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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Josie Butchart

Oddbins has won back the International Wine Challenge (IWC) High Street Retailer Chain of the Year award from Majestic in the same week that its senior buyer Grant Ramage announced that he is leaving the retailer to take up a new position with Australia's Coles Myer Liquor Group. Ramage has been appointed national business manager at Coles Myer in Melbourne and will head up the wine buying function for the group from the beginning of November. He leaves Oddbins on 20 September, but the company's spokesperson, Corinna Thompson, could not confirm whether he will definitely be replaced. It is early days yet. We are looking at what his departure means for the department. We are looking at the structure of the department and exploring our options,' she said. Ramage told Harpers: As yet no one has been appointed to pick up the areas that I am currently buying for, but there will inevitably be a restructuring of the department.' According to Harpers' sources in South Africa, another member of the buying team, South Africa buyer Tony Allen, is also set to leave the Wimbledon-based chain. However as Harpers went to press, an Oddbins spokesperson declined to comment on the rumours. The High Street Retailer prize may have been unpredictable, but the other merchant and retailer awards at the IWC were very much as expected, with Italian Specialist Merchant of the Year going to Liberty for the sixth year running; Supermarket of the Year to Waitrose; Spanish Specialist Merchant to Moreno; and Bordeaux Specialist Merchant to Farr Vintners. Relative newcomer Stone, Vine & Sun was named Rhne Specialist Wine Merchant and Howard Ripley won both the German Specialist and Burgundy Specialist awards. More than 9,000 wines were tasted during the course of the competition, producing a record number of gold medals and a record 59 trophies. French wines fought back, following recent battles on the high street, to take 116 of the 361 gold medals - more than twice the number awarded to Australia, the second most successful country in the competition with 55 gold medals. Italy managed to lift 49 gold medals and Spain 33 golds, and Germany won 28 golds along with three international trophies and the White Winemaker of the Year award, which went to Horst Sauer of the eponymous Franken estate. In a fitting twist, the 2004 Daniel Thibault Champagne Vintage Trophy was awarded to Charles Heidsieck Champagne for its 1989 vintage Brut, made by the late Daniel Thibault.