The often repeated mantra amongst wine producers the world over is if they can make it onto the most prestigious wine lists in the best UK restaurants and bars, particularly the top ones in London, then you can make it anywhere in the world. Even when the UK on-trade has had to be closed for so much of 2020, the impact of having your wines on the most influential lists, can have a halo effect in gaining listings in other key countries and cities. It’s why The Buyer is today teaming up with Star Wine List to launch the ‘UK Wine List of The Year’ with all category winners going through to the Global Wine List Final to be held in Vienna in May 2021. The UK awards will be handed out on February 22 so there is not much time to get your entries in. The winners will be selected by a panel made up of some of the most celebrated sommeliers in the world, including a number of former Best Sommeliers in the World. Here’s how the competition is going to how and how you can take part.
The UK Wine List of The Year competition is a chance for Star Wine List and The Buyer to shine the light on the most influential wine restaurants and bars in the UK.
It is one thing getting your wines on to a restaurant or bar’s wine list, it is another thing to convince a sommelier to sell them. That’s what makes the Star Wine List Awards such a key new event to come to the UK.
These are awards where the winners are selected by a panel of some of the world’s most awarded and respected sommeliers. A world class pool of talent that know what lists stand out from another, and are ideally placed to have the final word on which wines and producers should win each category.
The UK judging panel really is a line up of the best of the best. Chaired by Star Wine List’s UK ambassador, Ruth Spivey, they include:
- Arvid Rosengren, 2016 Best Sommelier of the World (see above)
- Paz Levinson, Best Sommelier of Argentina and the Americas
- Pascaline Lepeltier, 2018 Best Sommelier of France
- Raimonds Tomsons, 2017 Best Sommelier of Europe and Africa
- Marc Almert, 2019 Best Sommelier of the World
- Lu Yang MS, Best Sommelier of Greater China.
The Buyer is delighted to be teaming up with Star Wine List to be its UK partner to help run the inaugural UK Wine List of The Year, as part of an international competition where the category winners in similar awards being held in other key countries and cities come together to battle it out in the Global Final to be held in Austria in May, in partnership with Austrian Wine.
“With new lockdowns being announced as we speak, times are very tough for the industry. We hope that we can celebrate better times in February along with the sommeliers in the UK,” says Krister Bengtsson, Star Wine List’s founder.
Richard Siddle, co-founder of The Buyer, said: “I have long been an admirer of what Krister has been able to achieve with Star Wine List. It’s a great initiative that works with the world’s top sommeliers to identify and celebrate the best wine restaurants and bars in key cities around the world. That’s why we are so keen, through The Buyer, to bring its Wine List Awards to the UK.”
Bengtsson says: “UK and London are one of the true global centres of the wine world. Obviously we want to celebrate the great wine lists and the teams behind them there too, as we do a global tour on the road to the Global Final in Vienna in May, hosted by Austrian Wine. Just like with the Premier League in football, the UK is a magnet for talent in the wine world. With global influences there is a chance for diversity and excellence, both among sommeliers, buyers and suppliers.
He adds: “I think with The Buyer we have found wine lovers and wine professionals who know their market just like we do in the Nordics. And when the going gets seriously tough, like it has this year, we get to work together for better days together. As I am an old reporter and transparency is important, I’d like to add that I have zero influence over the judging of Star Wine List of the Year – it’s completely up to the jury. This is vital since I am an investor in Noble Rot since the early days, before I started Star Wine List. If they win anything (or lose) don’t blame me.”
How it works
As well as running the global competition, Star Wine List also works with leading sommeliers and on-trade experts in key cities globally to compile what they see as being the most influential bars and restaurants that are famous for their wine offer. All those outlets are automatically entered into the competition.
Any other restaurant then has the opportunity to put forward their list, free of charge, to be considered across a number of different categories.
Wine suppliers and distributors are also able to nominate and put forward restaurants they work with that they believe should be considered for an award. Category sponsors can also nominate bars and restaurants.
Closing date for entries is January 31, 2021. To enter simply email your list to email@example.com along with the name and address of the venue.
The Judging Criteria
All wine lists are assessed independently by the judging panel who will mark them based on:
- Their depth and diversity
- Value for money.
The jury’s votes are then added up to decide the finalists and the winners.
Each competition around the world has a number of categories that are the same – to help determine the global winners – but are also open to their own individual awards to reflect the tastes and styles of wines being sold in that particular country or city.
The global categories are:
- Grand Prix
- Best Austrian Wine List, presented by Austrian Wine
- By the Glass
- Special Jury Price
- Best Short list
The UK Wine List of The Year is open to other categories and for suppliers and wine bodies to come forward and suggest categories to sponsor. The category sponsor is not involved in the final judging. That is purely down to the sommelier panel.
The Buyer is pleased to welcome The California Wine Institute on board as sponsor of:
By The Glass, sponsored by Fine Wines Direct UK
“The on-trade has always been an important sector for us and we wanted to continue to connect with our customers however we can during this challenging period. We have been in business for 13 years, and have built up a fantastic list of on-trade customers both in the South West and further afield. We think this is a great opportunity to recognise some of the amazing wine lists that are so carefully put together by restaurateurs and sommeliers all over the UK. This has been an exceptionally difficult period for everyone connected with hospitality, but it’s important we keep communicating and support each other during these difficult times.”
Greg Williams, managing director , Fines Wines Direct UK
California Wine List of the Year
Justine McGovern, UK co-director of the Institute, says: “When Richard told us about the ‘UK Wine List of the Year’ awards, we jumped at the chance of being involved. Anything that we, as the California Wine Institute can do to support the on-trade we are happy to get behind. We are so looking forward to finding out which restaurant will win The California Wine List of the Year award and are delighted to be involved with The Buyer and Star Wine List on this excellent initiative.”
Lockdown Wine List Category, sponsored by Bibendum
The UK awards will also include a special Lockdown Wine List category, sponsored by Bibendum, to highlight, recognise and reward those outlets that have changed their usual drinks lists in response to Covid-19 and the various restrictions imposed on them.
We are looking for those restaurants, bars or pubs that have devised special lists throughout 2020 to allow them to continue to trade be it through takeaway, delivery or online sales. We also want to hear the story behind how those changes were made and the response the outlets have had from their customers. It might have meant starting up your own e-commerce channel for the first time, started doing home deliveries, or running a takeaway drinks service from your outlet.
Any initiatives introduced in direct response to Covid-19 are eligible to enter.
“March 2020 lockdown was the biggest post war challenge faced by the on-trade sector,” says John Graves, on-trade channel director at Bibendum. “As people tore their hair out about the situation, others adapted very quickly and used strong local reputations and their skills as hospitality operators to make the best of what they had.”
He adds: “We are delighted to support the Wine List of the Year awards, a strong rebirth of the wine trade is vital for us all, and great wine lists will be at the heart of this.”
German Wine List of The Year, sponsored by Wines of Germany
We have also teamed up with Wines of Germany to highlight those outlets that have made Germany a key part of their overall list, or may have introduced a specialist section to promote the different styles and regions from Germany that pair so well with different types of cuisine.
Wines of Germany says: “This is an excellent opportunity for us to support the on-trade, which is so important to Wines of Germany, at such a difficult time.”
New Zealand Wine List of the year, sponsored by New Zealand Wine.
Rhone Wine List of the Year, sponsored by Côtes du Rhône (Inter Rhône)
If you would like to discuss nominating or sponsoring a category then please contact Richard Siddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awards and Grand Final
Due to the social distancing measures the ceremony for the UK Wine List of the Year will be held online on February 22. Further details about how to take part will be released in due course.
The winners will then qualify for the Global final of Star Wine List of the Year which is to be held in Vienna in May 2021, hosted by Austrian Wine. One sommelier per venue will be invited to the Grand Final. The winner of the Austrian wine list category will also get an all-inclusive invitation for one sommelier to go to Vienna for the event.
Wine lists entered into the competition have to be regularly available to guests at the venue, either physically, digitally or on Star Wine List. Special wine lists prepared only for the competition will not be accepted.
The wine lists must reflect the real availability of wine at the venue, and this may be checked with random spot checks, either live or by video call. Star Wine List reserves the right to refuse wine lists it deems break any of its rules, without explanation or right to appeal. A venue or person breaking the rules may be barred from all SWL competitions for three years.
- To enter Star Wine List and The Buyer’s UK Wine List of The Year email your wine list and name and address of the restaurant to email: email@example.com.
- To sponsor and nominate a category then contact Richard Siddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.