As many of our thoughts might be turning to our summer holidays the major drinks competitions are all gearing up their 2023 awards by opening up their entry process. Here Janet Harrison explains why she thinks the People’s Choice Drinks Awards stand out for attention as one of the rare awards that allow the average wine drinker and consumer to take part in the judging. She also explains some of the new categories and features for an awards that grows in significance and stature every year.
To enter your wines or spirits into the People’s Choice Drinks Awards click on the links below. Anyone entering before August 5 can take advantage of Early Bird pricing of £90 per entry. The price then increases to £120 from August 6.
People’s Choice Wine Awards: https://peopleschoicedrinksawards.com/pcwa/enter-the-wine-awards/
Peoples’ Choice Spirits Awards: https://peopleschoicedrinksawards.com/pcsa/enter-the-spirits-awards/
You’ve combined the People’s Choice Wine and Spirits awards into the same timeline – why the change?
To simplify the processes for everyone involved. We were often being asked when the competition for spirits was open (during the wine entry period) and vice-versa. This way, wines and spirits producers and suppliers just have one fixed timeline to put in their diary. It also helps with logistics, the latest wines and spirits available on our Drinks Finder online search tool and consumer/professional judging sessions.
We are, however, still having two separate awards ceremonies in 2023. The Spirits Awards being held on February 27 and the Wine Awards on March 6, both at The Stoller Hall in Manchester (the host city being ‘non-negotiable’).
Whilst it would be tempting to combine them into one event, we want to keep the evenings as informal as possible, with the ability to network with all the people in the room. Having long presentations on stage can often stifle these sorts of conversations and we want to maintain our now-famous format of comedy, great food and a fun, relaxed evening of celebration.
And the judging – how are you organising that?
This year we are combining the consumer and professional judging panels, so they will sit side by side. We’ve always had members of the trade assisting consumers through the tasting and judging process, which has been extremely successful. We’ve consulted with some of our professional judges who feel it would be a great idea to listen to what consumers have to say and their reasoning behind their opinions, based on drinking moments (as both competitions are).
Professionals rarely have the chance to ‘hear it from the horse’s mouth’ as it were. Similarly, the wine and spirits enthusiasts which make up our initial judging panels can have an exclusive opportunity to hear from respected wine buyers, bar owners, distillers and the like, which will make a place on the judging sessions even more sought after.
We will still have a second round of judging, in the event of close scoring and/or to award specific Gold Commendations. As before, we only award one Bronze, one Silver and one Winners prize for each wine or spirits category, with Gold Commendations given for exceptional reasons – we generally only award two or three of these in each competition.
As before, we are delighted to be working with our official education partner, WSET and will be hosting both our wine and spirits judging sessions at the school in London. The Manchester sessions will be held at The Stoller Hall – both in November 2022.
The full timelines can be found here:
What is happening with the People’s Choice Wine Awards this year?
Our alternative packaging categories, namely The Great Outdoors and Boxing Clever, are a permanent fixture and very popular. We are thrilled to be working with Smufit Kappa Bag in Box as sponsor of the Boxing Clever White/Rosé and Boxing Clever Red categories and they are offering a limited amount of bursaries to reduce the cost of entering. We will also be having an ‘all boxed wine’ welcome drink at the wine awards ceremony to promote the great wines available in this format as well as being able to meet the people producing and supplying them.
We will continue with our Drink Fairtrade categories, as they were the most popular in terms of submission numbers in 2022. We anticipate substantial overall growth for the PCWA this year as the competition enters its sixth year.
Anything new about the spirits awards?
Working alongside Millie Milliken has been a great success as she brings additional expertise and contacts in the spirits trade and fantastic ideas for future developments. She has helped us shape some exciting new categories for 2023. These include splitting our No/Low categories into two (Alcohol Free, up to 0.5%ABV and Light with Bite 0.5-18%) to reflect the sheer number of submissions and the need to separate for judging purposes.
To counter The Great Outdoors category (for canned cocktails and mixed spirits drinks consumed outside), we now have Home Serves, which reflects the increase in pouches and bottles of mixed drinks to drink at home.
Rum now has a ‘Local Heroes’ category for those produced in the UK and the Whisky/Whiskey categories have been expanded to cater for worldwide whiskies as well as those exclusively produced in Scotland.
The Out of the Ordinary category is open to ‘of the moment’ spirits which consumers are very excited about such as Mezcal, Eau de Vie, Mastika, Clairin and more.
We are delighted to be working with Master of Malt Trade in the continuation of our very popular Best Independent Bar award, voted for by consumers of course. Nominations for the shortlist are produced by our professional judging panel, later in the year.
What else can we look forward to in 2023?
We are working with Rachel McCartan-Jones from Crate PR, who will sponsor a new Drinks Communicator of the Year award – with a difference (of course). We will be including a search for ‘regional voices’, from all corners of the UK. Details of this exciting new category will be released soon and we will be encouraging entries from regional drinks journalists, social media communicators and everything in between. We’d like to unearth some gems and shine a light on hard working writers and commentators who do a valuable job in promoting the drinks we all love.
The Drinks Finder, our unique online curated search facility for consumers, journalists and trade, has been fully updated to include all the finalists and medal winners from both 2022 competitions. We will be creating two national consumer press campaigns to specifically promote the finder and drive more traffic, through our website, so people can find and buy the best drinks, as voted for by consumers and professionals alike.
Each producer/supplier has their own page with:
- An image of the wine or spirit
- The placing (medal) in the competition
- Useful judges’ comments (from consumers and professionals)
- A direct stockist’s link
The facility is provided free of charge to those entering the competition (included within the submission fee) and is the most pro-active direct to consumer promotional tool in the ‘Awards world’ as far as we can see. It represents a direct commercial benefit from entering the Awards, alongside stickers, promotional materials and social media coverage.
The link to the Drinks Finder can be found here.
And what about The Story Behind the Label Video Challenge competition, sponsored by The Buyer?
All those who submit to our competitions can enter a two minute video free of charge to this exciting category. We love seeing what goes on behind the scenes of hard-working and passionate producers from all around the world and this really brings their stories to life. Four shortlisted films are screened as part of the presentation at each ceremony and there is a live vote on the night. The shortlisted and winning films are featured on the PCDA YouTube channel and shared on The Buyer’s channel too.
- The Buyer is media partner to both the People’s Choice Wine and Spirits awards.