How London Wine Competition established itself as an Internationally respected Wine competition
In April this year, the first London Wine Competition announced the first set of awards for wines tasted by its prestigious London judges in March.
By : Alistair Morrell
In April this year, the first London Wine Competition announced the first set of awards for wines tasted by its prestigious London judges in March. Founded on principles of quality, presentation and value, its unique approach to awards was on show at the 2018 London Wine Fair.
The London Wine Trade Fair 2018 held at London Kensington Olympia earlier this month was an excellent showcase for the glittering array of medal and award winners from this year’s inaugural London Wine Competition. With visitor numbers up to 17% to 14,250 over the 3 days and a whole host of new features and innovations there were more serious trade visitors to taste these outstanding wines. It really is the highlight of the British wine trade calendar, and all the great traders, writers and retailers come together to discuss the latest trends and what’s hot for 2018 and 2019.
At the Fair, the London Wine Competition showed many medal winners Gold, Silver and Bronze as well as the Best in Show wines for Quality, Presentation and Packaging. We spoke with a number of medal winners and here is what we learnt about what the competition and medals mean for the wines and their producers.
Competitions are Part of Strategy
Rob Dundon of Cape Barren Wines in has been cynical about competitions in the past, believing that those with winemakers judging wines become about technical perfection rather than “what the consumer is actually drinking”. The London Wine Competition aligned with Rob’s true thoughts about what wine competitions are all about.
So with renewed enthusiasm centred around the inclusion of the Trade buyers, Sommeliers and MWs, Rob entered the Cape Barren Old Vine Shiraz and won Gold Medal.
Hoffman and Rathbone Blanc de Blanc won a Gold Medal and ‘Best Wine in Show’ for packaging. Melanie de Matos Sales and Marketing Director of Hoffman and Rathbone said, “Investment in competitions is an investment in the brand”.
Each producer that we spoke to identified that entering competitions is ultimately about getting the message of their fabulous vinous creations across to the consumer.
Marco Germani from Velenosi of the town and region Ascoli Piceno in the Marche region asserted that LWC is “one of the most serious and reputed organizations in the world of wine today”.
Judges are Crucial
Wine is one of the easiest things to giveaway and to have people join a panel and taste wine is easy. Just go into the street and ask the first 100 people that you come across if they would like to taste wine for free and tell us what they think about it? There will be no shortage of takers.
However putting a panel of judges together is a different thing. Velenosi insists competitions that their wines enter have to be judged by “experience and skill that can only be developed by being part of the wine business”. Their Ludi Offida DOCG Rosso was awarded a Gold.
The London Wine Competition is about finding the right calibre of judges, and not purely for its own sake, but for the entrants and competitors. Any entrant to a wine competition needs to know that their carefully crafted vinous offering is being judged by people who know wine. It is such a complex category, where the on-eyed can be king. However, LWC requires two-eyed, well trained and highly skilled judges.
The LWC brought together a mix of 35 vastly experienced commercial buyers, 19 professional Sommeliers and Master Sommeliers, and 6 Masters of Wine make up the expert panel.
As Melaine de Matos says – for Hoffman and Rathbone to enter, they had to know that the right calibre of judges was in place for them to even consider entering the LWC.
Many can like wine but few can judge it!
The market is moving upwards. Every market statistic points towards consumers buying less but better. The average price is at its highest level ever at £5.78 according to the research and big data company IRI. Further, still wine is returning to value growth of 3.5%, after a stagnated period. As consumers buy more expensive wine they require education and quality guidance as to where best to spend their hard-earned cash.
The producers enter their wines to the competitions in order to bring greater visibility to their wines on the market, approving their quality. Augusta Raimes from Raimes English sparkling wines hopes that their Gold Medal “brings a wider awareness of our brand to buyers, Sommeliers and Masters of Wine”.
Rob from Cape Barren relishes the challenge of being rated against wines from all over the world and hopes that winning the LWC Gold gives confidence to the trade and consumers alike. “Cape Barren Wines can produce world-class wines with the excellent commercial appeal”. It is critical for the sector that integrity of competitions and authenticity are represented throughout so that consumers can trust the medals on the bottles.
Presentation is Critical
‘You don’t go to a Michelin starred restaurant to have food splattered on your plate, it is just the same with our wine. Ulrich (Hoffmann) as winemaker doesn’t make outstanding wines only to present them in a cheap looking bottle” says Melanie de Matos from Hoffman and Rathbone.
Their package is modelled on that special time in between the wars, where there was a special energy of the time, where although times were often hard there was time to celebrate. The packaging represents that freedom of spirit and creativity. Like a piece of art, it tells a story.
Packaging is a critical part of the consumer proposition – consumers will often select on how a product looks and the silent, unconscious associations that it makes for the individual.
For Marco of Velnosi, how the bottle looks tries to convey a personality and soul of the wine. Although they are mindful that all aspects of quality, presentation and value have to be considered in order to produce truly great wines that appeal to the market.
London is the Centre
To all of the interviewed Gold medal winners, London is the centre of the world’s wine trade.
For Marco at Velenosi, he draws a sporting analogy “To present a wine on London’s market is like playing the Champion’s league”.
For Rob at Cape Barren, it is “the driver and style setter for wine consumers”.
He continues that London’s ability to embrace international acceptance for everything wine makes it the launch pad for world recognition for so many producers.
Whilst for English producers Hoffman and Rathbone and Raimes London is the important domestic market. For the former, it is one of the biggest celebration markets.
In its first year, it is clear that apart from signalling its arrival into the competition scene, the London Wine Competition has established itself as one of the leading International competitions. Its three-pronged judging process of Presentation, Quality and Value, allied with its strong relationships to high-quality judges make for a compelling proposition for producers to appeal to consumers and distributors.
London is the hub of many things wine and has the ability to project on to an international stage. This aspect makes London an important part of any wine export strategy; a place where reputations can be won and much can be learnt from the success of others in a truly global context.
About The Author
The article is contributed by Alistair Morrell a Wine Inspector, wine industry consultant, journalist and, commentator. Over 30 years as a wine business professional, Alistair shares his global knowledge, network, and experience of growers, importers, distributors and buyers.