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Decanter Retailer Awards 2023: The key to success

A word from our expert judges on what they look for when searching for the best UK wine retailers.

UK focused, Decanter Retailer Awards recognises excellence across a range of categories to help you find the best places to buy and enjoy wine across the nation.

This year the awards’ categories are expanding to including the best UK wineries to buy wines at, with a visit to the cellar door or through outstanding wine club offerings. It’s also included new categories to highlight the best Own Brand wine ranges and to recognise outstanding wine buyers behind your favourite wine shops.

With 2023 entries now open until 26th June, we hear from some of the Decanter Retailer Awards judges about what they are looking for with these new categories to determine the best of the best with a Decanter Retailer Awards win.

Enter Decanter Retailer Awards 2023 here

Decanter Retailer Awards: The key to success

UK Wineries: Best UK Cellar Door & Best UK Winery Wine Club

Nowadays many wineries are not just places for wine production. They have evolved with cellar doors, tasting rooms, wine clubs, vineyard tours, restaurants and more to become places where the magic of wine can be experienced.

As UK wineries with cellar doors continue to grow with hospitality at the forefront, DRA is looking to recognise and celebrate the best cellar doors and winery wine clubs across the nation.

Chairman of Decanter Retailer Awards, broadcaster, writer and Master of Wine, Peter Richards MW shares insightful comments on what he thinks constitutes an outstanding cellar door and winery wine club: 

‘We judges are very much looking forward to tackling the new UK winery categories for both cellar door and wine club. The UK wine scene has undergone a thrilling evolution over the last two decades and is now making significant volumes of sparkling and still wine across the nation.

Cellar door operations and wine clubs have duly emerged and made immediate impact – direct to consumer sales are by far the biggest sales channels for UK wineries, with cellar door sales alone up over 200% in the last few years, accounting for one in every three bottles sold.

For the Best UK Cellar Door award it’s really about why a winery is worth the visit. It could be access to great deals or limited edition wines, the opportunity to meet the people behind the wines, vineyard tours and winery experiences, the chance to enjoy the wine in situ, perhaps have something to eat at the same time. Importantly, this isn’t just a ‘biggest = best’ award where throwing money at a cellar door will guarantee a win. It’s more about why we judges would recommend the visit, what makes that experience special or magical.

For the Best UK Winery Wine Club award we’re looking for compelling reasons for people to sign up and join in. Access to wines that offer great value and quality is vital – but there’s more to it than that. Details count, as does the personal touch. Engagement is crucial – good wine clubs go beyond the simple ‘sign up for X discount’ model and instead invite and involve their members to be part of the winery’s world, including regular events, among other initiatives.’

Wine Buyers: Best Wine Buyer and Best Wine Buying Team

Behind every great wine merchant there are unsung heroes – wine buyers – that bring to light gems for consumers to try.

With their vast knowledge, understanding of the wine industry and the most current trends, plus leaders of future trends, buyers are the decision makers of what we find in our local, regional or national shops, with the best deserving of recognition in helping us discover the best, most interesting, competitively priced wines.

Laura Clay, wine educator with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, gives us her thoughts on this new category: 

The UK wine buyers are arguably the greatest in the world. They seek out the best from well-known regions as well as introducing us to new and thrilling wine delights, driving a hard bargain to be able to sell at the right price.

It goes without saying that a good wine buyer needs to know the market they are operating in and have a head for numbers. It isn’t enough to have a passion and knowledge of the subject of wine but it is of equal importance to the business acumen and, for me, this is where our wine buyers are ahead of the game.

I can’t wait to read the entrants to this exciting new category.’

Retailers: Own Brand Wine Range

Retailers are expanding their offerings by seeking out wines to bottle and sell under their own labels. A specialism in wine retail, these ‘own brand’ labels can compete on quality and price with some of the best being recognised annually with top scores at Decanter World Wine Awards

Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW, wine lecturer, author and consultant comments on what the judging panel will be looking for when assessing entries for this category: 

‘Own brand’ in the UK is such a vibrant category. As someone who moved to this country over 20 years ago, I was amazed at the ‘own brand’ range of wines which don’t exist in many countries. I am the first one to recommend to anyone that ‘own brand’ is excellent value for money and consumers should not be embarrassed to offer anyone an ‘own brand’ wine (something which I heard over and over again).

For the retailers – I am looking for clever marketing. What is great about this own brand? Is the region clear? Is the winemaking partner clear and what is the story? Often so many consumers do not realise that ‘own brand’ wine is made by top producers so I am looking for companies that ‘sing it loud from the rooftops.’

Enter DRA 2023 now

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