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Meet the judges: Q&A with Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW

Master of Wine Michelle Cherutti-Kowal joins the growing Decanter Retailer Awards 2022 judging panel alongside returning industry experts Peter Richards MW (Chairman), Andy Howard MW, Laura Clay, and new judges Regine Lee MW and Vidya Narasimhan.

Michelle is a highly respected wine lecturer, having taught wine industry professionals since 2004 at WSET in London. She has authored articles on wines, wine regions and wine-related events in trade publications and WSET journals.

Utilising her specialist knowledge, Michelle consults restaurants and wineries as well as acts as an ambassador for trade bodies.

With entries now open for the 2022 Decanter Retailer Awards, we get to know more about the awards’ newest judge, including her thoughts on wine retail in the UK, wine buying tips and what she looks forward to most about judging…

Q&A with Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW, Decanter Retailer Awards 2022 judge

Tell us about yourself briefly. How did you get into the wine industry?

Wine has always been in my life; a glass of wine was part of our lunch/dinner routine – my father was from Italy and it was normal for adults to have a glass of wine with a meal. Both he and my grandfather always had a small glass of red wine with food. The wine was never complex but a constant presence.

When I moved to the UK over 20 years ago, I decided to turn my passion for wine into my career; I am a wine educator, judge, consultant and wine writer. I do a bit of everything.

As a new judge on the 2022 panel, what’s your impression of the Decanter Retailer Awards?

Its a “nod of approval” from the wine industry. It’s also a guide to consumers about where to buy wine or a specific type of wine.

What do you think is unique about the UK wine retail industry?

The fact you can buy wine anywhere; at a supermarket, corner shop, independent retailer and online. We have an amazing array of choices in the UK.  Own labels – I am always impressed at the quality and value of own label wines.

What do you think makes a wine retailer stand out?

Naturally, wine selection but other than that, guidance and advise. Consumers find buying wine intimidating, so guidance is critical for sales. Consumers who have some wine knowledge tend to spend a bit more per bottle and that is good for the whole industry. Advice can be as simple as a well written shelf-talker, or a gold medal from a wine competition!

Wine retailers have had to quickly adjust due to Covid. Is there anything you’ve noticed retailers doing that has impressed you? 

I love the half bottle craze, especially fine wine in half bottles. Good retailers have done so many amazing things during Covid, from sending out samples, to bringing together producers and consumers via Zoom. The innovation has been fantastic.

What tips do you have for someone buying wine in the UK? 

Discover what you like and try and explore and find alternatives!!  Instead of Sauvignon Blanc try a Rueda or Albarino from Spain! Your local wine merchant can give you advice!

What do you look forward to most as a new judge on the 2022 panel?

The entries of course! I look forward to seeing the innovation and selection.  

Enter the Decanter Retailer Awards 2022

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