• Austria, Côtes du Rhône & SoWine on UK Wine List awards

    Tonight is the night when the winners in the first UK Wine List Awards – co-hosted by The Buyer and Star Wine List – are announced. To help set the scene we talk to three of the awards’ partners who also work with Star Wine List on its global awards series: Austrian Wine; Côtes du Rhône; and SoWine. Together they look at the steps they have taken to support the on-trade in lockdown around the world and what the new UK awards can do to help outlets return when they can.

    Tonight is the night when the winners in the first UK Wine List Awards – co-hosted by The Buyer and Star Wine List – are announced. To help set the scene we talk to three of the awards’ partners who also work with Star Wine List on its global awards series: Austrian Wine; Côtes du Rhône; and SoWine. Together they look at the steps they have taken to support the on-trade in lockdown around the world and what the new UK awards can do to help outlets return when they can.

    mm By February 22, 2021

    To watch the live streaming of tonight’s awards ceremony at 6pm February 22 click here on Facebook and for YouTube link here. Here’s three of our partners to mark your card for what you can expect.

    Austrian Wine (sponsors of Grand Prix and Austrian Wine categories)



    Chris Yorke, managing director

    Why did you decide to get involved in the Star Wine List of the Year award? Why is that important?

    We have been supporters of Star Wine List since the beginning and it has been such a success in the Nordic countries. This is why we were thrilled when we heard that Star Wine List will be held around the world, including this new Wine List of the Year event in the UK with The Buyer. By now we have been involved in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Hong Kong and Macau and in the Netherlands.

    Last year when we looked at our partnerships we decided this was one we wanted to get more involved in as it supports all the great restaurants around the world in these difficult times. It also celebrates excellence in wine lists, which is an art as well as a science.

    What do you hope that your engagement will bring? And what do you hope that the award itself can bring?

    For us it is about encouraging sommeliers to look over the edge of the plate and look to excite their customers by trying a wine they would not normally taste

    In many countries Austrian wine is still in the discovery phase, so a restaurant is a perfect location for a knowledgeable sommelier to talk to their customer and encourage them to try an Austrian wine. Our experience shows that once customers have enjoyed the food friendly, elegant Austrian wines they will continue drinking them.

    In terms of the awards we want to help promote excellence in wine lists. But, in particular, we would like to encourage sommeliers to consider Austrian wines on their list. Once sommeliers start that journey with Austrian wines I am sure they will continue to be delighted by the broad range of wine styles, an array of indigenous varieties grown in special regions and produced with the long term future of the land in mind.

    Austrian Wine continues to work closely with the on-trade to help support it with online tastings and events where it still can

    You’ve sponsored several national competitions already, what are your thoughts on the level of the Austrian selections on the wine lists throughout the world?

    We are excited by the sommeliers who are delving into the world of Austrian wine. We believe more restaurants can do this. And that those already doing can continue to broaden their range of our wines. It’s clear Austrian wines find their way onto wine lists with traditional wines and the iconic brands and varieties that Austria is associated with.

    We are also seeing more natural and organic and sustainably certified Austrian wines on lists.

    How has Austrian Wine changed its strategy during the pandemic?

    We quickly focused on the channels that were open and launched a heritage campaign within 10 days, promoting wines through online, shops and from the wineries. One of our major focus was to promote wine tourism  domestically as Austrians weren‘t able to travel overseas

    Internationally we have launched a number of new online formats for restaurants (Close Look), trade professionals (online tastings) as well as several online promotions of Austrian wines around the world.

    This culminated in our first Flight Tasting Winemakers Edition which we launched in Moscow and we will bring the enhanced edition to London later this year. We are also this month hosting our first virtual press trip for US media.

    How were Austrian wine sales in the UK in 2020?
    Up to 2018, Austrian wine showed strong growth in value (€5.39 million) and up to 2019 strong growth in volume (1.293 million litres). The average price in 2019 was still around €1 (€3.97) above the average price of all Austrian wine exports. This shows the appreciation of the British for Austrian wine.

    Due to the strong market penetration of Austrian wine in the on-trade, the area that has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, and the Brexit uncertainty, we expect a slight decline in exports for 2020. However, we do not yet have concrete figures for this. We expect exports to recover quickly and continue to rise, as Austrian winegrowers have also focused on their main markets and were able to open up new sales channels in the wake of the pandemic.

    Austrian wine
    Seeming like a long time ago, the annual Austrian wine tasting event, London, February 3, 2020

    What styles and regions of Austrian wine work well in the on-trade?

    It is a strength that Austrian wines such a perfect accompaniment to an array of dishes and food styles Sommeliers from all over the world constantly confirm this. This is due to their compact and elegant body and fresh style; the result of cool climate conditions.

    We can definitely see a trend towards more food friendly wines and lighter styles. It is good regularly to see on wines list a juicy Zweigelt from Lake Neusiedl, or a natural wine next to a Wachau Smaragd.  We particularly like this motto:  “Your food, our wine!”

    What specific plans do you have to support the UK on-trade this year?

    We are organising the online event Austrian Tasting UK – The Stay at Home Edition, open to a limited number of VIP-guests including  sommeliers, press and trade buyers. Each guest has the chance to select 12 Austrian producers, presenting three wines each, from a selection of 50 in the UK market.  On April 12 we will bring those experts and winemakers together online to taste the wines together.

    In we would normally hold ou  yearly Austrian Wine tasting in London and masterclasses in targeted cities, like Edinburgh, which have always worked well.

    Côtes du Rhône (sponsors of Côtes du Rhône wine list award)

    Caroline Vigneron, marketing export manager for UK & Northern Europe for Inter Rhône.

    Why did you want to get involved in the UK Wine List and overall Star Wine List of the Year competition

    We were sure these awards would be of a very high level. The Côtes du Rhône vineyards are as demanding and it is important for us to support and participate in these awards, including the new UK edition. The CDR appellation has been present on the UK market for many years, we have organised numerous events and media campaigns and it is an important market and one that is dear to us. It is also one of the biggest markets for the appellation.

    What do you hope your engagement  in the awards will bring? 

    The CDR appellation has been present on the market for a long time and is very well known and appreciated by generations over 55 years of age. Our ambition now is to attract younger consumers and professionals who are less familiar with our appellation.

    Over the last few years, the vineyards have undergone many changes, and continued their rise in quality with the recognition of new crus (Cairanne) that have made a concrete commitment to environmental issues and sustainable development. All these new developments deserve to be highlighted as they give more reasons to love our wines.

    You are presenting the Rhône List category – what is your general opinion about the Rhône selections at UK restaurants and wine bars?

    Côtes du Rhône has run special promotions in the past with restaurants and wine merchants to showcase and promote its wines at key times of the year  – like here at Roger Jones’s The Harrow at Little Bedwyn that had created a special menu featuring white Delas Côte du Rhône with smoked Somerset eel, pistachio, caviar and foraged herbs

    Côtes du Rhône wines are traditionally widely available in restaurants, especially through the crus (Crozes-Hermitage, Gigondas, Côte Rôtie etrc) and for those restaurants with a renown wine list, and we know sommeliers and buyers also recognise the value they offer.

    Our desire is to show the CDR appellation, which is already widely drunk at home, can also have its place in restaurants, be it by the glass or at the table. We also have white wines, and lesser known wines that deserve to be noticed.

    How has Inter-Rhône changed the way it works during the pandemic?

    We focused on B2C activities with extra budget on digital and social media communication, but we also maintained as much investment as we could on our key markets, including UK.

    What are your hopes for 2021?

    That we can enjoy conviviality again. The joy of being together with friend and going out together. We also hope the logistical difficulties as a result of Brexit do not penalise the small operators who were used to working directly with the trade and who contributed to the great diversity of the UK’s offer.

    What services do you offer and would like to offer to UK wine business in the on-trade?

    Côtes du Rhône has been famous for its highly visual and successful advertising and promotions campaign to bring its wines to everyday drinkers like these posters that ran in the London tube

    Keeping up to date with the trade in general and the on-trade is capital for us, in the hope that they will show their interest in Rhône wines and show them in their outlets. So we continue to support the trade with our communication plans and promotional actions.

    Our Facebook page now has 18,000 subscribers and this increases every year. We are always looking to show the overall work that vineyards do in terms of their  quality, transparency and commitment. We take part in trade fairs, organise master classes to explain what we are about and our vision.

    In April, we are going to organise an online challenge on the Côtes du Rhônes Villages with commune name, for wine merchants and sommeliers. It will be hosted by Matt Walls.We’re trying to show, in a playful way, the lesser known gems, that show the Côtes du Rhône spirit.

    What difference do you think you can make?

    We are lucky to have been working in the English market for many years so relationships with the trade have been established. We are showing through our quality improvement process that the CDR villages of today can be the crus of tomorrow and that we are a dynamic vineyard, that work pays. The world of wine can be intimidating for some people and our philosophy is that appreciating a wine is first and foremost a personal matter, and that one must free oneself from the pressure that can accompany a tasting.
    We are fortunate to be located in an area where many British tourists come for holidays and can visit the estates. It is with knowledge that they then turn to our wines in the restaurants.

    SoWine (sponsors of Special Jury category)

    Arnaud Daphy, associate director, SoWine, the French wine marketing agency

    Why did you decide to get involved in the Wine List of the Year awards? 

    We liked the concept and also an opportunity for the wine trade to get together as an international community. It is also the occasion to be part of an exciting and new digital concept in the wine world as this is becoming a core development for the wine industry.  I also personally like to browse wine lists and I usually pick a restaurant depending on its wine selection.

    What do you hope your engagement in the awards will bring? 
    At SoWine, we have a 360° view on the wine industry, from the wine production to its distribution along with a coherent marketing strategy. These awards can bring more recognition to the vibrant wine trade community and highlight the importance of quality wine lists. You no longer go to restaurants for the food only, but also for the wine program, the service, the ambiance and the overall experience.

    You are presenting the Special Jury Prize category – what makes a wine list special, in your opinion?
    I like wine lists that allow you to choose from a number of regions, winemakers, styles and prices. But more important, I look for a personality and a concept behind the selection. I like to get a sense of exploration and surprise when I open a wine list.

    Wine is another form of travel, particularly at the moment. As the Special Jury Prize category is meant to mention ‘out of the ordinary wine lists’, it appealed to the innovative spirit and open-minded values that SoWine has. Since we created SoWine in 2006 we have always looked to help our clients have a sideways view and to think out of the box so they can shine their own light.

    How has SoWine changed the way it works during the pandemic?

    To maintain a personal connection with the team, we have organised a “Toast Time” on zoom, every Friday.  It has been our way to discuss wine just for pleasure and to compare our picks of the week.

    We also helped our clients with their digital communication towards our clients and more generally for the professional audience, with our podcasts SOWINE Talks or our newsletters Time To Raise Your Glass. We discussed there about wine trends, wine personalities, with a more light and enthusiastic tone. Also being limited with events organization, we notice more needs to develop long-term strategies and training programs dedicated to the wine trade.

    What services do you offer and would like to offer to UK wine business in the on-trade?

    We offer communication and marketing strategies for clients in the wine, Champagne, beer and spirits industry. We have a broad vision thanks to an eclectic team coming from different backgrounds. We also developed SOFOOD so we can extend our “liquid” expertise to communication dedicated to the food world.

    What difference do you think you can make?

    Our team. We are grateful to work with professionals from different cultures and backgrounds. In the past, some of them worked in the wine distribution, some others launched their own wine brand, or others were in digital marketing for big groups.

    What is the main area you think on-trade businesses need most help and support with their marketing and communications?

    Definitely social media. More than ever digital is becoming a key marketing platform to build and maintain a relationship with your customers.

    • You can watch the live streaming of the UK Wine List of the Year Awards ceremony at 6pm February 22. Click here on Facebook and for YouTube link here.

    • Click here to see who are the finalists in both the UK and Global categories. 

    • Our thanks also to Hepple Spirits Company for sponsoring the drinks for special guests for the virtual awards ceremony.


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