As we named this platform The Buyer, clearly what goes into being a good drinks buyer is a topic very close to our hearts. Which is why we not only welcomed the new Wine Buyers Awards from the London Wine Fair but were very pleased to be the media partner for its Restaurant and Wine Bar category. Now the judging has been completed it’s time to announce the shortlist in each of the categories. The winners will be announced on May 19 at a special session at the London Wine Fair itself.
How prepared are you to go the extra mile to find the right wine for your list? How focused are you on the commercials of any negotiation you do? That’s what counted in naming the shortlist in the first Wine Buyers Awards from the London Wine Fair.
The Wine Buyers Awards were created by the London Wine Fair for two clear reasons: to “celebrate those buyers who shape and drive the industry”.
Now that’s some statement when you consider any buyer is only as good as the retailer, the restaurant, bar or wine merchants they work for. But equally would those businesses be any good if it was not for the skills, talents, contacts and negotiating skills of the buyers who go out and source and find the wines to put on their lists to sell? The two can’t succeed without the other.
It is, though, rare for buyers to be recognised in quite the same was as the overall business. They are the unsung heroes and heroines working away in the background, often unknown to many in the trade for the work they do. Which is why the London Wine Fair’s Wine Buyers Awards, curated and organised by Chris Losh, are such a welcome addition to the already busy awards calendar.
For, yes, these are the individuals that really do help “shape and drive” the overall wine industry. Where would that exciting new independent producer be working away in a remote region of an undiscovered wine country be without the interest of top wine buyers to go out and find them? Or how can a major producer really fulfil their potential in the UK market if they have not got skilled buyers to work with capable of helping them to shape and often blend bespoke wines to work in this country.
Who’s on the shortlist?
The entry and judging process for the inaugural Wine Buyers Awards has now been completed with the shortlist of finalists announced last night at the launch party for this year’s show at M Victoria. In all there are six categories including: Independent Merchant Buyer Award; Supermarket & Multiple Retailer Buyer Award; Restaurant Buyer Award; Pub Buyer Award; Online Specialist Buyer Award; and the Rising Star Buyer Award, which recognise the achievements of those 35 years and under, operating in any of the five channels. The shortlists are as follows:
Restaurant Buyer Award (sponsored by The Buyer and Wines in India)
Jon Clement, Casual Dining Group
Alejandro Macintyre Veyra, Curious Restaurants
Tom Ross, Polpo
Mark Quick, Hawksmoor
Charlie Young, Vinoteca
Independent Merchant Buyer Award
Paddy Eyres, Fenwick
Chris Piper, Christopher Piper Wines
Hal Wilson, Cambridge Wine Merchants
Supermarket & Multiple Retailer Buyer Award
Victoria Anderson, EH Booth
Sarah Butler, The Co-op
Georgina Haughton, Sainsbury’s
Pub Buyer Award
Jo Eames, Peach Pubs
Guillaume Mahaut, ETM
Roberta Neave, Heineken/ Star Pubs and Bars
Online Specialist Buyer Award
Monika Gyenes, bestofhungary.co.uk
Tom Harrow, Honest Grapes
Ben Robson, Bat and Bottle
Rising Star Award
Sarah Knowles, The Wine Society
Shane McHugh, Goodman, Canary Wharf
Jordan Wiltshire, The Angel, Taste of Devon
The overall winners will be announced at the Wine Buyers Awards ceremony at the London Wine Fair on May 19.
The judging panels, which were organised and chaired by Chris Losh, included respected and experienced buyers, who may not be currently operating in a buying capacity but have decades of experience, included: Alan Cheesman; Nick Francis; Eileen Ginger; Martin Lam; Alistair Marshall; Angela Mount; Christine Parkinson; Howard Winn; and Ruth Yates.
What made the buyers stand out?
Losh said it was a fascinating process for him to sit in on all the judging sessions. It also gave him a unique insight into what were the key factors that ultimately split one candidate from another in what were often fiercely contested categories. Here are the four key criteria he picked out as being key for the judges in deciding their shortlists:
Sourcing: Did entrants show a willingness to go the extra mile to get the good stuff? Were they creative in their sourcing? Was it appropriate to their business and their customers?
Relationships: Were they good at dealing with their suppliers? Able to negotiate hard without being too hard-arsed. Did they have a long-term view to their business relationships?
Trends: Were they aware of the trends that are shaping the wine industry? Did they have a clear understanding of which ones were (and were not) appropriate to their customers – and did they have a clear strategy on how to bring their customers on board without alienating them?
Money: Could they demonstrate how all of the above points had come together to create a positive impact to the bottom line? Surprisingly few entries had anything tangible to show here. Those that did went straight to the top of the pile.
- The 2020 London Wine Fair will take place at Olympia from 18th to 20th May. To register, please visit www.londonwinefair.com