range’ numbering 800 wines.
Runner-up: Vintage Roots
Vintage Roots is a long-established expert in the field, delivering personable service, impeccable sustainable credentials and excellent value.
‘Other’ Specialist of the Year: Waitrose (for Fortified)
Waitrose’s re-launched range of Sherries are ‘some of the best-value wines in the UK’, according to one judge. Its broader fortified range is well chosen and outstanding in the context.
Runner-up: Lay & Wheeler (for Rhône)
Lay & Wheeler’s Rhône range was commended for its fair pricing and marked improvement of late.