Top retailers from the UK came out in force to honour their peers in the UK Merchant Awards and to witness the revealing of the IWC Champion Wines and Winemaker of the Year winners. The winemakers didn’t get the memo about it being a more low-key event this year and donned bow ties for their virtual appearances...
It was a good night for Maison Albert Bichot. Its Clos de la Roche Grand Cru Cuvée Cyrot Chaudron Hospices de Beaune 2019 beat wines from over 50 countries to be awarded the Champion Red Trophy while its Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru Domaine du Pavillon 2019 was declared the best Chardonnay of 2021, winning the International Chardonnay Trophy and IWC Organic Trophy 2021.
It was a good night for French producers in general:
- Piper-Heidsieck won the Champion Sparkling Trophy for its Vintage 2008 Champagne, and its chef de cave Émilien Boutillat was named IWC Sparkling Winemaker of the Year. Less than three years into the role, it’s Émilien’s first IWC Sparkling Winemaker of the Year title, but proves he was the right choice to succeed eight-times winner Régis Camus.
- Christophe Briotet from Burgundy estate Edouard Delaunay was declared IWC White Winemaker of the Year – after gaining the Red Winemaker of the Year title last year. It’s an incredible start for this young winemaker, in what is only his third vintage with the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits-based producer. He said: “It’s such an honour as there are so many amazing winemakers out there. It’s a team effort and I’m just so humbled that our wines and our winemaking have been singled out again this year.” Owner Laurent Delaunay, who bought back and refurbished his great-grandfather’s estate at the end of 2017, commented: “For many years it has been my ambition to honour my family’s legacy by returning the Edouard Delaunay estate to its former glory and making it a leading Burgundian fine wine house once more. This award is one more step towards that goal.”
- Languedoc producer Les Domaines Paul Mas now has two Great Value Champion wines in its portfolio: its Jardin de Roses 2020 was named Great Value Champion Rosé and its Réserve Languedoc Blanc 2020 was named Great Value Champion White.
- Having been awarded three trophies, nine golds, 78 silvers and 83 bronzes at the IWC over the past five years, fellow Languedoc producer Cave de Roquebrun was presented with the Len Evans Trophy.
Another regular winner, Hans Tschida, regained the Sweet Winemaker of the Year title from Dr Klaus Peter Heigel of Weingut Hans Wirsching. It’s the seventh time this Austrian has won this title. In a video message, he said: “It is really a great honour. We are a family-owned winery in Illmitz on the beautiful Lake Neusiedler. With its own special microclimate, which makes sweet wines like this possible in the first place. The balanced style and unique varietals result in our passion for both. Thank you very much for this special award.”
English wine producer Roebuck Estates won the award for the Best Wine in its First Year of Production, the James Rogers Trophy, for its Rosé de Noirs 2016.
The Red Winemaker of the Year award went to Wolf Blass’s Chris Hatcher and Steven Frost (pictured in bowties with Wolf Blass above), who were presented with the Len Evans Trophy last year for their consistency over the past five years.
IWC Winemakers of the YearIWC Sweet Winemaker of the Year 2021: Hans Tschida from Hans Tschida
IWC Fortified Winemaker of the Year 2021: Sergio Martínez from Emilio Lustau
IWC Sparkling Winemaker of the Year 2021: Emilien Boutillat from Piper-Heidsieck
IWC White Winemaker of the Year 2021: Christophe Briotet from Edouard Delaunay
IWC Red Winemaker of the Year 2021: Chris Hatcher & Steven Frost from Wolf Blass
The Champion wines(sponsored by Hellmann Worldwide Logistics)
The IWC champion wines are selected following a retasting of all the trophy winners from IWC 2021.
IWC Champion Sweet Wine 2021 (Alois Kracher Trophy): Tenuta Di Capezzana Vinsanto di Carmignano Riserva 2013
IWC Champion Fortified Wine 2021 (Manuel Lozano Trophy): Emilio Lustau Palo Cortado VORS 30 Years
IWC Champion Sparkling Wine 2021 (Daniel Thibault Trophy): Piper-Heidsieck Vintage 2008
IWC Champion White Wine 2021: Domaine Sigalas Santorini Barrel 2020
IWC Champion Red Wine 2021: Maison Albert Bichot Clos de la Roche Grand Cru Cuvée Cyrot Chaudron Hospices de Beaune 2019
Great Value Champion wines(sponsored by Reflex Label Plus)
Here are the best-performing wines under £15 at IWC 2021:
IWC Great Value Champion Sweet 2021: Morrisons The Best Botrytis Semillon 2017
IWC Great Value Champion Fortified 2021: Waitrose & Partners Nº1 Fino del Puerto Don Luis
IWC Great Value Champion Sparkling 2021: Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne NV
IWC Great Value Champion Rosé 2021: Les Domaines Paul Mas Jardin de Roses 2020
IWC Great Value Champion White 2021: Les Domaines Paul Mas Réserve Languedoc Blanc 2020
IWC Great Value Champion Red 2021: Virgen del Galir Maruxa Mencia 2019
Other wine awardsIWC Own Label Range of the Year 2021 (sponsored by Freixenet Copestick): Marks & Spencer
IWC Fairtrade Award 2021: Bodega Argento Artesano de Argento Organic Malbec - Cabernet Franc 2020
IWC Sustainable Trophy 2021: Valli Vineyards Pinot Noir Gibbston Vineyard 2019
IWC Organic Trophy 2021: Maison Albert Bichot Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru Domaine du Pavillon 2019
IWC Best Wine in First Year of Production (James Rogers Trophy 2021): Roebuck Estates Rosé de Noirs 2016
Len Evans Trophy 2021 (for consistency over 5 years): Cave de Roquebrun
Honour for AurelioThe Lifetime Achievement Award went to Chile’s Aurelio Montes, who co-founded Viñas Montes in 1988 to produce premium wines for the export market.
All he had at that time was a dream he shared with a few colleagues. They built Viñas Montes, in the Colchagua Valley, from nothing. The wines are now available in more than 100 countries and critics rave about them.
Reflecting on the success, Aurelio recalled the thinking behind it: “I thought Chile deserved to produce better wines because the conditions here – geographically speaking, climatically speaking, even the skills of the people – were pretty well suited for something better than ‘good value for money’.”
So, with a wife and five children to support, he quit his job… to become a consultant and start Viñas Montes as “a little retirement project”.
The UK Merchant AwardsThe UK Merchant Awards shine a spotlight on the extraordinary achievements of UK wine retailers. This year, new awards were introduced to recognise the impressive work undergone by the trade in adapting to the everchanging landscape under Covid-19.
The Harrow at Little Bedwyn was awarded IWC Restaurant Initiative of the Year, impressing the judges with the hundreds of free meals it supplied to the local community during lockdown, despite having closed for the owners’ planned retirement in March 2020, as well as going on to repurpose its kitchen to create an extremely successful gourmet takeaway service. “We offer a gourmet takeaway at £45pp for pick up every Friday morning – it’s an eight-course menu that’s simple to finish off. On some Fridays we hit 200 which is far higher than we could do in a week with the restaurant,” Roger Jones said. The restaurant is now the Jones’s home, with a wine studio out the back for selling “rare and iconic wines” and hosting special wine lunches.
Tring Winery collected the IWC Innovator of the Year award for its Online Wine Tasting Club. When lockdown hit in March 2020, co-founders Alex Taylor and Jamie Smith (above) swiftly pivoted the business, carrying out online tasting sessions with wine samples sent out in their own designed and manufactured eco-friendly pouches. In a statement, they said: “After shipping more than 16,000 tasting sets, we are delighted to have won the IWC Innovator of the Year award. It has been incredibly hard work, and this recognition is real validation of the fact that we have created something truly groundbreaking. The fact that we have also created something that people admire and appreciate is humbling and an honour.”
IWC On-Trade Supporter of the Year was awarded to Hallgarten & Novum Wines who worked with its suppliers to launch the widely praised initiative to supply 100,000 free glasses of wine to its on-trade customers. Hallgarten & Novum also received awards for IWC Merchant Wine List of the Year and Specialist Merchant for Southern & Eastern Europe.
Liberty Wines picked up the awards for IWC Large Agent and IWC Wine Educator, as well as IWC Specialist Merchant for Australia and Italy.
Impressing the judges with the scale of its logistics, the level of service it continued to offer its customers and the support given to its suppliers, The Wine Society (above) took home IWC Merchant of the Year, IWC Dynamic Merchant of the Year, and an astounding four further awards for Wine Club of the Year, and Specialist Merchant for Austria, Portugal and Regional France. Highly Commended for the new IWC Dynamic Merchant of the Year award was Welsh-based wine importer and wholesaler, Daniel Lambert Wines, who has been a mouthpiece for the trade post-Brexit, highlighting the bureaucratic and financial challenges faced by businesses in its wake.
Also new for this year was the IWC National Merchant of the Year award which went to Majestic Wine, who had an extremely busy year implementing all-round improvements across service, training and their drinks range. The changes, along with a new website, reflect the passion of the business and investment in its future success.
Waitrose was awarded IWC Supermarket of the Year as well as Specialist Merchant of the Year for England. Marks & Spencer also had a stellar evening, winning two IWC Specialist Merchant of the Year awards for Rosé and Champagne and Sparkling as well as IWC Own Label Range of the Year.
Helen McGinn, co-chair and IWC UK Merchant Awards judge, commented: “It’s always important to take stock and recognise the brilliant work of people behind the wonderful industry we work in, and this year even more so. We were blown away with the entries we received and the support, collaboration and innovation that so many businesses have brought to the industry this year.”
IWC UK Merchant Awards 2021IWC Restaurant Initiative of the Year 2021: The Harrow at Little Bedwyn
Highly commended: Tranga
IWC Small Agent of the Year 2021: Daniel Lambert Wines
IWC Medium Agent of the Year 2021: Bancroft Wines
IWC Large Agent of the Year 2021 (sponsored by Harpers Wine & Spirit): Liberty Wines
Highly commended: Hallgarten & Novum Wines
IWC Online Retailer of the Year 2021 (sponsored by Zwiesel Glas): Laithwaites
IWC Innovator of the Year 2021: Tring Winery for The Online Wine Tasting Club
IWC Small Independent Merchant of the Year 2021 (sponsored by Revista de Vinhos): Highbury Vintners
IWC Large Independent Merchant of the Year 2021 (sponsored by Maison Castel): Cambridge Wine Merchants
IWC On-Trade Supporter of the Year 2021 (sponsored by Washington State Wine): Hallgarten & Novum Wines
Highly commended: Bibendum Wine; Liberty Wines
IWC Merchant Wine List of the Year 2021: Hallgarten & Novum Wines
IWC Wine Educator of the Year 2021 (sponsored by WSET): Liberty Wines
Highly commended: Bibendum Wine
IWC National Convenience Chain of the Year 2021 (sponsored by Lanchester Wines): Co-op
IWC Wine Club of the Year 2021: The Wine Society
IWC Consumer Campaign of the Year 2021: Majestic Wine - The List for Spring
Highly commended: Freixenet Copestick - I heart Superheroes
IWC Dynamic Merchant of the Year 2021: The Wine Society
Highly commended: Daniel Lambert Wines
IWC National Merchant of the Year 2021: Majestic Wine
IWC Supermarket of the Year 2021 (sponsored by Encirc): Waitrose & Partners
Highly commended: E H Booth & Co
IWC Merchant of the Year 2021: The Wine Society
IWC Regional Merchants of the Year 2021Northern England: Bon Coeur Fine Wines
Central England: Bottles Wine Bar & Merchants
Eastern England: Cambridge Wine Merchants
London: Highbury Vintners
Northern Ireland: James Nicholson Wine
Scotland: Woodwinters Wines & Whiskies
South West England: Averys of Bristol Wine Merchant
Wales: Mumbles Fine Wines
IWC Specialist Merchant of the Year 2021Champagne and Sparkling: Marks & Spencer
En Primeur: Goedhuis & Co
England: Waitrose & Partners
Fortified: Vintage Wine and Port
Australia: Liberty Wines
Austria: The Wine Society
Bordeaux (sponsored by Crus Bourgeois du Médoc): Wilkinson Vintners
Burgundy: Goedhuis & Co
Germany (sponsored by Wines of Germany): The Wine Barn
Italy: Liberty Wines
Languedoc Roussillon: Yapp Brothers
Loire: Lay & Wheeler
New Zealand: Specialist Cellars
Portugal (sponsored by Revista de Vinhos): The Wine Society
Regional France: The Wine Society
Rhône: Yapp Brothers
Rosé (sponsored by Maison Castel): Marks & Spencer)
Sake: Tazaki Foods
South Africa: Museum Wines
South America: Taste Argentina
Southern & Eastern Europe: Novel Wines
Highly commended: Hallgarten & Novum Wines
Spain: Indigo Wine