Mags Janjo DipWSET joins the 2021 Decanter Retailer Awards judging panel alongside returning industry experts Peter Richards MW (Chairman), Andy Howard MW, Laura Clay and Peter Ranscombe.
With more than a decade of industry experience across wine retail, sales and brand creation, Janjo now has his own importer company, MJ Wine Cellars, offering wine education and consultancy services.
In 2020 he partnered with Jancis Robinson OBE MW to launch the BAME Wine Professionals website – an initiative to shine light on wine talent in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME).
With entries now open for the 2021 competition, we get to know more about the newest member of the Decanter Retailer Awards panel, including his views on wine retail in the UK, wine buying tips and what he looks forward to most about judging.
Q&A with Mags Janjo, Decanter Retailer Awards 2021 judge
Tell us about yourself. How did you get into the wine industry?
Like most in the trade, I’d say I ‘fell into this wonderful industry.’ Having completed Maths and Sciences at 6thform, I was fortunate enough to work for an employer who sponsored the WSET Level 2 in Wines and Spirits. I quickly realised that what I had studied at college, neatly dovetailed into the world of wine. There was no turning back once I’d caught the bug! I went on to occupy sales roles to the on and off-trade and eventually set up and MJ Wine Cellars in 2019.
As a new judge to the 2021 panel, what’s your impression of the Decanter Retailer Awards?
The DRA is one of the most recognisable industry awards and holds remarkable weight and credibility across both the on and off trade. Merchants around the UK proudly display their Decanter Awards in shop fronts and comms. It’s really thrilling to be part of the judging team this year!
What do you think is unique about the UK wine retail industry?
The UK retail scene offers unparalleled depth and value. Curated by the wonderfully talented buyers, consumers are treated to wines from all corners of the globe – which we sometimes take for granted. It’s a stark contrast to some countries, where the wine selection can be extremely nationally or even regionally focussed. It’s a blessing that we live in such a marginal climate – it forces us to import almost everything we consume!
What, for you, makes a wine retailer stand out?
The key word must be value. It must offer bang for your buck, no matter what region or category it specialises in. Once that’s at its core, most things tend to follow.
Wine retailers have had to quickly adjust due to Covid. Is there anything you’ve noticed retailers doing that has impressed you?
Wine retail relies on tastings and samplings. The way the retailers adapted to offering online alternatives has been hugely impressive. This goes beyond just tastings – we have seen producer Zoom calls, interactive sessions, wine courses, etc switch to a digital delivery which is particularly impressive, as the wine world is not known for being particularly tech savvy!
In the past 12 months, what have been the biggest challenges and/or successes facing your business?
Moving wine from Europe to the UK has been more costly and more importantly, more time consuming. That screw was further tightened by the pandemic. A much less talked about issue has been cash flow. Most of the trade works on 30, 60 or 90 days credit terms, with stock from Europe typically taking a week or two from cellar door to UK bonded warehouse. An extreme example was a wine taking 5 weeks from Austria, giving the importer just over 15 business days before the invoice was due!
What tips do you have for someone buying wine in the UK?
Travel off the beaten path – there are so many remarkable regions and wines in the country. Eastern Europe, Cyprus, Hungary, Georgia… these are all new frontiers to explore!
What do you look forward to most as a new judge on the 2021 panel?
Sitting on the other side of the table is set to be incredible amounts of fun, having worked for so many retailers who traditionally entered the DRA under various categories. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in!*
*We trust our judges’ integrity, but to avoid any questionable conflicts of interest, Mags will not judge the Subscription Wine Club and Online Retailer categories.