Drinks Business Awards 2015: the winners

On-trade Supplier of the Year

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David Gleave MW of Liberty Wines

Winner: Liberty Wines

It’s been another impressive year for this dynamic merchant, whose team goes the extra mile to meet the needs of a demanding, highly competitive on-trade sector. A new in-house education programme, outstanding delivery service, committed environmental credentials and one of the most exciting portfolios out there are all validated by Liberty’s profitable sales growth. This is a business going from strength to strength, setting a high benchmark for its rivals.

Shortlist:

• Corney & Barrow

• Jascots

• Liberty Wines

UK Drinks Company of the Year

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James Simpson MW and Isobel Mills of Pol Roger

Winner: Pol Roger Portfolio

Despite its small team and tight marketing budgets, the judges were extremely impressed at the amount Pol Roger Portfolio manages to achieve in the UK. Applauded for a fun and positive attitude, the UK team for the Champagne brand has been brilliantly headed by former MD Nick James, and, since January this year James Simpson MW. Rather than throwing large sums at a single high-profile sports or events, Pol Roger Champagne itself is involved in a wide and eclectic range of niche but highly targeted activities in the UK from Varsity Blind Tasting to real tennis, which has given it brilliant visibility while attracting loyal followers.

In the last year, the UK company has expanded its Californian portfolio in response to growing demand for fine wines from the US state in the London restaurant sector, while also taking on Islay’s Kilchoman Distillery to complement Glenfarclas Scotch whisky and Hine Cognac. The judges applauded the company for resisting the temptation of short-term gains through listings with the large multiple grocers, opting instead for a broad spread across the varied – and rapidly altering – retail, wholesale and on-trade landscape in the UK. They also like the company’s focus on staff training, and were intrigued by the advent of the Pol Roger Portfolio Defender – an entirely bespoke four wheel drive that doubles as a stand at events, including the London Wine Fair.

Runner-up: Liberty Wines

A very strong contender this year, in the last 12 months Liberty Wines has launched Liberty Wines Academy to train its customers, added 27 new producers to its portfolio, and achieved Carbon Neutral certification for both Liberty Wines UK and Ireland.

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