Drinks Business Awards 2015: the winners

International Drinks Company of the Year

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Ben Smith of Concha Y Toro

Winner: Viña Concha y Toro

2014 was a pivotal year for Concha y Toro – a company that evidently doesn’t like to rest on its laurels. Not only did the group invest in a series of major marketing campaigns to drive brand awareness and recruit new consumers but it managed to achieve annual sales of US$1.018 billion (£65m), ensuring the company broke through the billion-dollar mark for the first time, having sold 33.2 million cases in 2014. The UK, in particular, had an exceptional year with volume sales up by 16.9% to 6.5m cases. Casillero del Diablo broke into the market’s top 10 wine brands for the first time and the Cabernet Sauvignon is now the UK’s number one selling brand in this grape variety. Meanwhile, Cono Sur saw a volume increase of over 94% and Trivento over 200%. However, it was the opening of Concha y Toro’s Centre for Research and Innovation in Chile that particularly impressed the judges. Dedicated to fostering a more sustainable future for the wine industry, the company has made an initial investment of US$5m (£3.2m), to focus on the analysis of all aspects of healthy vine production, the development of new technology to increase product quality and the efficient integration of technology into winery practices.  And thankfully, the facility is for the use of the industry, not just Concha y Toro.

Shortlist

• Liberty Wines

• Pol Roger Ltd

• Viña Concha y Toro

• Bibendum PLB Group

• Maverick Drinks

Independent Retailer of the Year

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Tatiana Fokina of Hedonism Wines

Winner: Hedonism Wines

Since Hedonism Wines burst on to the London drinks retailing scene just over two years ago, much of the focus has been on the high-priced labels on sale in its Mayfair shop.

However, as the judges observed, this store really deserves recognition for the unrivalled quality of its fine wine range, particularly from California, as well as the quality of its merchandising, high-profile events, Enomatic tasting machines, electric delivery vans and attentive nature of its staff, who speak 14 languages between them. The whole place is, as one judge said, “head and shoulders above other wine retailers”. It’s also, as another judge stressed, “not just another luxury retailer – it’s a bit edgy”.

Helping the operator stand apart is, of course, the sheer size of its range, which has grown by 5,100 lines since the store opened, making the full range over 12,000 lines, ranging from £5.40 to £127,000. In the past year Hedonism has served over 10,000 customers from across the globe, processing over 40,000 transactions, and shipping bottles to 38 countries. 2014 saw a dramatic increase in footfall through the Mayfair shop, with the average number of customers per day rising to 90 and hitting 300 at Christmas time.

Runner up: Vagabond Wines

The judges also wanted to recognise Vagabond Wines for its clever merchandising, take-away shelf-talkers, in-store sampling, and general ambience, created by the presence of comfy leather sofas and chunky farmhouse tables. They were also pleased to see that a third Vagabond store is opening in Old Spitalfields Market, followed by another two in the near future.

Shortlist:

• Hedonism Wines

• Highbury Vintners

• Vagabond Wines

• The General Wine Company

• Master of Malt

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