AFTER A bleak 18 months of lockdowns, working from home and endless Zoom meetings, being able to bring together the cream of the UK drinks trade in late September to celebrate the success stories of the past year was the shot in the arm the industry needed.
With the ceremony having been hosted virtually last year, it felt particularly special to be able to put on a live event in the elegant surroundings of Asia House in London’s Marylebone.
As the Pol Roger flowed, Champagne glasses clinked and the great and good of the trade met and mingled, db editor-in-chief Patrick Schmitt MW took to the stage to announce the winners of the 2021 awards, accompanied by a soundtrack of aptly chosen tunes, which were blasted out after the ceremony via Spotify.
The Drinks Business Awards were conceived 18 years ago to celebrate outstanding achievements in drinks in an array of categories, from retail buying, marketing and drinks design to social media and PR. In the design category, Stranger & Stranger scooped a slew of gongs, including best in show for its quirky, crocodile-inspired bottle for Eminente Reserva Rum.
Elsewhere, one-woman band Nicky Smith proved a popular winner when her fledgling firm, Smith & Vine, was named PR Company of the Year, while The Whisky Exchange, which was recently snapped up by Pernod Ricard, proved its mettle once again, winning Drinks Event of the Year for its Virtual Whisky Show. Cambridge Wine Merchants also had reason to celebrate, as it was named both our indie merchant of the year and fine wine merchant of the year, to rapturous applause from the audience.
Our personality awards saw us celebrate a nattily dressed, community-minded rising star in the spirits world; an inspirational female leader who is putting the environment first at her London gin distillery; and a low-profile chef de cave who has been quietly crafting exemplary Champagnes for the past 30 years. The trophies came courtesy of Glen Cairn Crystal, and certificates were framed in cork supplied by Amorim.
The winners, profiled over the following pages, are testament to the resilience the trade has shown during one of its most challenging eras, and how forward thinking and adaptable it has proved to be in the face of adversity.
design and packaging awards
Denomination for La Noblesse
About our sponsor: Sparflex
Specialising in secondary-closure capsule production for Champagne and sparkling wines, Sparflex is a longtime partner of the drinks business and to launch a design category felt like a logical step. Sparflex has always been focused on design thanks to its design workshops within the group, and is currently working closely with design agencies worldwide on new projects.
BEST DESIGN & PACKAGING FOR WINE
Winner: Denomination for La Noblesse Our judges felt this design was a sophisticated way of telling a story without being gimmicky. They said its irreverent, witty design worked on multiple levels and felt it “gave people permission to dive into Loire reds”. One look at the wine’s label left you in no doubt that this could be “anything other than French”, said one judge.
Special commendation: Barlow & Co for Marks & Spencer Found range
The judges were impressed at the standout quality of these designs. They described the range as “commercially cracking a very different nut” in terms of the job it had to do, and that it ticked every box. Being able to achieve the same paper stock and quality of execution across the range, which is bottled in different countries, is “no small feat”.
Special commendation: Della Vite and Buchanan Studio for Della Vite Proscecco Superiore DOCG
Our judges praised this “beautifully tactile bottle” for its sophisticated and premium feel, along with its daringly different design that moves the Prosecco category on through the creation of a distinctive, fashion forward brand. They also liked how the label-free bottle backed up the brand’s eco credentials.
Denomination for Quinta da Pedra Alta
• Argency for Seña 2019
• Barlow & Co for Marks & Spencer Found range
• Della Vite and Buchanan Studio for Della Vite Proscecco Superiore DOCG
• Denomination for La Noblesse
• Viña VIK for La Piu Belle and La Piu Belle Rosé
• Yalumba for Oxford Landing
BEST DESIGN & PACKAGING FOR FORTIFIED WINE
Winner: Denomination for Quinta da Pedra Alta White Port
The judges enthused over the blind embossed vines on the bottle, which they felt gave it a luxurious feel. They praised the way the design takes Port into a new era through its ability to attract a younger audience to the category that wouldn’t necessarily drink it.
Special commendation: Stranger & Stranger for Azaline Vermouth
The intricate decorative label hit the mark for the judges, who praised its arabesque
influence and loved all its Persian cues, describing the design, which tips its hat to the vivid violet hue of saffron flowers, as being a “visual feast”.
• Denomination for Cockburn’s Tails of the Unexpected
• Denomination for Quinta da Pedro Alta White Port
• Omdesign for Kopke Port
• Stranger & Stranger for Azaline Vermouth
• Symington Family Estate and Alexandra Sousa Ribeiro for Graham’s Port
Best Design & Packaging for Spirits Winner: Stranger & Stranger for Eminente Reserva Rum
The judges raved about the glass crocodile-esque embossed scales on the bottle, the crocodile-shaped island on the label and the kitsch shape of the bottle. They believed consumers would want to keep it after the rum had been finished.
Special commendation: Stranger & Stranger for Kastra Vodka
Our judges loved the way the bottle comes wrapped in paper telling the story of Greece. They said that the ceramic feel of the bottle also felt really Greek and described the design as being “like something you might see in an apothecary in Athens”.
Special commendation: Stranger & Stranger for Stranahan’s 10 Year Old
This design scored highly with the judges for its high-quality premium feel. The judges felt it had a “timeless” quality and liked the continuation of the yellow stripe over from its old packaging.
Yalumba for Oxford Landing
Hundred Hills for Doe Eyed Queen
• Nude Brand Creation for Redbreast Irish Whiskey Bird Feeder bottle
• Nude Brand Creation for Ripping Yarns Golden Spiced Rum
• Stranger & Stranger for Eminente Reserva Rum
• Stranger & Stranger for Kastra Vodka
• Stranger & Stranger for Stranahan’s 10 Year Old
• Lewis Moberly for Benriach
THE SPARFLEX AWARD FOR BEST ENGLISH AND WELSH SPARKLING WINE PACKAGING
Winner: Hundred Hills Doe Eyed Queen
The judges felt this design breaks a lot of moulds for English fizz. They loved it for its fun, approachable aesthetic and vibrant pistachio green colour, which feels like a departure from others in the English sparkling category. They described the design as brave, and well executed, with nice treatment on the bottle neck and collar.
Special Commendation: Busi Jacobsohn Wine Estate
Our judges praised this bottle for its “expensive looking” design, calling it “one of the most premium designs we’ve seen’ across the awards”. They liked how every aspect of the design is well integrated and that special attention is paid to texture.
Special commendation: Balfour Winery
The judges described this design as being “built for Instagram”, and stressed that they would like to see more of this kind of specially commissioned artwork being used by other brands. The packaging clearly states the words ‘English’ and ‘Kent’, making its provenance clear. They also liked the minimalist front label, which sparks curiosity.
• Albourne Estate
• Artelium Wine Estate
• Balfour Winery
• Busi Jacobsohn Wine Estate
• Hundred Hills for Doe Eyed Queen
BEST PACKAGING REDESIGN
Winner wine: Oxford Landing
The judges felt that the impressive reinvention of this iconic brand warranted an award, with one saying, “It’s easy to forget how important and well-known this brand was when it first launched 30 years ago.” They praised it for its new look and feel, making the brand feel fresh, contemporary and current again.
Winner Spirits: Benriarch
This scored well for its beautifully executed reinvention, that has a specific job to do, and does that job well. The new look reminded the judges of rare, collectible expressions of whisky, saying it felt very premium. They also liked the fact that you can take apart every element of the design and it holds up.
BEST INNOVATION IN PACKAGING
Winner: Nude Brand Creation for Redbreast Irish Whiskey Bird Feeder bottle
Our judges loved this innovative bottle, which doubles up as a bird feeder once its content is finished. They praised it for being recyclable and genuinely useful, as well as feeling relevant for the Irish whiskey brand.
Nude Brand Creation for Redbreast Irish Whiskey
Nicky Smith of Smith & Vine PR
BEST LAUNCH OF THE YEAR
Winner: The Greater Good Fresh Brewing Co for the Pinter
Our judges liked the ambition of this project in taking on the big guns, which they described as “disruptive, good for the consumer and good for the environment”. Hailing it “a proper startup story”, they praised its “clear objective from a sustainability perspective”, and its ability to deliver on it.
Special commendation: Benchmark Drinks for Kylie Minogue Wines
“If there was one product launch that really captured the headlines this year, then it was Kylie’s wine,” said one judge of this entry, with all agreeing that the brand had done well in winning over both consumers and critics. They also admired the brand’s impressive sales stats and bold expansion plans.
“It’s a perfectly packaged brand driving new customers into the wine category,” said one judge.
Special commendation: Bosman Family Vineyards for Bosman Nero
This South African launch was lauded for its strong visuals and outstanding breadth of visibility across the market from a brand with strong credentials. “It has all the hallmarks of a really well thought through and well targeted pitch,” said one judge, who praised its innovative use of social media and music.
Special commendation for spirits: White Claw Hard Seltzer
Our judges were impressed by how quickly and decisively White Claw made its presence known in the UK, growing into Britain’s number-one hard seltzer brand by volume and value, with a 44% value share of the market just over a year since it launched. They also applauded its efforts to encourage consumers to recycle their cans.
• Benchmark Drinks for Kylie Minogue Wines
• Bosman Family Vineyards for Bosman Nero
• Cockburn’s for Tails of the Unexpected
• The Greater Good Fresh Brewing Co for The Pinter
• White Claw Hard Seltzer
PR COMPANY OF THE YEAR
Winner: Smith & Vine PR
This one-woman band run by Nicky Smith stood out as particularly strong in a competitive category, proving that PR agencies don’t need to be big to yield impressive results. A respected figure in the industry, judges praised Smith’s approach and the fact that she advises on strategy and brand building in addition to garnering press coverage for her clients.
Special commendation: Phipps Relations
Putting people first helped this entry stand out and merit commendation. “The importance the company places on looking after its staff shows great business practice and the fact that it’s a great place to work,” said one judge, adding, “increasing their head count in such a difficult time is impressive.”
• Clementine Communications
• Gregory + Vine
• Phipps Relations
• Smith & Vine PR
TRADE CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR
Winner: The Wine Agency for ‘Wines of Portugal Month – June is for Indies!’
This campaign focusing on promoting Portuguese wines via UK independent merchants was deemed “good value” and “highly effective” by the judges.
Called #JuneIsForIndies, the initiative saw 15 cherry-picked merchants focus on Portuguese wines in store and online, through tastings, events and promotions for a month.
Targeted, with strong results, both in terms of marketing and sales, the initiative was a brilliant example of what can be achieved on a small budget.
The Wine Agency for ‘Wines of Portugal Month – June is for Indies’
Clarity Comms for HobtoberFest
Special commendation: Eat Spain Drink Spain
The judges wanted to commend this “swish” and “polished” campaign for its big results on a small budget. Comprising a series of UK-wide workshops showcasing a range of top Spanish foods and wines to retailers, buyers, bars and restaurants, it achieved its targets, and proved well-adapted, with a successful roll-out despite Covid-related restrictions.
• Eat Spain Drink Spain
• Pol Roger Portfolio for its Napa Valley agencies
• Washington State Wine Commission for Sommlight
• Slam Communications for Alsace Wines
• The Wine Agency for ‘Wines of Portugal Month – June is for Indies!’
CONSUMER CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR
Winner: Hardys Certainty Campaign and ‘Money Back Guarantee’
Our judges praised this fully integrated multimedia campaign that yielded very strong results in terms of engaging new shoppers and bringing new people into the brand, describing this “very complete campaign” as “a simple, well executed idea with real impact and measurable results”.
Special commendation: Slam Communications for Tío Pepe
This “neat, nicely packaged consumer campaign” won over our judges who were impressed by its level of consumer reach and engagement for a modest budget. They also loved how a collaboration with the Great British Chefs website was helping the often unloved Sherry category to reach a wider, younger audience.
Special commendation: The Hidden Sea
The judges found the message of the campaign to be compelling, very well told and integral to the brand. “The good the brand is doing for the environment is very motivating to someone who might want to buy it,” pointed out one judge
• Bloom Gin
• Hardys Certainty Campaign and ‘Money Back Guarantee’
• Slam Communications for Tío Pepe
• The Hidden Sea
SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR
Winner: Clarity Comms for HobtoberFest
This “confident, creative and comprehensive” campaign stood out for its swift response to the challenges of lockdown and for exceeding its targets. “Hard work should be rewarded and this agency has thrived during adversity and responded to the challenges of the covid crisis with energy and enthusiasm,” said one judge.
Special commendation: Chelsea & Co Agency for International Sherry Week
Our judges were wowed by this “cohesive campaign” spanning a huge amount of events over many countries, which was lauded as “inventive and creative” in its ability to bring Sherry lovers together from all corners of the globe.
• Chelsea & Co Agency for International Sherry Week
• Clarity Comms for HobtoberFest
• Clementine Communications for Glen Moray Meets
• Highland Park/Hydrogen for Inner Circle
• Gallo for Dark Horse >
marketing awards & retailer awards
Katie Jones for Vineyard Rambles
The Whisky Exchange Virtual Whisky Show
BEST VIRTUAL INITIATIVE
Domaine Jones for Vineyard Rambles
Meriting a new award this year for a standout virtual initiative was Domaine Jones, run by Katie Jones, for her Vineyard Rambles series, where wine lovers were encouraged to tune in to join Jones on walks around her vineyards in Tuchan to learn about the history of wine and the local area, the importance of terroir and how the landscape shapes the character of her wines. “Her Vineyard Rambles series [on YouTube] was one of the most exciting connections between drinkers and producers I’ve encountered,” said one judge, with all praising Jones’ natural skills as an educator to her global audience due to her infectious enthusiasm.
DRINKS EVENT OF THE YEAR
Winner: The Whisky Exchange Virtual Whisky Show 2020
This event stood out for the richness of its content, its effective engagement with consumers nationally and internationally, the quality of the collateral that accompanied it, and the clear commercial success of the outcome. “This wasn’t just a case of triumph over adversity, its creators are actively moving the dial on how you can host these kinds of events post pandemic,” said one judge.
Special commendation: The London Wine Fair Digital Edition
Our judges wanted to give credit to the huge personal effort of the people involved in organising this event, who went above and beyond in very changed and challenging circumstances, and praised their efforts in helping the drinks industry to recover and rebuild in the face of the pandemic.
• Eminent Wines for the Royal British Legion Centenary Champagne
• The London Wine Fair Digital Edition
• The Whisky Exchange Virtual Whisky Show 2020
• UAE Vine Festival
BEST CONTRIBUTION TO WINE AND SPIRITS TOURISM
Winner wine: New Zealand Winegrowers
Our judges enjoyed this “engaging, coherent and convincing campaign” encouraging consumers to visit NZ wineries, which they felt was approached “in a well thought out and friendly way”, and perfectly tailored to its audience. They also praised its stunning visuals.
New Zealand Winegrowers
Winner spirits: Roe & Co. Distillery
Housed in the old Guinness Power Station in Dublin, Irish whiskey distillery Roe & Co impressed our judges with its ability to pivot during the pandemic, from offering tours and workshops to turning the outside of the site into an al fresco ‘Cocktail Village’ and street food venue using upcycled shipping container pods.
Special commendation: Le Cassisium
All of our judges agreed that this cathedral to cassis was somewhere they would like to visit and praised its quirky and innovative approach to tourism.
• Casa Valle Viñamar
• Chene Bleu
• Le Cassisium
• New Zealand Winegrowers
• Roe & Co. Distillery
Cambridge Wine Merchants
INDEPENDENT RETAILER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Cambridge Wine Merchants
This indie stood out for its strong sense of what it stands for, with one judge describing the merchant as “confident without being cocky”. It was praised for “doing everything you would hope for excellently and adding value where they can”, and for the hard work it’s put into compiling a comprehensive wine offering.
Special commendation for innovation: Vagabond Wines
Our judges praised the way this indie offers the customer a complete, creative and compelling wine experience that serves as a blueprint for its competitors. “The innovations they’re putting in place now will be adopted by other retailers in the future,” one judge said.
• Bon Coeur Fine Wine
• Cambridge Wine Merchants
• Vagabond Wines
ONLINE RETAILER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Waitrose Cellar
Our judges praised the way this retailer refocused its efforts during the last year to trade online, and its mission to bring exciting wines to market by taking a small parcel approach, broadening its range in the process. They were impressed by the breadth and depth of its online offering, with wines to cater to all palates.
Special commendation: The Whisky Exchange
This retailer was praised for its enviable range and exemplary online tastings and events. It also scored points for moving the online drinks buying experience forward and increasing accessibility to its range via its live chat function. “This company is showing real leadership in the online arena through its product range, user experience, and virtual entertainment offerings,” said one judge.
• 31 Dover
• Marlo Wine
• The Whisky Exchange
• Waitrose Cellar
This indie stood out for its strong sense of what it stands for, with one judge describing the merchant as ‘confident without being cocky’
FINE WINE RETAILER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Cambridge Wine Merchants
Our winner stood out for offering a compelling bricks-and-mortar fine wine experience that opened up the category to a broader audience, selling fine wines that are both accessible and affordable to consumers. With an impressive portfolio of high-end wines from around the world, our judges praised the retailer ’s ability to convert consumers into fine wine buyers.
Special commendation: Bordeaux Index
This impressive entry merited commending for a successful rebrand that is helping to take the elitism out of fine wine via initiatives like its more affordable Merchants collection. “The rebrand was a bold move, and a good one that has clearly had a positive impact,” said one judge.
• Bordeaux Index
• Cambridge Wine Merchants
• Independent Wine
• Marlo Wine
retailer awards & logistics awards
Waitrose & Partners
RETAIL BUYING TEAM OF THE YEAR
Winner: Waitrose & Partners
An awards regular, Waitrose wowed our judges once again for its buying team’s collective mission to put the customer first and the consumer experience at the heard of their buying decisions. During a difficult trading period the retailer achieved impressive results, growing its Champagne sales at a time when there was little to celebrate, while supporting the hard-hit South African wine industry, and championing English wine and alternative formats. “The buyers are working together as a team to serve the end consumer and aren’t afraid to pioneer a new format or category,” said one judge.
Special commendation: Majestic Wine
Our judges felt the buying team at Majestic deserved to be commended for their hard work in helping to breathe new life back into this important UK retailer.
Helping to do so, the team recently updated 60% of the Majestic range, and has supported South Africa in its hour of need, achieving impressive sales results off the back of it. “We need Majestic on our high street and the team have worked hard during lockdown to refresh its offering,” said one judge.
RETAIL BUYER OF THE YEAR:
Becky Hull MW
Our winner impressed our judges for driving incredible sales growth within the sparkling wine and rosé categories at Waitrose. Since taking on responsibility for Champagne in 2016, Hull has increased turnover of the French fizz by 80%, taking Waitrose’s value market share from 11% to 18.7%. In addition to championing English fizz, Hull has also encouraged consumers to branch out into crémant and New World sparklers. She is responsible for over £160 million in turnover for Waitrose, buying Champagne, sparkling wine and rosé, and increasing the retailer ’s rosé sales by 75% over the past two years.
DRINKS RETAILER OF THE YEAR:
Our winner was praised for having a “transformational” year that has yielded record sales after a period of upheaval. “There is a real sense of energy and life returning to a business we’ve all admired in the past but that lost its way – the hard work in recent years is really starting to pay off,” said one judge. Majestic stood our for driving premiumisation in the wine category and acquiring 350,000 new customers during the pandemic, buoyed by a website relaunch, click and collect service, and a return to its original distinctive branding. The company also won praise for investing in and looking after its staff.
Becky Hull MW
TRADING PLATFORM OF THE YEAR
Winner wine: LiveTrade, Bordeaux Index
Fine wine specialist Bordeaux Index’s trading platform, LiveTrade, impressed our judges due to the sheer volume of transactions – £120 million worth – that go through the platform yearly, making it a vital sales channel for the company and its customers. The efficiency of the platform also stood out, from its fast payment and firm two-way pricing, to its 24/7 accessibility, making it an indispensable tool for fine wine collectors.
Winner spirits: Spiritrade
Standing out in the spirits category was Spiritrade, which has grown its inventory to £110 million. During the pandemic Spiritrade regularly updated its trading platform with new features to assist its members, adding a Short Shelf-Life category, which provided greater brand awareness for distressed lines. Another new feature allowed sellers to upload thousands of lines in a few clicks, enabling them to sell to a global network of buyers almost instantaneously.
LOGISTICS COMPANY OF THE YEAR
Winner VinLog, Kuehne + Nagel
Our winner was praised for engaging with European customs authorities and government agencies about VI1 documents on wine imports, which prevented a number of producers from withdrawing their wines from the UK due to legislative challenges. The company was also praised for its focus on sustainability via its Seaexplorer platform; the first tool providing CO 2 visibility in maritime logistics, which highlights the carbon emissions of sea freight vessels worldwide, enabling customers to choose the service with the lowest emissions.
Special commendation: STI Internazionale
The Italian logistics firm deserved commendation for growing both its customer base and consignment numbers over the past 12 months. Among its new clients is Enotria Wine Cellars, which appointed STI as its supplier of wines from Italy to the UK. It was also praised for its helping importers to complete the necessary documentation needed to ensure their wines arrived safely and promptly to the UK after Brexit.
BEST SUPPLY CHAIN INITIATIVE:
Over the past year, our winner developed a database of over 35,000 ABV values, which has enabled it and its members to automatically create commodity codes that can be used to generate shipping documentation. The initiative has helped Liv-ex to support its members, and the wider supply chain, through a challenging triple whammy of Covid, Brexit, and US tariffs.
Special commendation: VinLog, Kuehne + Nagel
Kuehne+Nagel /Vinlog deserved commending for its efforts in engagingcommending for its efforts in engaging with European customs authorities,with European customs authorities, government agencies and legislators togovernment agencies and legislators to lobby archaic legislation that requiredlobby archaic legislation that required approval of VI1 documents on specificapproval of VI1 documents on specific wine imports from an original signaturewine imports from an original signature by Defra to a digitalised signature, whichby Defra to a digitalised signature, which not only helped to speed up the movement of wine through the supply chain but also prevented a number of producers from withdrawing their wines from the UK market due to legislative challenges.
Kuehne + Nagel
company & personality awards
Marcelo Papa, Concha y Toro’s technical director
DRINKS COMPANY OF THE YEAR
Winner (international): Viña Concha y Toro
Wowing the judges for its strong brands, sustainable production and skilful management during the pandemic, Concha y Toro is a global powerhouse of a wine business. Its flagship label, Casillero del Diablo, grew in sales during the Covid-19 trading period, while the company continued on its mission to reduce its environmental footprint, achieving B Corporation Certification this year, which recognises companies that meet high standards of environmental management, governance and social performance. As one judged summed up: “It’s a strong company that’s growing profitably and doing all the right things.”
Winner (UK): Liberty Wines
Our UK winner is going from strength to strength, despite the challenges of the past 18 months. Indeed, it was partly the wine supplier ’s response to the pandemic that secured them this award, with the judges impressed by the level of support offered by Liberty to its suppliers and customers, from a packed calendar of virtual tastings to extended payment terms for its on-trade customers. Other elements of the business also impressed, from its Sunday night order processing for next day delivery to its commitment to top up staff furlough payments to ensure every employee received 100% of their annual salary.
Special commendation: Hallgarten & Novum Wines
Gaining a commendation for its innovative and effective response to the pandemic was Hallgarten & Novum Wines. The judges loved its ‘100,000 free glasses for hospitality’ initiative, which cost the UK wine distributor £700,000. While “a lot of money upfront for a small business”, the campaign secured the loyalty of the 1,500 trade customers that took part. The judges also praised the business for the launch of Assemblage –a beautifully compiled magazine for its clients.
• Bibendum Wines
• Hallgarten & Novum
• Liberty Wines
• Viña Concha y Toro
Andrew Bewes from Hallgarten & Novum
ON-TRADE SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Hallgarten & Novum Wines
It’s often during times of adversity that companies show their true colours, and in the case of our winner, a set of admirable traits emerged during the pandemic. As the UK hospitality sector began reopening during the summer of 2020, buoyed by a Government scheme called Eat Out to Help Out, Hallgarten & Novum Wines stepped in with its own initiative. Giving away 100,000 free glasses of wine to 1,500 trade customers at a cost of £700,000, the distributor provided UK restaurants a means to reward their wine-loving clientele, while reinvigorating the on-trade wine business, which had taken such a hit during the lockdown.
• Bancroft Wines
• Bibendum Wines
• Hallgarten & Novum Wines
• Liberty Wines
YOUNG ACHIEVER OF THE YEAR: LIAM MANTON
The co-founder of Didsbury Gin and Alderman’s Drinks was praised for growing his gin brand in a crowded category via his dynamic and creative approach to brand building. All our judges agreed that he served as an inspiration to the younger generation on how to run an ethically minded business that gives back. “More than just a business achiever, he’s conducting himself in an inspirational way by helping others,” said one judge.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR: CARMEN O’NEAL
The managing director of sustainably focused London-based distillery 58 Gin won the judges over with her holistic approach to running a business and doing things a bit differently. “She gets her hands dirty, leads from the front, and has made a real success of her business,” said one judge, who was impressed by the speed and success at which she pivoted from making gin to 50,000 bottles of hand sanitiser during the pandemic, evolving the company to cater to a new way of living. While being highly commercially focused, exemplified through the launch of a gin-based hard seltzer, O’Neal is also an eco pioneer, and her company a certified B Corporation. “Her commitment to sustainability at a time when business has been challenging is exemplary,” said one judge, who was impressed by her ability to think outside the box and involve her business in interesting initiatives, including donating macerated slow berries to Humble Crumble in Spitalfields for use in its sloe berry, strawberry and mint crumble.
MAN OF THE YEAR: JOHN COLLEY
Our Man of the Year is a dedicated member of the UK wine trade who has proved “an inspiration” to his team. Devoted to bricks and mortar retailing at a time when such a concept is becoming increasingly unfashionable, our recipient has pushed forward an investment programme for wine shops, while proving that face-to-face drinks selling has a bright future. As CEO of Majestic Wines, he has steered a major operator through the challenges of trading during a pandemic, while rejuvenating a business threatened with closure.
Described as being “emotionally committed” to the drinks industry by our judges, his revival of Majestic Wines was deemed a benchmark example of good leadership for business success.
THE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: THIERRY GASCO
Thierry Gasco was born on 6 October 1952 in Reims. The married father of two graduated from the University of Burgundy in 1974 with a diploma in oenology. Two years later he cut his teeth in Champagne as assistant to the cellar manager at Goulet Turpin in Reims, working his way up to become chef de cave of the house. He then became director of the Caves Promodès Reims from 1979 to 1983, followed by a threeyear stint as director of SA Roger Guy from 1983 to 1986. His last role before joining Champagne Pommery in 1992 was as director of the Caves du Champagne De Venoge for six years.
Gasco took the helm of Champagne Pommery, part of the Vranken Pommery Monopole group, in 1992, as the house’s ninth cellar master. Alongside his winemaking role, he was also director of Pommery SA. A big part of his job was acting as the custodian of Pommery’s house style. Gasco was responsible for the final blend of Pommery’s cuvées, such as the emblematic Brut Royal, the Grand Cru vintage and prestige cuvée Louise.
Staying ahead of the curve, during his time as cellar master Gasco created new Champagnes to cater to changing consumer palates. He also oversaw the house’s communications at national and international levels. With fingers in many pies, Gasco held the position of president of the Champagne Oenologists for nine years, and later went on to become vicepresident of the Oenologists of France, serving as its president from 2004 to 2010. The same year he was awarded the Insignia of Knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit.
In 2013 he stepped down as Pommery cellar master to make way for Clément Pierlot. And he was named president of AIDAC – the AOC Champagne control board. A Champagne taster for the INAO, Gasco remains on the Vranken-Pommery Monopole board. His latest venture is a consultancy company called TG-VIN- CONSEIL, which he launched in 2017. He told db: “This is an honour that I absolutely did not expect, having never chased after medals or awards.
Throughout my career my only concern has been to produce the very best-quality wines I possibly could to delight those who tasted them. “My reasoning has always been to think that the highest quality level was never reached, but that it would be tomorrow. Throughout my life’s work I have fought to defend quality and I would like to thank Paul-François Vranken, our president, who has always trusted and followed me in this direction, remaining convinced, as Madame Pommery had been, that the only way to make exceptional wine is by putting quality first. I would like to dedicate this distinction to my late father, who paved the way for me into this beautiful profession, which quickly became a passion that will never leave me.”