Neil McGuigan, CEO of Australia Vintage, was crowned Winemaker of the Year for an unprecedented third time at the International Wine & Spirit Competition awards banquet last night.
Held at London’s Guildhall, the event attracted key figures from across the drinks industry to mark the culmination of the IWSC’s year with the announcement of the Competition’s top awards.
Other big winners included Glenmorangie, who won Distiiller of the Year; Waitrose who took Retailer of the Year for the third time in a row; Seckford Agencies and Emporia, who won Wine and Spirits Importer of the Year respectively; as well as Duncan Murray Wines in Market Harborough and Quaff in Brighton, who shared the Independent Retailer of the Year award.
Waitrose also enjoyed further success as Spirits Buyer of the Year, while the retailer’s direct operations manager, Dave Thornton, was named Associate Judge of the Year for Wine.
This associate judge initiative, which sees the IWSC invite WSET Diploma students to join a panel as an opportunity to build judging experience, saw Thornton join the Sherry and Canada panels.
Having joined Waitrose in 1984 during his A-Levels, Thornton joined its management training scheme, which led to roles as wine manager, as well as organising tours for the John Lewis Partnership’s wine club and helping to treble online wine sales in his development of Waitrose Direct.
The IWSC also honoured individuals who have made important contributions in Scotch whisky and wine. This year’s Outstanding Achievement in Scotch Whisky award went to Charlie Maclean, writer, consultant, judge and speaker, who recently starred as a whisky expert in acclaimed film Angels Share .
The Outstanding Achievement in Wine award went to Sam Harrop MW. From his previous work as a buyer for Marks & Spencer to consultancy collaborations with Loire producers and brands such as Tagus Creek, the judges remarked: “His logical, non-judgemental manner is a rare thing in this world and it is producing results wherever he works.”
This year saw the introduction of a new award, Blogger of the Year, designed to recognise the variety and quality of communication on offer within this increasingly important communication medium. The inaugural 2013 prize was shared by Jamie Goode for wineanorak.com and Helen McGinn for knackeredmotherswineclub.blogspot.co.uk.
Highlighting the increased number of entries this year, 2012 IWSC President Mauricio González-Gordon stated: “The endless search for quality and integrity by the IWSC judges and the team is what makes the Competition one of the most respected in the world.”
The Competition also welcomed its 2013 President, G Garvin Brown IV, chairman of Brown-Forman.
As head of one of the most influential family-run drinks firms in the world, Brown added his own views on the value of the Competition, saying: “The IWSC’s focus on quality – its recognition and celebration of quality brands – is the perfect antidote for so much that is gripping today’s consumer.”
For full details and profiles of this year’s IWSC winners, look out for the drinks business IWSC Report 2012, which is due out with the December issue. The results are also available to view at www.iwsc.net.