Small-scale wineries have hailed the Wine-Stars competition that has just taken place as ‘revolutionary’.
The brainchild of Catherine Monahan of importer Clink Wines, Wine-Stars announced itself as a Dragon’s Den-style competition in which wine producers looking for a UK listing pitched their wines to a panel.
The panel in question, responsible for some £300m of wine in the UK, included Andrew Shaw of Waitrose, Justin Howard-Sneyd of Laithwaites, Joan Torrents of Mitchells & Butlers, as well as label designer Kevin Shaw of Stranger & Stranger Design.
Two other wine merchants were on the panel: Robin Davis of Swig and Ben Stephenson of Hanging Ditch.
In the final of the competition, winemakers had three minutes to sell the concept behind their wines.
Finalists had been whittled down from 100 wines to 20, all of which had to present – in person or by video – to the panel on the last day of the London Wine Trade Fair last week.
‘The idea was not to judge a wine just on its contents in the bottle,’ Monahan told Decanter.com, ‘It was to judge based on ALL things that buyers need to know to really want to list products in the UK.’
The finalists had to present a business and marketing plan, to discuss packaging, price and marketing and transport plans, and to show the story behind the wine.
‘I had no idea six weeks ago whether this would work, but I’m awestruck,’ said Robert Joseph, one of the organisers of the competition and a panel member.
Next year, Monahan plans to take the show to Hong Kong and to the Prowein trade fair in Germany, with possible competitions in the US after that.
One of the more intriguing entries was Moment of Silence, a blend of Chenin, Viogner and Chardonnay, from South Africa’s BLANKbottle winery, which displays only its name on an all-white label.
‘I got the idea for the wine when this lady came to me and said she didn’t like Shiraz. So, I gave her a 100% Shiraz but didn’t tell her what it was, and she loved it,’ Pieter Walser, the founder and CEO of BLANKbottle told Decanter.com.
Dave Cush of finalist Spring Vale wines in Tasmania said in an enthusiastic report on the competition, ‘It is very apparent that Catherine has come up with a revolutionary idea that will add another dimension to the wine business.
‘It’s too early for details, but as one of the judges said, “By hook or by crook, Spring Vale is in the UK”. Exciting times.’
Monahan said that 90 wines that didn’t make the final will go on online auction from today, allowing any interested retailers to request samples and information.
The final list of 10 (below) have been chosen by one or more wine distributors and will be offered guaranteed listings at prominent retailers. Prices vary widely but – retail in the UK – would range from around £6-£30, with most being £10-£17 a bottle.
1. BLANKbottle Wines – South Africa
2. Co-Operativa Vinicola Aurora – Brazil
3. GrassHopper Rock – New Zealand
4. te Pā – New Zealand
5. Puro Uno – Argentina
6. V&N Cellars – Spain
7. Vinumterrae – Spain
8. Spring Vale Wines – Australia
9. Champagne La Courte-Godbillon – France
10. Chaffey Bros – Australia
Written by Adam Lechmere