The Buyer
People’s Choice Wine & Spirits Awards announces 2023 finalists

People’s Choice Wine & Spirits Awards announces 2023 finalists

Over the last few weeks panels of every day wine drinkers and wine trade professionals have been analysing, checking, tasting and scoring flights of wines and spirits as part of the judging for both what is the sixth People’s’ Choice Wine Awards and the third People’s Choice Spirits Awards. Judging sessions were held in both Manchester and London to get a more diverse set of judges from different backgrounds. Here Janet Harrison, founder of both competitions, explains how the judging went, announces the shortlists and picks out some highlights for how the 2023 awards are going to be run.

Richard Siddle
2nd December 2022by Richard Siddle
posted in Awards,

The People’s Choice Drinks Awards are unique in that they are judged by both wine trade professionals and wine consumers. Today we announce the shortlists for the 2023 People’s Choice Wine Awards and the People’s Choice Spirits Awards.

Click here for the shortlist of finalists in the People’s Choice Wine Awards.

Click here for the shortlist of finalists in the People’s Choice Spirits Awards.

We see you streamlined the dates, running both the People’s Choice Wine Awards and People’s Choice Spirits Awards simultaneously, how has that worked out?

The judging takes place for the People’s Choice Wine Awards in London. Photograph Steve Briggs

It has been a great success, particularly as some larger retailers and importers have submitted to both competitions, so it made total sense to do this. We carried out judging sessions in London, at the WSET school and in Manchester at The Stoller Hall, with over 160 people taking part.This is the largest number of judges we’ve ever accepted, yet we still had to turn away around three quarters of applicants -making each judging place hard fought.

As last time, we had a record number of WSET students applying.We also welcomed back our most dedicated consumer judge from last year, who travels over from Georgia in the United States to take part (this time combining the trip with a WSET spirits course).

For the first time, we combined the consumer, trade and professionals into the same sessions, following feedback from those attending last year.Everyone said they had benefitted from jointly assessing the drinks.It was a great mix of people and the sessions had a fantastic atmosphere.

Anything else about the competitions we need to know about?

Thanks to the ongoing support of Smurfit Kappa, we were able to offer bag-in-box wine bursaries, reducing the cost of entry by £40. As a result, we had a good number of boxed wine submissions and fantastic feedback from both consumers and professionals regarding the quality level of these wines, which seem to be improving all the time.

We have expanded this year and now have a number of overseas agents. As a result, in terms of finalist wines, Spain leads the way with approximately 20% originating from that country, followed by Australia (19%), Portugal (14%) and Italy (12%).

The People’s Choice Drinks Awards are unique in having both professional and consumer wine judges. Photograph Steve Briggs

For spirits submissions, the majority were from independent brands. We have new categories for UK produced spirits, so it was great to see a good number of entries for ‘Rum: Local Heroes’ and the equivalent for Scotch whisky.In all, rum topped the tables (as it were), re spirit category submissions, closely followed by whisky and gin.

We had the most no and low alcohol wines and spirits ever this year, helped by a new category called ‘Lite with Bite’ for spirits with an ABV of 0.5-18%.In addition to the popular ‘Great Outdoors’ categories, with a particular focus on canned drinks, we added ‘Home Serves’ to the spirits competition, to reflect the boom in ‘drink at home’ ready-made cocktail market.There were some cracking ones in this category, according to the judges feedback,

Our Best Retailer category shortlist will be announced within the next two weeks (using the same links above).This is formed from the top three retailers, as selected by our professional judges.

Once announced, this will go to a UK wide public vote.

The categories are:

Wine Supermarket of the Year 2023: sponsored by Oakley Wine Agencies

Best Independent Wine Retailer 2023: sponsored by Vintrigue by Lanchester Wines

Best Online Wine Retailer 2023: sponsored by Oakley Wine Agencies

The Manchester judging including local wine importer Myliko Wines founder Nish Kotecha. Photograph Roxanne Dease

Finally, in association with Crate Communications, our official PR partner, we will be launching a new Consumer Drinks Communicator of the year Award 2023.The award is for those who deserve to be celebrated for dedicating their time to ‘speak’ to consumers about our industry, its people and the wonderful brands that are embraced by shoppers every day.

Critically, this is about unearthing unsung or under-celebrated voices. Perhaps they are at the helm of a local wine and spirits school and making waves online for pithy opinions; a drinks writer for a local newspaper; or someone working in another industry but with a side hustle that’s striking a chord with consumers. Everyone is welcome in this category, from all corners of the UK.More on this exciting award and the application process soon.

What can we look forward to at the People’s Choice Wine Awards 2023 in Manchester?

Helena Nicklin will be the host of the 2023 awards in Manchester in February. (John Nguyen/JNVisuals)

We are mixing things up a little this time and are thrilled to have Helena Nicklin at the helm, alongside our new MC ‘Manchester’s Finest’ Matt White.The event will again be held at The Stoller Hall in Manchester, with the streamlined presentation taking place in The Carole Nash Hall.

All other exciting activity takes place in the stunning Oglesby Atrium – expect lively chat, delicious South-Asian food from Cachumba, and all the finalist wines on taste.Following our usual style, this isn’t a black-tie event and is, quite simply, a great night out.

We are also on the lookout for anyone working in the drinks trade who is also in a band, which might like to perform on the night.We’d love to hear from anyone who fits the bill.

How about the Story Behind the Label Video competition sponsored by The Buyer?

(Click below to see the winning entry from the 2022 awards from La Riojana)

We have four fantastic, shortlisted films to screen at the event, as part of the awards presentation.For those who don’t know about this exciting category, we ask all entrants if they would like to create a two minute film, which tells ‘The Story Behind The Label’.Something which illustrates the sheer hard work and passion which goes into producing the wines and spirits we all love.The category is free to enter and the winner is determined on the night, with a live vote from those in the room (pens and papers at the ready).

How do people get a ticket for the awards ceremony?

Tickets are £70 per person and we’ve created a ticket link here:

What next for the People’s Choice Drinks Awards competitions?

All finalist and medal winning wines and spirits from the 2023 competitions will be added to the unique Drinks Finder on the PCDA website.This innovative search facility is designed to drive consumer traffic, through the site, to find the best wines and spirits, via a handful of the most popular drinking occasions.

Janet Harrison, third left, and Judy Kendrick, far left, and the organisers of the Manchester judging session. Photograph Roxanne Dease

This is a free year-round marketing tool for all producers receiving a finalist place or medal winning position.Every producer or supplier has their own page which contains:

  • An image of the bottle/box/can
  • The placing in the competition (Finalist/Bronze/Silver/Gold Commended/Winner)
  • Consumer and trade judges’ comments
  • A direct stockist hyperlink (where to buy)

We are working with Crate Communications to promote the Drinks Finder within consumer publications.

This is all in addition to valuable certificates, medal stickers, ongoing promotion and social media support for the best drinks.As before, we only award one Bronze, one Silver and one Winner’s medal in addition to a limited number of Gold Commendations, in the case of close scoring or exceptional circumstances.