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The best UK wine merchants

International Wine Challenge celebrated the outstanding achievements of the UK wine trade, from merchants and distributors to educators and marketers, during its awards evening at The Hurlingham Club in London last night…


Le Gavroche sommelier Rémi Cousin and one of the judges, Helen McGinn

The best UK wine merchants
  • Chris Boiling
  • 2022-07-08
The International Wine Challenge brought the UK wine industry together at a live awards evening last night to celebrate the winners of this year’s UK Merchant Awards and IWC 2022.


The ceremony at the prestigious Hurlingham Club in London saw Liberty Wines (above) crowned with the top award of IWC Merchant of the Year. Liberty also snapped up a further six awards, including Merchant Educator of the Year, Specialist Merchant Australia and Specialist Merchant Italy, which it has won for three consecutive years.

Goedhuis & Co (above) held on to the titles of Specialist Merchant Burgundy and En Primeur, and picked up Specialist Merchant Bordeaux this year.

Wine Society
The Wine Society (above) also achieved multiple successes in the categories of Specialist Merchant Austria, Specialist Merchant Portugal, Specialist Merchant Regional France, and Wine Club of the Year.

Merchant Ultracomida/Spanish Wines Direct, a newcomer in the Welsh category, was awarded IWC Regional Merchant Wales 2022.
Naked Wines won IWC Online Retailer of the Year for the first time and is one of the youngest online retailers to ever win this award. It captured the judges’ attention with its unique e-commerce platform which runs similarly to a social media network, giving its 964,000-member community the opportunity to speak directly to wine producers. Judges were touched by the community aspect this online platform provides and were also impressed by the retailer’s ethos and message of unison, giving a friendly feel that buzzes with life.

This year, the Innovator of the Year award went to Vagabond Wines for two highly impressive campaigns launched within the past year. The first, Vagabond SOMM, is a personalised wine subscription service that intuitively picks up on customers’ likes and dislikes in order to deliver sample bottles tailored to their preferences. Its second campaign, ‘Tap & Pour’ (pictured), is a smartphone app that links to customers’ bank cards and, when held against a sensor in the store’s enomatic wine machines, it reveals tasting notes as well as the option to purchase and pour the wine directly. The judges noted that these initiatives paved the way for providing consumers with access to a wide variety of wines.
ThirtyFifty, the well-established education and e-commerce platform, was awarded Consumer Educator of the Year, a new award for 2022. Owners Chris and Jane Scott were recognised for providing great content and delivering private and corporate WSET-certified wine tastings with genuine passion and personality. ThirtyFifty is named after the latitudes where most of the world's wine grapes are grown, between 30 degrees and 50 degrees latitude, north and south of the equator. The online platform has shown resilience throughout the Covid pandemic. It continues to expand its database and also hosts an e-commerce wine shop that stocks the wines tasted at its events.

This year the Supermarket of the Year title was awarded to Waitrose (above) for the third year in a row, while Marks & Spencer was highly commended in this category.
For the first time, the Wine List of the Year was split into two categories – Fine Dining and Contemporary Dining. Mayfair restaurant Le Gavroche won the Fine Dining award, with head sommelier Rémi Cousin (main picture) praised for a list, now on an iPad, containing a “truly spectacular selection of amazing wines”, while also being “easy to navigate and search out hidden gems”.
Spanish tapas restaurant chain Ibérica, winner of the Contemporary Dining award, was praised for its “clever, well thought-out wine list with enough information to help anybody choose the right wine for their meal”. Sommelier and group bar manager, Nacho Ordiz, has wines available to be served by porron (a traditional Spanish glass pitcher to decant and aerate wine – 375ml) as well as by the glass (150ml) and bottle (750ml). Wine regions on the list include DOC Rioja, DOC Priorat, DO Ribera del Duero, DO Bierzo and DO Rias Baixas.
Helen McGinn, co-chair and IWC UK Merchant Awards judge, commented that: “The judges were truly overwhelmed at the initiative and excellence within the level of entries for the 2022 awards. Each year as the categories grow it’s never easy to pick winners from the amazing candidates that champion our wonderful industry.”

Whisky Exchange
Other awards announced on the night included:

  • IWC Consumer Campaign of the Year 2022 – The Whisky Exchange for The Champagne Show 2021 (above)
  • IWC Sake Brewer of the Year 2022 – Niizawa Sake Brewery Co Ltd.
  • IWC Fairtrade Award 2022 – Spa Reserve Chenin Blanc Fairtrade 2021
  • IWC Sustainable Trophy 2022Trinty Hill Wines Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2020
  • IWC Organic Trophy 2022 – Giesen Single Vineyard Clayvin Syrah 2019
During the awards ceremony, The International Wine Challenge also revealed its ‘best in show’ Champion wines and Great Value winners for 2022. Tesco (above) had a stellar evening, taking the trophies for both Great Value Sparkling and Great Value Champion Red as well as being crowned IWC Own Label Range of the Year.
For full details of the Champion and Great Value wines and the Winemakers of the Year, click here.

IWC UK Merchant Awards 2022

On-Trade Supplier of the Year: Liberty Wines
Restaurant Wine List of the Year (Fine Dining): Le Gavroche
Highly commended: Chiltern
Restaurant Wine List of the Year (Contemporary): Ibérica Restaurants
Merchant Educator of the Year (sponsored by WSET): Liberty Wines
Consumer Educator of the Year (sponsored by WSET): ThirtyFifty
Wine Club of the Year: The Wine Society
Consumer Campaign of the Year: The Whisky Exchange - Champagne Show 2021
Highly commended: Phipps
Small Agent of the Year: Graft Wine Company
Medium Agent of the Year: Bancroft Wines
Large Agent of the Year (sponsored by Harpers Wine & Spirit): Liberty Wines
Innovator of the Year: Vagabond
Online Retailer of the Year (sponsored by Zwiesel Glas): Naked Wines
Small Independent Merchant of the Year: Hattersley Wines
Highly commended: Highbury
Large Independent Merchant of the Year (sponsored by Maison Castel): Cambridge Wine Merchants
Merchant Wine List of the Year: Liberty Wines
Buying Team of the Year: The Wine Society
Highly commended: Majestic
National Merchant of the Year: Majestic Wine
National Convenience Chain of the Year: Co-op
Supermarket of the Year (sponsored by Encirc): Waitrose & Partners
Highly commended: M&S
Wine Merchant of the Year: Liberty Wines

IWC Specialist Merchants 2022

Austria: The Wine Society
Australia: Liberty Wines
Bordeaux: Goedhuis & Co
Highly commended: Bon Coeur
Burgundy: Goedhuis & Co
Champagne and Sparkling: The Whisky Exchange
Highly commended: M&S, Waitrose
En Primeur: Goedhuis & Co
England: Wickhams
Fortified: Vintage Wine and Port
Germany (sponsored by Wines of Germany): The WineBarn
Italy: Liberty Wines
Languedoc-Roussillon: Stone, Vine & Sun
Highly commended: Yapp Brothers
New Zealand: Specialist Cellars
Portugal: The Wine Society
France: The Wine Society
Rosé (sponsored by Maison Castel): Waitrose & Partners
Highly commended: Majestic
South Africa: Handford Wines
South America: Condor Wines
Southern & Eastern Europe: Best of Hungary
Spain: Indigo Wine
Sake: Tengu Sake

IWC Regional Merchants 2022

Scotland: Woodwinters Wines & Whiskies
Northern England: Bon Coeur Fine Wines
Central: Hattersley Wines
Wales: Ultracomida/Spanish Wines Direct
Northern Ireland: James Nicholson Wine
South West England: Old Chapel Cellars
South and South-East: Dunell’s
Eastern England: Cambridge Wine Merchants
London: Lea & Sandeman

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