We might all be a little burnt from the concept of asking “the people” for their opinion when it comes to making big decisions. But let’s leave Strictly Come Dancing to one side for a moment. When it comes to wine judging the norm is only ever to ask trained professionals to assess how a particular wine is compared to another. Not the People’s Choice Wine Awards. It lives up to its name by involving everyday wine drinkers in deciding which wines should be awarded the top prizes. Admittedly with a little help from the professionals. As the deadline for entries into this year’s award approaches on September 30, Janet Harrison, its founder, looks back at the impact the event has had, and what new partnerships she has made for this year’s competition and why it is increasingly more relevant for the on-trade.
With categories like ‘One Man and his BBQ’, ‘Pass the Crackers’ and ‘Girls Night In’, the People’s Choice Wine Awards hopes to talk to and connect with average wine drinkers in ways other competitions simply can’t.
Amongst the sea of platinum, gold, silver and bronze awards stickers sits a stylish and cheerful pink bunch of grapes, sporting a tick, instead of a stalk. A nod here to the audience vote and the defining point of difference with the People’s Choice Wine Awards. However, the question must be, “have consumers become medal-blind”?
The PCWA attempts to address this with non-generic categories, which ‘really mean something’ to consumers – whether they are choosing the wine on a restaurant wine list, picking it up at their local indie or supermarket or browsing online.
Want an easy drinking mid-week tipple to match with your Italian spag bol, then why not pick one that has been chosen in the ‘Red for Easy Weekday Meals’ category. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Capiche?
It’s why we are really keen to work with our winners to put together wine promotions with real clout. We would love wine suppliers and brand owners to use the unique winning category name and cartoon imagery (created by Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband) for an in-store, in-house or online campaign. It’s part of the reason we came up with the concept. We want to help people sell more wine.
It’s also why we are expanding the 2020 awards with new partnerships with people that can really help take the awards to another level. Including a collaboration with The Wine Gang, consisting of wine journalists, Anthony Rose, David Williams and Joanna Simon. Their popular brand of consumer wine fairs sits comfortably with the ethos of the PCWA. The winning wines, from each year, will be showcased at their events in London and Leeds, so that wine enthusiasts from around the UK can sample them and share their views on social media.
Involving the consumer is at the heart of everything we do. We have a rapidly growing database of consumers who have voted online, applied to be judges and are now able to sample the winners too. They are super-keen supporters who are with us every step of the way and they love it!
This gives commercial opportunities for winning wines, ‘squaring the circle’ when it comes to communicating what ‘receiving a medal’ actually means.
For those scratching their heads, wondering how this all sits with the on-trade, their view on this might need a bit of lateral thinking (but not much). It all starts with the imbiber…
Any form of external verification of quality will give confidence to customers and therefore, the ultimate consumer. The stickers, imagery for promotional opportunities and a strong focus on categories with a food and wine matching element mean there is plenty to be communicating to your buyers.
The PCWA appeals to a much wider ‘audience’ too, with a strong focus on wines for everyday wine drinkers, as well as those who are more knowledgeable i.e. the ‘Treat Yourself’ category covers premium wine areas, and bottles with which to impress the in-laws! Basically, all are welcome, this is not some sort of exclusive club, but quality is always key.
The Buyer is also another strong partner behind the PCWA and not only lists the finalists and winners, but can give exclusive promotional packages to help suppliers and brand owners tell the stories of their wines to the trade.
Being more social
All our activity is very much being played out on social media, in a supportive and inclusive way, The PCWA ‘community’ has taken on a life of its own with fellow judges welcoming each other, planning brunch before the judging sessions and being all round good eggs.
At a time when the wine industry is accused of being on the back-foot when it comes to social media (with few notable exceptions) and said industry is also perceived to still be rather stuffy and exclusive, this feels like a breath of fresh air.
Whilst not the primary function of the PCWA, it is also managing to educate people in the process – something which was cleverly spotted by the WSET (another supporting partner). They recently offered two, incredibly popular, competitions for places on the round 1 (amateur) and round 2 (professional) judging panels, attracting many non-trade WSET students from all around the world.
With judges flying in from Hungary, Vietnam, France and Dublin, it is surprising that Manchester Airport isn’t knocking on the door, asking for sponsorship!
For any organisation who ultimately ‘sells’ to the wine consumer, in whichever convoluted way, this competition should be on your radar. Submission fees (only £60) are reasonable and an inexpensive way to try something new. It might be the best sixty quid you’ve ever spent!
- If you would like to enter the People’s Choice Wine Awards then the deadline is on September 30 2019. Full details here.