Where to buy wine: Decanter Retailer Award winners 2018
Find out which UK supermarkets, wine merchants and independent retailers won prizes at this year’s Decanter Retailer of the Year Awards…
Decanter Retailer of the Year Awards 2018: See the winners
Winning retailers were announced during a special ceremony held at the OXO2 Tower Wharf on Thursday 20 September. See them below, and see also a list of runners-up.
Who were the judges?
- Peter Richards MW, Awards Chairman – Wine Writer and TV Presenter
- Peter Ranscombe – Wine columnist and drinks blogger for the Scottish Field
- Matt Walls – Contributing editor, Decanter
- Andy Howard MW – Decanter contributor and wine writer
- Fiona Beckett – Food and wine writer, matchingfoodandwine.com
Special thanks to wine sponsor Gonzalez Byass
Outstanding Wine Retailer of the Year: The Wine Society
A fair few names were in contention for this ‘best of the best’ award, but ultimately it was the ‘sense of joy’ that won it for The Wine Society. Top buyers, great wines, good value, impeccable service, constant improvement and a real sense of community. It doesn’t get much better.
Innovator of the Year: Vagabond
Restless innovation is what defines Vagabond. Lately, its engaging hybrid model has incorporated an urban winery (into its Battersea site) and a collaboration range between resident winemaker Gavin Monery and selected producers, plus a new ‘sister’ craft brewery.
Runner-up: Wanderlust Wines
Wanderlust’s impressive ‘automated convenience’ was commended by the judges as a great example of innovation in wine retail.
Supermarket of the Year: Waitrose
Winner Waitrose was described by judges as a retailer ‘back on form’, with a focused buying team, impressive range, excellent customer engagement and ongoing improvements and innovation.
The Co-op deserved recognition for its ‘underrated’ range, ethical sourcing policy and accessible approach.
Online Retailer of the Year: The Wine Society
The Wine Society continues to improve and innovate, reaching out to new consumers and engaging existing ones via its community and forum, investing in its online operations while delivering an outstanding range.
Runner-up: Vin Cognito
Vin Cognito is all about homespun, quirky personality – refreshingly different.
National Wine Shop of the Year: Tanners Wines
Tanners turned 175 in 2017 and remains a beacon for wine retailing in the UK. Innovation is evidenced in strong web growth; events have seen 300% uptick in two years; and discounts are funded by Tanners rather than suppliers.
Runner-up: Woodwinters Wines & Whiskies
WoodWinters continues to grow impressively: ‘A quality outfit,’ said one judge.
Regional Wine Shop of the Year: D.Byrne & Co
‘It serves its region brilliantly – plus you’d travel a long way to visit this place.’ Such was one judge’s glowing verdict on D Byrne, the fifth generation Lancashire treasure trove of wine that remains unapologetically traditional but boasts a vast range (often brilliant value) with bags of character.
Runner-up: House of Townend
Yorkshire-based House of Townend also impressed with its excellent list.
London Multi-Store of the Year: Lea & Sandeman
A reliable range of considerable depth as well as breadth (mostly sourced direct from producers), excellent service and an emphasis on customer engagement saw Lea & Sandeman prevail in this hardfought category.
Vagabond remains a delightfully innovative set-up with venues that are great places to enjoy wine.
London Wine Shop – Turnover over £1 million: Harrods
Harrods is on a mission to ‘make fine wine fun’ and, while in some ways daunting, its glittering wine store is showstopping and engaging in equal measure. Browse the 1,500-strong range (with 600 new recent additions), taking in the aroma tables and interactive videos.
Runner-up: The Good Wine Shop
The Good Wine Shop continues to impress in this category.
London Neighbourhood Wine Shop – Turnover under £1 million: Noble Green Wines
This category was for the smaller players and Noble Green won it for an excellent range, fairly priced and well presented, as well as a clear sense of personality and commitment to the local community.
Runner-up: Dynamic Vines
Dynamic Vines is growing fast – long may it thrive and develop.
Newcomer of the Year: Tivoli Wines
Tivoli displays ‘a genuine passion for wine’ that impressed the judges and represents ‘a great bonus for the people of Cheltenham’. The new owners have been busy since taking over in 2016, launching a Wine Library (with Enomatics plus Coravin for fine wines), a new website and a wine school.
Subscription Wine Club of Year: Lay & Wheeler – Fine Wine Discover Club
The personal touch is crucial when helping customers buying fine wine – and Lay & Wheeler has got the balance spot on with its Fine Wine Discovery Club. ‘Unfussy, simple, delightful: bravo!’ said one customer. It has also boosted average spends significantly.
Runner-up: Tanners Wines
En Primeur Campaign of the Year: Goedhuis & Co
A genuinely personal touch and innovative communications (videos and WhatsApp, among others) helped Goedhuis & Co to perform impressively in both Bordeaux and Burgundy campaigns. Reasonable, user friendly cellarage operations also help.
Runner-up: Corney & Barrow
It’s hard to fault the notably personal and professional service offered by Corney & Barrow too.
Australia Specialist of the Year: Z&B Vintners/The Vinorium
The judges were wowed by The Vinorium’s mouthwatering range, focused on premium Australian wines with impressive back vintages and a range of formats. In fact, this ‘good-looking, well run’ Kent-based retailer impressed the judges all-round.
Bordeaux Specialist of the Year: Berry Bros & Rudd
The year-round commitment to Bordeaux, including its fine own-label bottlings (including the iconic Good Ordinary Claret) and Bordeaux-focused education and communication, won it for BBR.
Runner-up: BI Wines & Spirits
Meanwhile, BI continues to provide an impressive and engaging Bordeaux offering too.
Burgundy Specialist of the Year: Goedhuis & Co
Goedhuis & Co displays a laudable drive to innovate and communicate effectively, majoring on personal service, which has delivered excellent results. An outstanding list helps, ranging from good value to mature bottles, along with engaging events.
Runner-up: Justerini & Brooks
Champagne & Sparkling Specialist of the Year: The Finest Bubble
The Finest Bubble is all about a jaw-dropping line-up of grande marque Champagne, with the depth (vintages back to the 1970s, for example) as well as breadth to wow any wine lover.
Runner-up: The Good Wine Shop
The Good Wine Shop’s grower Champagnes and engaging events are a contrast, but also commendable.
England & Wales Specialist of the Year: Waitrose
Waitrose is a long-standing champion of the English & Welsh wine category, featuring local wines in stores and even going so far as to plant a vineyard and make its own Hampshire fizz. It has helped to grow the category as a whole and remains a leader in this field.
Fortified & Sweet Specialist of the Year: Waitrose
It’s heartening to see a supermarket offering such an outstanding range of fortified and sweet wines, with the Sherry range particularly impressive. Well worth a protracted rummage.
Germany Specialist of the Year: The Wine Barn
The Wine Barn is all about a bespoke, personal service – and a pioneering list. The company continues to innovate, having recently launched its new dedicated e-commerce site.
Italy Specialist of the Year: Justerini & Brooks
Italy is not perhaps what J&B is best known for, but it has quietly built up an 970-strong, ‘extraordinary’, wide-ranging and delectable list, particularly exciting in Piedmont, with events to match.
Runner-up: Vini Italiani
Vini Italiani continues to expand and ‘seduce’ us with its energy and excellent Italian offering.
Loire Specialist of the Year: Lay & Wheeler
The Loire rarely dominates ranges, but nonetheless represents a great opportunity for merchants. Lay & Wheeler has seized the initiative brilliantly, with a small but growing range based on reputable producers and terroirs, plus an enthusiastic, ambitious approach.
Runner-up: Yapp Bros
New Zealand Specialist of the Year: The New Zealand Wine Cellar
It’s been quite an adventure for Melanie Brown since she opened The New Zealand Wine Cellar stocking delicious Kiwi bottlings in 2014 – but the business continues to thrive, reflecting the compelling nature of the New Zealand wine scene itself.
Regional France Specialist of the Year: The Wine Society
Hard to fault The Wine Society’s strength and breadth when it comes to regional French wine, from Alsace to Corsica via Madiran and Beaujolais, with three outstanding buyers covering more than 150 wines at competitive price points.
Runner-up: Yapp Bros
Yapp also has a tempting regional French list.
Rhône Specialist of the Year: Lay & Wheeler
Lay & Wheeler is doing a laudable job building the Rhône category, with a fine producer base, competitively priced, showing impressive growth.
Runner-up: Yapp Brothers
Yapp also delivers well on the Rhône front.
South Africa Specialist of the Year: Swig
What set Swig apart was a long-standing commitment to the region together with a mouthwatering range and commendable activities to promote the South African category.
Runner-up: Love Wine
Love Wine also over-delivers in terms of championing the Cape.
Spain Specialist of the Year: L’Oculto
A genuine specialist, with just 60 new-wave wines, L’Oculto ‘lives and breathes Spain’. It does an excellent job fostering a love of the category locally in Lewisham, majoring on eclectic, buzzy, natural charm – with a bit of an attitude.
Runner-up: The Wine Society
USA Specialist of the Year: Roberson Wine
Roberson’s US wine selection is a cutting-edge range that continues to evolve and grow – from 40 wines in 2013 to 222 now, some 19% of the entire list. Roberson also supports the category on a broader basis, raising funds following the wild fires.
Runner-up: Berry Bros & Rudd
Berry Bros boasts an excellent and growing list.
Organic & Biodynamic Specialist of the Year: The Natural Wine Co/Buon Vino
Another impressive year for these natural and organic/biodynamic specialists, with a second store, imaginative staff and customer engagement building on a comprehensive list. ‘They put their heart and soul into this,’ said one judge. It shows.