Drum roll please…The finalists have been announced in both People’s Choice Wine Awards and the People’s Choice Spirits Awards across all categories in both competitions. In what are the seventh wine and fourth spirits awards they remain the only major UK competition that involves everyday drinkers as part of the judging process. Here Janet Harrison, founder of both competitions, explains the latest developments and the stand-out features of the 2024 edition.
For all the finalists in the People’s Choice Wine and Spirits Awards, click the links below:
How did the judging go for the PCWA and PCSA?
Well, most of all it was a lot of fun! Whilst judging is serious business, all the consumers and professionals who took part this year had a great time in the process. Making the decision to combine the panels to include consumers, WSET students, industry professionals and journalistss has worked extremely well.
The buyers who took part, including those from Ocado, Waitrose, Master of Malt and Oxford Wine Company, say what a valuable experience it is to sit alongside consumers. They can also hear first-hand how customers communicate about drinks and the terminology they use. Similarly, WSET students (the most we’ve ever had this year), and enthusiastic wine and spirits drinkers say they learn a lot as well as making new friends in the process.
How many judges were involved?
There were over 120 judges involved this year – all judging sessions taking place at the fantastic WSET School in London. WSET has been a partner company for over four years and its students see this as a fantastic way to test their knowledge in a real-time judging situation – something they wouldn’t normally have an opportunity to do. It was hard to whittle down the numbers from over 350 applying to judge. We had our usual diverse mix of people, very much in keeping with our ethos and also fully representing the UK wine and spirits buying public. We even had someone joining us from Georgia in the US, which shows how exciting it is to take part.
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 great 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 introduced a new pricing section on the judging sheets this year. The price of each wine and spirits is shown, alongside a value for money assessment. As this is such an important part of the buying decision (all our categories are based on ‘buying/drinking moments’), it is a valuable part of the process.
We are also calculating a points scoring out of 100, for each of our finalist wines and spirits as many producers and suppliers find this a useful marketing tool in addition to roundels and a listing on our unique Drinks Finder facility.
We increased the number of submissions from major supermarkets, due in part to our new categories for Supermarket Own Label wines. The Easy Weekday White, Supermarket Own Label category is sponsored by Benchmark Drinks. Its founder, Paul Schaafsma, a supporter of the PCDA from the very beginning, sees this as a great way to celebrate the skills of supermarket wine buying teams and the quality of own label wines, available from major retailers.
We’ve had great quality wines from Portugal and Spain – championed by Oakley Wine Agencies, sponsors of the Wine Supermarket of the Year and Online Wine Retailer of the Year categories. Both countries continue to impress with their versatility and easy drinking styles.
For the first time, we’ve partnered with Club Soda, sponsors of the Mindful Drinking wine category. Josh Kelly, its wine buyer, also came along to judge and was impressed by the amount of entries and overall quality this year.
For spirits, the majority of entries were from independent brands. Whilst gin, vodka and rum are still popular in terms of submission numbers, we had some fantastic whiskies this year, with the judging team for this panel being headed up by Sam Simmons (AKA Dr Whisky), from Atom Brands.
The canned cocktails (The Great Outdoors) category was very well supported in terms of entries – the most we’ve ever received in the history of the spirits competition.
How are you operating your retailer and communicator categories this time?
For the 2024 competitions, we are changing things this year. We have the following public-voted categories:
- Wine Supermarket of the Year 2024 – sponsored by Oakley Wine Agencies
- Best Independent Wine Retailer 2024
- Best Online Wine Retailer 2024 – sponsored by Oakley Wine Agencies
- Spirits Supermarket of the Year 2024 – sponsored by G’Vine
- Best Independent Spirits Retailer 2024
- Best Online Spirits Retailer 2024
- Best Independent Bar 2024 – sponsored by Master of Malt Trade
- Drinks Communicator of the year 2024 (across wines and spirits) – sponsored by Crate Communications
Retailers, bars and communicators will be asked to apply this time, using a short online entry form which will be published on the website early next week. All categories are free to enter. We will ask our professional judges to assess the applications, after the deadline on December 31 2023.
The three finalists in each category will be given a social media graphic and a voting link to share with their customers/followers via their websites, mailings and across social media channels. The companies/individuals with the most votes will win. All results will be announced at the awards ceremony in Manchester on February 27 2024.
As last year the Consumer Drinks Communicator of the year Award 2024 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.
What can we look forward to at the People’s Choice Drinks Awards 2024 (incorporating wines and spirits) in Manchester?
There are many people who have been attending our fantastic and friendly Awards ceremony for several years now and some mention what a great time we had at our very first event at The Comedy Store in Manchester (unfortunately now closed). To re-create the great vibe and intimate feel we had there, we are holding the ceremony just a few doors down at Revolution, Deansgate locks.
We are thrilled to have Matt White, as our MC once again, (Manchester’s Finest/Steph’s Packed Lunch) who very much represents the informal and fun nature of the event. Alongside Matt will be Kate Goodman from Reserve Wines. Kate is familiar to our audiences, having presented in the past, as well as being part of our professional judging team. The ceremony will be our usual unique mix of great drinks, with all the finalist wines being on taste, and a welcome G&T, bowl food and the best industry networking opportunities.
It is, quite simply, a great night out and no black tie is required. People love the approach we take and always say it is easy to talk to everyone in the room, rather than being restricted to tables. We’ll also have a great indie/rock band, some dancing for those who do and an after show party at the venue – so bring your flat shoes.
As many people will know, our very good friend Tony Husband died very recently. He was a Private Eye cartoonist for over 30 years and created the unique, limited edition artwork we award to each of our winners. In tribute to Tony, we will be honoring him, his contribution and support at the ceremony and also offering a special award to the highest scoring Sauvignon Blanc in the wine competition – it was Tony’s favourite tipple.
Any entries for The Story Behind the Label Video competition, sponsored by The Buyer?
We will 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).
If you’ve entered wines or spirits and not submitted your videos yet, you still have time to do this. The details are here:
For Story Behind the Label for wine awards click here. https://peopleschoicedrinksawards.com/pcwa/wine-passion/
How do people get a ticket for the Awards ceremony?
Tickets are £75 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 2024 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.
This is a free-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)
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 very limited number of gold commendations, in the case of close scoring or exceptional circumstances. As detailed above, we will also reveal the number of points achieved for each wine and spirit which receives a finalist or medal winning position and we are always happy to provide consumer and professional judges comments and feedback for those who enter (regardless of their position in the competition).
- The Buyer is media partner to both the People’s Choice Wine and Spirits awards.