Our Trophy winners unveiled

Congratulations to the 10 Trophy winners in this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100.

These are the wines that topped their categories in this year’s judging. Our other winners will be unveiled on Monday, May 21 at the London Wine Fair – where they will all be available to taste on our stand within Esoterica.

We’ll also be announcing a record crop of highly commended wines, which will appear in the winners’ supplement published next month with The Wine Merchant magazine.

 

Best Red

Uvas Felices El Hombre Bala Old Vine Garnacha, Madrid, Spain 2015

(£21.99, Boutinot)

Best White

Druida Reserva, Dão, Portugal 2016

(£24, The Knotted Vine)

Best Sparkling

Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut, Champagne, France NV

(£36.49, Hallgarten)

Best Fortified

Barros Colheita Port, Douro, Portugal 2005

(£29, Hallgarten)

Best Rosé

Bird in Hand Pinot Noir Rosé, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2017
(£14.99, Seckford Agencies)

Best-Value Red

Cantina di Montalcino Brunito, Tuscany, Italy 2015

(£9.95, Enotria & Coe)

Best-Value White

Cavit Bottega Vinai Nosiola, Trentino, Italy 2017

(£9.99, Boutinot)

Best-Value Sparkling

Durello Palladiano Spumante Brut, Veneto, Italy NV

(£9.99, Boutinot)

Best-Value Fortified

Valdespino Single-Vineyard Fino, Jerez, Spain NV

(£18.49, Liberty Wines)

Best-Value Rosé

Domaines Paul Mas Claude Val Rosé, IGP Pays d’Oc, France 2017
(£6.99, Domaines Paul Mas)

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The forecast for indies: it’s going to be pouring

Over the past couple of years there’s been a lot of talk about the “hybrid” wine shop model. Merchants aren’t just selling wines for customers to take home with them. They’re inviting them to take a seat and enjoy their purchase on the premises, sometimes with a plate of charcuterie, and occasionally with a free-jazz musician providing some added entertainment.

As we reported a few months ago, most new entrants in the specialist independent trade are going the hybrid route – indeed it’s hard to know whether some should really be classed as wine bars that happen to have a retail element. But when you look at the market as a whole, it’s clear that these businesses are in a minority.

Our reader surveys of 2016 and 2017 reported that just 28% of indies sold wine for consumption on the premises. This year, that figure has jumped to nearly 36%, with a further 4% saying they will switch to the hybrid model in the coming year. Fourteen per cent of respondents are still weighing up the idea.

There will still be room for the classic wine merchant model. But how many more years will it be before such retailers find themselves in a minority?

Read part two of our 2018 reader survey analysis, produced in partnership with Hatch Mansfield, in the April edition of The Wine Merchant.

The new wine bar at Connollys in Birmingham

 

The judges have judged

Another judging day has come and gone. Almost 700 wines have been put through their paces by a team of 21 independent wine merchants and soon our Wine Merchant Top 100 winners will be announced.

This year’s judges came from as far afield as Orkney, Manchester, south Wales and the Isle of Wight. Between them they represent a pretty good cross section of the independent wine trade.

We worked them hard, and there were some tough decisions to be made. And we’re confident that the wines that they enjoyed the most – whether they turn out to be Top 100 winners or the Highly Commended wines that just missed the cut – will make for interesting tasting on our stand at the London Wine Fair.

We’ll unveil the winners on May 21. Watch this space!

judging for web

You can specialise in more than just wine

Michael and Jess for web

Michael Smith and Jess Scarratt    (picture by Simon Booth)

People are visiting Hastings these days to take a look at its award-winning pier. It’s pretty good. But not as impressive as the wine shop just around the corner.

We say “wine shop”, but Borough Wines, Beers & Books is much more than that, as its name suggests. Not many merchants host gigs in their basement featuring a bloke playing free jazz on a sax while hitting himself on the head with a tray, or welcome Faust and their angle grinder for a midweek performance.

Jess Scarratt and Michael Smith embody a truth that is becoming more self-evident in the UK trade: there’s no such thing as a “typical” independent, and attempts to analyse the sector through generalisations and averaging-out will only ever take you so far.

For some merchants, wine has to be the focus, at the expense of all other distractions. For others, it’s simply part of the mix, but that doesn’t have to mean that such retailers lose their specialism. You’re allowed to specialise in more than one category.

Borough Wines, Beers & Books is very definitely a wine specialist, as a glance at its range will attest. But its owners are interested in other things too. And so, it would seem, are its customers.

Read our profile of the business in the February edition of The Wine Merchant.