‘This year, judges were brought to tears by the selflessness, devotion and resourcefulness of the UK’s wine retailers,’ recalls competition chairman Peter Richards MW.
‘This speaks volumes about how challenges have been met and, in many cases, overcome in style by purveyors of wine all over the country. It’s also why we were determined to hold these awards: to honour these achievements in adversity. Thanks to the entrants, we were able to raise £25,000 for The Drinks Trust and The Ben charities.
Wine may not be the most important thing in life, but it’s at times like these we learn to value such pleasures and moments more than ever.’
The 2020 local, national and online winners
It takes something special to win the top gong and this year Honest Grapes nailed it. What swung it? Factors like a fierce commitment to sustainability, an engaging online presence and rewarding wine club all helped. But at the heart of it all were a delightful wine list and an unashamed sense of personality and fun. If Decanter readers haven’t checked out Honest Grapes yet, they should.
Runner-up: Majestic Wine
At the historic D Byrne & Co in Lancashire, Covid-19 has enforced a change of venue to the brewery, a move undertaken with bravery and brilliance by all concerned. Meanwhile, deserved recognition here for Majestic, which the judges were delighted to see getting back to what it does best after a turbulent few years, with a bright future ahead.
Booths remains an engaging and lip-smacking destination for wine lovers, with commendable buying and customer engagement leading to well-deserved growth. The Co-op’s environmental and ethical commitment continues to impress as it moves to recyclable packaging, renewable electricity and ever more organic and vegan wines.
Two outstanding names here. Cambridge Wine Merchants sources a fine and often eclectic range while communicating and engaging their clientele in inspired fashion – never more so than during lockdown. As they say, it’s been a ‘super-busy year of hard work, evolution, pragmatism, creativity’. Tanners combines an exceptional list with, as they say, an ambition to ‘sell the fun’.
Loki is a beacon of wine brilliance in the Birmingham area, selling excellent wines with humour and personality. A new site is on the cards for Solihull – long may its well-deserved growth continue. When it comes to retailers with more than one shop in a specific area, WoodWinters does a fine job in Scotland, with a vast list and impressive new website.
Runner-up: The Whalley Wine Shop
When lockdown hit, St Andrews (purveyors of a fine, extensive list) invested in a Morris Minor van to use as a mobile bar for weddings, gave away bottles to those most deserving and helped other local businesses deliver for free. This local community spirit was also in evidence at last year’s winner The Whalley Wine Shop, which has pivoted online in impressive fashion.
Runner-up: Jeroboams Group
Lea & Sandeman goes the extra mile when it comes to sourcing an extensive and rewarding wine list – its shops across London are true temples to wine. A revitalised, dynamic Jeroboams is another boon for London wine lovers.
Runner-up: Philglas & Swiggot
It’s been a year of ups and downs for London wine shops, but both Noble Green and Philglas have not only coped but thrived in commendable fashion. Noble Green continues its impressive growth, based on a wide-ranging list and excellent customer engagement.
Runner-up: Davy & Co (Greenwich)
The Good Wine Shop’s Richmond outlet is a recent but exciting arrival with an excellent range. Instigating audio shelf-talkers and a refilling initiative, together with raising £7,000 for the Greenwich food bank were all testament to the creativity at Davy’s Greenwich shop.
An innovative retailer with an engaging online presence, Wanderlust was a deserving winner, with its emphasis on direct sourcing, sustainable production and an engaging wine club proposition.
Runner-up: Roberson Wine
Some 80% of The Wine Society’s sales are now online and, with a sensational range and ingenuity in customer engagement, it remains a standard-bearer for UK wine retail. Roberson displays a commitment, nimbleness and style online that sets it apart – at the peak of the pandemic, its online retail was up 1,000% year-on-year, with proceeds reinvested in the site.
Runner-up: Savage Vines
It’s heartening to see the number of new players entering this category – many, including Savage Vines, with a great sense of personality. Diogenes (great name) is a self-styled ‘counter-culture wine bar and shop’ in London’s Elephant & Castle with a fiercely eclectic but rewarding list, 95% available by the glass, and an admirable sense of adventure.
Runner-up: The Wine Society
Honest Grapes’ wine club is a major focus for the company – ‘We are very much something to be part of, not just buy from’ – involving excellent engagement via Wine Gurus, tastings, its cash-back ‘pips’ loyalty points, commendable flexibility, as well as a cracking wine range. Judges praised The Wine Society’s Wine Without Fuss buying plan as user-friendly and showcasing excellent wines.