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Wine Society wins top IWC awards

Published:  23 July, 2008

The Wine Society was the surprise star of this year's International Wine Challenge (IWC) awards dinner, winning the Overall Wine Merchant of the Year award - one of the industy's most sought-after accolades.

The members-only wine club, which was founded in 1874, beat off strong competition from runners-up Berry Bros & Rudd, Halifax Wine Company, and Stone, Vine & Sun, to take the top prize for the first time, as well as the award for Mail order/online Merchant of the Year.

Sainsbury's and Majestic were also in the limelight, with awards for Supermarket and High Street retailers of the year respectively, stealing the show from last year's winners, Waitrose and Oddbins.

Other key merchant of the year awards went to Cooden Cellars (Small Independent); Booth Supermarkets (Regional Chain); Bibendum Wine (Wine Agent/Wholesaler); Liberty Wines (On-trade Supplier); Berry Bros & Rudd (Website); Guy Anderson Wines (Brand Creation); Justerini & Brooks (Most Aesthetic Wine List); Adnams (Communication/Printed Material); and Lay & Wheeler (Creativity).

Oliver Johnson, The Wine Society's CEO, attributed its victory to long-lasting relationships with hard-working and skilled growers. For example, our house Champagne has been made by the same producer since 1906, and is blended by the fourth generation of the same family.

The buyers also discover new wines all the time, and our next list will have more than 150 of these. Being a co-operative helps, too. There's no conflict between the needs of shareholders and the needs of consumer because in our case, they're both the same.'

France appears the best country for great-value wine, having topped the poll in the Great Value trophies category, winning one for red, one for white and all three in the sparkling wine section.

The White Wine Trophy was won by 2004 O'Leary Walker Riesling, Clare Valley, while the Red Wine Trophy went to 2001 Abada Retuerta Seleccin Especial, Castilla y Len, whose winemaker Angel Anocbar Beloqui, gained the Red Winemaker of the Year award. The Fortified Wine Trophy was won by Emperatriz Eugenia Very Rare Oloroso NV, and its creator, Emilio Lustau, took the prize of Fortified Winemaker of the Year.

Ruinart took away the Daniel Thibault Trophy (for the finest sparkling wine or Champagne) and the Sparkling Winemaker of the Year award for winemaker, Jean-Philippe Moulin.