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Home Winners > Winners 2015 > Merchant of the Year Awards 2015

Winner Details

Merchant of the Year Awards 2015<


Once the judging is over, and our tasters are safely tucked up in bed dreaming of Madeira, our judges settle down to pore over the results, combing rigorously through the data like a team of treasury officials looking for hints of economic recovery. Their goal?

To determine which of this year’s submitters stood out from the pack, and to reward them with a coveted Merchant Award.
This year, both the Great Value Merchant of the Year and the Italian Merchant of the Year were awarded to two contenders, both equally deserving but for different reasons.


MERCHANT OF THE YEAR 2015

Bibendum Wine


27 Gold, 65 Silver, 39 Bronze, 60 Commended

5 Trophies: 2 Critics’ Choice, 2 Food Match, 1 By The Glass


Bibendum has ramped up its performance in this competition over the past few years, but still its performance here came as a surprise, deposing the mighty Boutinot for the first time since we started handing out Merchant of the Year Awards in 2009.

In the past, Bibendum has tended to gather a lot of mid-ranking medals, but it was its ability to turn Bronzes into Silvers, Silvers into Golds and Golds into Trophies that saw it take top spot this year. Its spread of Trophies – two Critics’ Choices, two Food Matches and a By The Glass Award – gave it real strength in depth.

And yet this wasn’t just about the numbers. Our judges were impressed with Bibendum's ability to do both Old and New World well – Golds and Silvers were split almost equally between the two – and to mix classical and quirky.

With places on the Gold List limited, Silver is often a good indication of the strength of a merchant’s submission – and Bibendum had comfortably more than anyone else this year.

As for Golds, as well as must-lists such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhône, Albariño, Kiwi Pinot and Argentinian Malbec, the merchant was also prominent in many of the areas that our tasters found most interesting this year, from Hungarian whites and Kiwi Pinot Gris to Aussie Chardonnay and Douro reds.



GREAT VALUE MERCHANT OF THE YEAR 2015


Boutinot


31 Gold, 52 Silver, 51 Bronze, 91 Commended
4 Trophies: 2 Food Match, 1 Perfect Pub Quartet, 1 By The Glass

If Boutinot feels aggrieved at being pipped to the overall Merchant of the Year Award for the first time, it should feel mightily pleased with this gong, which featured typically strong performances from many of its stalwarts.

It was, as usual, especially strong in Europe – particularly France and Spain. But what stood out for our judges here was less the location of the wines than their prices. To have 60% of all its medal winners under £10 was a terrific performance and, at a time when value for money is ever harder to find, a cause for real celebration.


 

GREAT VALUE MERCHANT OF THE YEAR 2015

 

Majestic Wine Commercial 

 

4 Gold, 10 Silver, 11 Bronze, 19 Commended  
1 Trophy: Food Match                

 


Majestic Commercial’s strategy for this competition has always been based heavily on the more affordable end of things. It’s a gamble, because competition there is fierce and the margin for error is slight, but it keeps paying off. This was its third Great Value award on the trot.

The judges were impressed with the way it managed to mix classics such as Pinot Grigio or Rioja Crianza with more niched alternatives like Grüner Veltliner or Prosecco-alternative Italian fizz. And no one else came close to pricing that saw 90% of its medal winners coming in under £10.



EUROPEAN MERCHANT OF THE YEAR


Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines


18 Gold, 36 Silver, 29 Bronze, 38 Commended
3 Trophies: 2 Critics’ Choice, 1 Food Match


An extremely focused entry from Hallgarten paid dividends this year. Of its 83 medals, almost 80% of them went to European wines. As SWA readers will know, given that not that long ago it won a New World Merchant of the Year award, it was an impressive demonstration of a ‘strength-in-depth’ portfolio.

While there were plenty of easy-sell Golds from Muscadet, Rioja, Côtes du Rhône, Chianti et al, it was as much as anything the edges of the entry that attracted the judges, with interesting medal winners from Lebanon, Germany and (especially) Greece. And it has a genuine gem in the Producer of the Year-winning San Marzano.


 

FINE WINE MERCHANT OF THE YEAR

Enotria


24 Gold, 40 Silver, 34 Bronze, 51 Commended
3 Trophies: Critics’ Choice


Enotria has really upped its game in SWA over the past two years – from eight Golds in 2013 to 24 this year is testament to some serious thought going into its entry. If it carries on at this rate, it could stake a real claim for a top-three finish next year.

There was no shortage of good kit among this year’s medal winners, but what stood out for our judges was the range of top-end Golds. In categories where our tasters rarely give out more than one or two places on the Gold List, it was significant how many times Enotria came out of the pack to take top slot.

From classics such as Premier Cru Chablis and northern Rhône reds to ‘hot’ categories like the Douro, Ribera del Duero and Mornington Pinot, it delivered repeatedly, with plenty of good stuff from Italy, South Africa and Spain in the Silvers, too.


 

ITALIAN MERCHANT OF THE YEAR


Liberty Wines


27 Gold, 49 Silver, 33 Bronze, 43 Commended
2 Trophies: 1 Critics’ Choice, 1 Food Match


Another strong performance this year from Liberty, with a high percentage of top-end medals. It was the only submitter whose Gold and Silver medal total was not lower than its Bronze and Commended awards, which gives you some idea of the standard of wines coming in.

It was a broad-brush submission that did most things well, with top-end medals for most parts of the wine world, and outstanding submissions from both Charles Heidsieck and Justino’s Madeira Wines. But what really caught our judges’ eye was the strength of the Italian submissions. A third of its Golds and a quarter of its Silvers went to the country, and the variety in price and style was exciting.

From pricey Tuscans and Etna reds to bargain-basement Sangiovese, and über-sellable Veneto Pinot Grigio to sweet whites, it was a snapshot of everything the country can do well.


 

ITALIAN MERCHANT OF THE YEAR

Eurowines


8 Gold, 13 Silver, 15 Bronze, 11 Commended
2 Trophies: 2 Food Match


Italian specialist Eurowines does a very different job from Liberty – but had a similar number of Italian medals, and thoroughly deserves its recognition here. Its influence has grown over the past few years, from 22 medals in 2013 to 28 last year and 36 in 2015.

Interestingly, it achieves its success in SWA mostly outside the ‘classic’ vineyards of Tuscany, regularly unearthing terrific regional gems at impressive prices. But there was plenty of dreamy high-priced sommelier-bait, too. And if we were putting together a Gold List of twice the size, many of these Silver Medal winners would have made it on, no question.