Double the number of entries, over 70 judges, the majority of which are average wine drinkers and a bigger number of shortlisted wines. The People’s Choice Wine Awards are on a march. Now into its third year, the competition that literally lives up to its name, shows there is plenty of excitement and enthusiasm amongst everyday wine drinkers to get involved in an event that is all about championing wines the average consumers want to drink. Richard Siddle assesses the ins and outs of the shortlist for the 2020 People’s Choice Wine Awards.
From Vegan Friendly to Mindful Drinking the People’s Choice Wine Awards looks to celebrate the kind of wines average wine drinkers want to drink.
This year’s People Choice Wine Awards attracted 250 entries. And that was just from day-to-day wine drinkers wanting to take part in the judging. Yes, that’s right, average wine consumers who were willing to give up a day to help take part in the judging. The competition received entries from all over the world, with one judge even flying in from Vietnam to take part – and we thought we had a problem trying to engage with the public.
Sadly there was only room for 70 judges to take part in the Round 1 and Round 2 judging for this breakthrough competition that is about giving people the voice in how a wine competition is decided.
Whilst the majority of other national and international wine competition only rely on professional judges from within the wine industry, the People’s Choice Wine Awards brings the two together – consumers and trade members to help come up with the final shortlist and winners.
The Round 2 panel included Helena Nicklin of The Three Drinkers, Mike Turner of Please Bring Me My Wine and The Buyer, MW student Sumita Sarma, Reserve Wines owner and BBC’s Food and Drink presenter, Kate Goodman, Nik Darlington, co-founder of Graft and Jackie Fast of Rebel Pi wines. They were joined by other wine journalists, wine trade professionals, two WSET students who won a competition run by WSET Global, and three of the best performing consumer judges from the first round.
Double the numbers
This year’s competition has seen more wines shortlisted to reflect increased number of wines in each category, says competition founder, Janet Harrison. It also attracted twice the number of wines and a much bigger spread of companies entering from national importers, including Bibendum, Boutinot, Kingsland Drinks, and Lanchester Wines, and from a larger pool of retailers (Marks & Spencer, Lidl, Co-op, Booths). It also received more entries directly from wine producers around the world, which is an area is it keen to build on in future years.
You can click here to see all the finalists.
Harrison says it is great to see so many more wines entered, even if it means a bigger enterprise to manage. “Judging is now a huge task involving so many more people, but it is also really great fun – everyone loves it! It is a joy to organise,” she says. “The quality levels are also good if not better.”
“We had a lot more people applying to be judges, but we still need more ‘average wine drinkers’. Particularly those without WSET qualifications to be a bit bolder! Such is the snobbery around wine – we still have to cajole some people.
“We also got more entries partially due to the ‘Judy factor’. Judy Kendrick (who is now a partner in the awards) knows a lot of people in the wine trade and is a safe pair of hands. Also we visited ProWein and the London Wine Fair for face to face meetings with brands and generics.”
This year’s competition saw wines submitted mainly between £7-£15, with a few exceptions – the highest being £75. “We had a couple of big suppliers who really went for it and submitted large numbers of wines,” she adds.
The awards are also attracting interest from a wider pool of countries with Romania, Austria, US and Portugal all entering wines direct from producers.
“We have Vini Portugal as our new sponsors of the Unsigned Talent categories – who will be looking to give a limited numbers of bursaries to producers who wish to submit wines for this category next year.”
Harrison says there were a number of highlights from this year’s categories, particularly in ‘Vegan Friendly’ where the judges were said to be impressed by the quality of the entries. Similarly the ‘Back to Nature’ category to promote organic wines.
“We had a great cross section of wines in the ‘Women Who Make Wine’ category and I loved the fact we got a number of cans and boxed wine for the ‘Great Outdoors’ category. Other popular areas were ‘BBQ’, ‘Sparkling Wine Rest of World’, ‘Red for Easy Weekday Meals’, and ‘White for Aromatic & Asian Cuisine’.
New categories introduced this year included ‘Back to Nature’, ‘Vegan Friendly’, ‘Mindful Drinking’, for low/no alcohol wines, ‘Women Who Make Wine’ and ‘Unsigned Talent’ to help those looking for a listing in the UK.
How it is judged
The judges are asked to rate each wine using a simple five step scoring system. This includes ‘would you buy it yourself?’ as the PCWA wants to drill down to exactly what the consumer is thinking and whether the wine is something they would choose or recommend to a friend.
Most importantly the judges are asked if they feel the wine adequately fits the category into which it was submitted. This steps has been introduced to help provide to the suppliers, producers and retailers that enter.
The final for the competition will take place in Manchester on February 3 at the The Comedy Store and will once again be hosted by Amelia Singer and Kate Goodman. Click here for tickets.