There was much cheer on a cold Monday night at The Comedy Store in Manchester, not just provided by the MC, comedian Steve Royle, but from the great Northern welcome and relaxed atmosphere. For one night only, the venue became the backdrop for the third People’s Choice Wine Awards, the only national wine competition to have its base outside of London.
A huge hurrah rang out for ‘locals’ Booths Supermarkets who won Supermarket of the year. They were voted for by consumers online, rather than nominated by the organisers – so the result really packs a punch. The Co-op also had reasons to be cheerful, scooping three awards, including Best Champagne, Back to Nature (for organic and bio-dynamic wines) and Boxing Clever for their Fairtrade Argentine Red Blend, submitted to the competition by Irlam based Kingsland Drinks – what a night for the North!
Another local firm celebrating was The Whalley Wine Shop in Whalley, Lancashire, being voted Best Independent Retailer, again via an online vote by their loyal customers.
No boring glass trophies for the winners either, step up award-winning Private Eye cartoonist, Tony Husband, who creates the amazing limited edition prints for each of the categories. Hyde-based, Tony is a great fan of the ethos behind the awards as well as being a ‘wine enthusiast’.
Finalist wines were lined up all along the huge bar, for attendees to try and a generous welcome drink from Goosnargh Gin melted the chill. There was no black- tie sit-down affair here, instead a great range of locally sourced foods, served buffet style, including delicious bakes from Ginger Bakers, based in Kendal, cheese from New Market Dairy in Altrincham and delicious bites from Manchester institution, Yang Sing.
This year, wine submissions doubled in number, with even more national supermarkets involved, such as Aldi, Lidl, M&S and Waitrose, as well as those already mentioned.
As the only consumer-facing wine awards in the UK, it makes total sense that it signposts wine drinkers through unique categories, which cover ‘wine drinking moments’ such as White Wine With Asian Cuisine, sponsored by Yang Sing, Treat Yourself and Pass the Crackers, for wines to match with cheese.
Founder of the awards Janet Harrison, thanked all the suppliers, sponsors and partners involved, but the biggest gratitude was reserved for the consumer judges, travelling from literally all around the world to be at the round one judging session, back in October. “We were staggered to receive over 300 applications to be amateur judges this time and it was such a hard job to narrow the list down to the 100 people who finally took part. We had one judge travel in from Vietnam, another from Romania and another from France, as well as others from the length and breadth of the UK – it is fantastic to see so much love and enthusiasm for the competition” Harrison says.
More ways to promote wines, to those who love it the most, are also underway with the new People’s Choice Wine Awards podcast ‘Open Up & Pour’, produced by Manchester based Dap Dip Podcast Production, founded by Guy Kilty from BBC 5 Live’s Wake up to Money.
There was also a unique video competition as part of the wine awards this year, with shortlisted films from winemakers in Australia, South Africa, Spain, Austria and from English wine makers, Ridgeview. The finalist and winning films are now on the People’s Choice Wine Awards You Tube channel and, excitingly, also featured on The Wine Show’s You Tube channel with over 10,000 subscribers. The Wine Show sponsors this video category called ‘Wine Passion: The Story Behind the Label’ and The Wine Show’s presenter, Joe Fattorini came to the ceremony to present the award to winner, Paso-Primero.
Tom Holt from Paso-Primero actually lives in Shrewsbury but makes wine in Somontano in Spain. His was a wonderfully quirky video which was shot on his iphone in his parents living room. However, it had real passion, which stole the hearts of the audience during the ‘live vote’ on the night.