• People’s Choice Wine Awards: knocks ‘stuffiness’ out of wine

    Hands up if you have been to wine competition’s awards evening where the majority of people are in jeans, you’ve got a northern comedian pulling it all together, and there are pizzas galore to tuck into? Welcome to the People’s Choice Wine Awards which saw winemakers, producers, retailers and suppliers all rewarded for their efforts thanks to the votes of the average consumer who buys their wines. It’s such a welcome, refreshing new arrival on the awards calendar that it can only go from strength to strength. Richard Siddle puts down his margherita to share his memories of a great night.

    Hands up if you have been to wine competition’s awards evening where the majority of people are in jeans, you’ve got a northern comedian pulling it all together, and there are pizzas galore to tuck into? Welcome to the People’s Choice Wine Awards which saw winemakers, producers, retailers and suppliers all rewarded for their efforts thanks to the votes of the average consumer who buys their wines. It’s such a welcome, refreshing new arrival on the awards calendar that it can only go from strength to strength. Richard Siddle puts down his margherita to share his memories of a great night.

    mm By February 26, 2019

    It’s only in its second year but the People’s Choice Wine Awards is already shaking up the way national wine competitions are run and what the winning wines mean to the consumers expected to buy them.

    As someone raised on Merseyside making a trip to Manchester is always one you take with a sense of trepidation, when you’re ready to pick up on any faults. The buses aren’t as pretty, the pubs aren’t as friendly, the chippies certainly don’t compare and they’ve only got the one cathedral…and that’s just for starters.

    But this week’s trip to Manchester left me smiling from ear to ear all thanks to the fun, the energy, the passion and the breath – sorry, make that the wind – of fresh air that is the People’s Choice Wine Awards. It’s a competition that does what it says on the tin. In fact so simple is the concept behind the PCWAs it’s a wonder no-one has thought of it before.

    That’s probably because it’s all down to vision of one person and has not been dreamt up in a trade publisher’s boardroom looking at how to squeeze more revenue out of the industry it serves.

    Step forward Janet Harrison who first came up with the PCWA concept a couple of years ago,  before going on to host the event and first set of awards last year. It is unique in that it involves ‘people’ at all stages of judging and can only go on to bigger and brighter things as it has caught the imagination of those ‘people’ to get even more involved. This year’s awards entries, for example, were 147% more than in year one.

    Power to the people

    The sheer enthusiasm, and of the so called amateur wine judges is what makes the People’s Choice Wine awards stand out

    The ethos of the PCWA is simple: to give consumers the opportunity to vote for the wines they love means that they are at the heart of the process, rather than being disengaged from it.

    This year’s awards received over 200 applicants from average wine drinkers who all wanted to have a go, share their likes and dislikes and get involved in the judging. Harrison says it was as hard to select the final group of judges from the initial 200 plus list as it was doing the actual judging itself.

    To come up with the awards shortlist the PCWA involves two rounds of judging. The initial round includes a majority of consumers who have been selected via the on-line application process who are helped out by a small team of qualified wine professionals. Round two then sees some of the best tasters from round one – the ‘super tasters’ – join a bigger group of professional trade judges along with the winners of a special WSET sponsored judging competition.

    Key trade judges included Kate Goodman of Reserve Wines, and former BBC Food & Drink presenter, the Wine Show’s Amelia Singer, wine journalists Brian Elliott, Peter Ranscombe, Mike Turner (Please Bring Me My Wine), Sorcha Holloway (#ukwinehour) and MW student Sumita Sarma. Goodman and Singer were also on hand at the awards to help co-host the event alongside local comedian, John Warburton.

    Cheers to the People’s Choice Wine Awards from Round 2 judges including some well known trade figures and the best of the consumer judges

    Another great aspect of the PCWA are the categories. There are none of the by country, by region or grape variety categories you see in most of the major competitions. No, these are all about how and when we drink wine and what we might say when we are drinking them. So there are a host of food friendly categories for wines you would want to drink when you are eating a pizza, having a midweek meal, or a BBQ, a party, or a big blow out.

    As the PCWS says: “The terminology and categories have been made easy to understand and meaningful to the average wine drinker. This helps them make better buying decisions and helps retailers understand what their customer wants.”

    Then there is the awards trophy. No lalique glass or dull certificates here. Instead you get a bespoke cartoon for your category drawn by Private Eye cartoonist, Tony Husband, and amateur wine judge himself.

    “We wanted winners to have something they’d be really proud to hang on their wall,” said Harrison.  “Tony’s cartoons fit our ethos of putting the consumer first, knocking the stuffiness out of wine and making a competition that’s relevant to todays wine drinker.”

    Walking the walk

    Janet Harrison sets the scene and introduces the People’s Choice Wine Awards

    This is an awards programme that is walking the walk for how many times has the wine industry claimed it is going to engage with consumers in the way they talk about wine. But how rarely does it.

    It certainly makes it a more challenging awards for traditional wine producers and suppliers to enter. Just which of their wines does go with a pizza, or you would be happy to drink at a BBQ?   

    But for the winners, and the shortlisted wines, it is a great boost to think their wine has had the approval of the great British public and not just trade experts and buyers at the major multiples and on-trade operators.

    It was also good to see such a wide range of wines entered. You would expect this kind of awards to be welcomed by the major brands and the likes of Concha y Toro and Treasury Wine Estates were there in force. But there were also plenty of more specialist, smaller producers like Justin Howard-Snyed’s Domaine of the Bee and Bird in the Hand who had entered as well.

    If you did not get involved in this year’s PCWA can I urge you to give it a go next year. And even if you are not shortlisted the awards ceremony is one the best nights you’ll have next year.

    Here are all the winners from the 2019 awards

    Girls Night In:

    Graham Norton’s Own SauviGNon Blanc 2018

    Submitted by: Invivo

     

    Out of The Ordinary:

    A clearly delighted Ben Smith from CYT UK arrives on stage to pick up his award from The Buyer’s Richard Siddle and presenter Amelia Singer

    1000 Stories Bourbon Barrel Fermented Zinfandel 2016

    Submitted by: Concha y Toro

    Sponsored by: The Buyer

     

    Boxing Clever:

    The Off Piste Wines team pick up their award

    Most Wanted Sauvignon Blanc

    Submitted by: Off Piste Wines

    Sponsored by: Smurfit Kappa

     

    Fabulous Fizz – Best Champagne:

    ASDA Extra Special Louis Bernard Vintage Champagne 2007

    Submitted by: Asda

    Sponsored by: The Albert Square Chop House

     

    Fabulous Fizz – Sparkling Wine (UK)

    Joint winners:

    Leckford Estate Brut 2013

    Submitted by: Waitrose

    and

    Lyme Bay Winery: Sparkling Rosé 2014

    Submitted by: Lyme Bay Winery

     

    Fabulous Fizz – Sparkling Wine Rest of World

    David Cartwright from Seckford Agencies is clearly delighted to win this award on behalf of Bird in the Hand

    Joint winners:

    Bird in Hand Sparkling Pinot Noir 2017

    Submitted by: Seckford Agencies

    and

    Simonnet-Febvre Cremant de Bourgogne

    Submitted by: Louis Latour

    Sponsored by: Avina Wine Products

     

    Food Friendly Wines – Red for Light Meals

    Albert Bichot Coteaux Bourguignons 2015

    Submitted by: Rude Wines)

    Sponsored by: Ibérica

     

    Food Friendly Wines – Red for Easy Weekday Meals

    Rabo de Gallo

    Submitted by: Iceland

     

    Food Friendly Wines – Red for Hearty Meals

    Orbitali Amarone Della Valpolicella 2013

    Submitted by: Asda 

    Sponsored by: Kai Mezze Bar & Grill

     

    Food Friendly Wines – White for Light Meals

    Escarpment, The Edge Pinot Gris 2017

    Submitted by: Seckford Agencies

    Sponsored by: Sponsored by Eisberg Alcohol Free Wine

     

    Food Friendly Wines – White for Aromatic & Asian Cuisine

    The Society’s Exhibition Alsace Gewurztraminer 2013

    Submitted by: The Wine Society

    Sponsored by: Zouk Tea Bar & Grill

     

    Food Friendly Wines – White for Light Meals with Sauces

    Joint winners:

    Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2017

    Submitted by: Concha y Toro

    and

    Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2017

    Submitted by: Treasury Wine Estates

     

    War of the Rosés

    Paul Schaafsma of Benchmark Drinks picks up the Invivo Wines award

    Graham Norton’s Own Pink by DesiGN Rosé 2018

    Submitted by: Invivo

    Sponsored by: Winerist

     

    Heavy Duty

    Blind Spot Rutherglen Muscat

    Submitted by: The Wine Society

    Sponsored by: Joseph-Heler Cheese

     

    Party Central

    Escada Touriga Nacional 2016

    Submitted by: Rude Wines

    Sponsored by: Sorcha Holloway’s #ukwinehour

     

    Blow Out!

    Wakefield The Pioneer Shiraz 2014

    Submitted by: Wakefield

    Sponsored by: Rebel Pi

     

    Bargain Buys

    Viña Santico Carmenère 2017

    Submitted by: The Wine Society

     

    One Man and his BBQ

    St Andrews Shiraz 2016

    Submitted by: Wakefield

    Sponsored by: Bents Garden & Home

     

    Sweets for my Sweet

    Stanley Noble Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2014

    Submitted by: Seckford Agencies

    Sponsored by: Bisous Bisous

     

    Pizza Night

    The Society’s Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2015

    Submitted by: The Wine Society

     

    The Best Independent Wine Merchant

    Lancaster Wines and Kate Goodman of Reserve Wines who sponsored the Independent Merchant of the Year category

    Lancaster Wine Company

    Submitted by: Online Vote

    Sponsored by: Reserve Wines

     

    The Best Supermarket

    Aldi

    Submitted by: Online Vote

    Sponsored by: Mid-Week Wines

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