Top 100 Most Influential People in Wine: 50-11

30 May, 2014

Who decides which wines are sold, bought and drunk in the UK off-trade? Who determines where they come from, how they are made and how much they cost?

Our list pinpoints 100 individuals who have a key influence on those decisions – who is shaping the way our wine shops and aisles look, and what consumers ask for when they come into them.

The countdown continues here:

50 Robin Copestick

Director, Copestick Murray

Past cV: McGuigan, Moreno Wines

Copestick is the face of Copestick Murray’s UK business, while co-founder Paul Murray focuses on the US. The agency is best known for its I Heart brand – which has signed up former M&S winemaker Jo Ahearne to bolster its range and is targeting World Cup sales this summer with I Heart Brazil. Last year German- owned sparkling wine producer Henkell bought a 60% stake in the business – which it hopes to use to develop its Mionetto Prosecco brand – and Copestick has ambitious growth plans for the future.

49 Paul Beavis

MD, Champagne Lanson UK

Last year Lanson celebrated 25 years sponsoring the Wimbledon championships and, with the tennis season rapidly approaching, the brand will be hoping to hit the media spotlight again this year. Lanson was the third-biggest seller in the UK off- trade last Christmas, after Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot. Beavis has been heading its UK operation since 2009, as well as leading its North American business since 2011. He believes educating consumers is the best way to drive value back into the Champagne market.

48 Dame Sally Davies

Chief Medical Officer

Past CV: national institute for Health Research

As the government’s principal medical adviser, Davies has effectively become the voice of the powerful health lobby in government. She was appointed in 2010 and this year used her annual report to lay into the off-trade for “irresponsible retailing”, attack suppliers for marketing alcohol during football matches and push for a new investigation into minimum unit pricing.

47 Richard Jones

Owner, SH Jones & MD, Reh Kendermann

Not content with managing the UK fortunes of Germany’s biggest brand, Black Tower – which is set for a big summer after teaming up with British romantic comedy film Walking on Sunshine for a promotion – Jones is also growing Oxfordshire-based independent merchant SH Jones. The retailer has a busy e-commerce operation – in 2013 it bought online retailers Slurp and Hawkshead Wines – and grew its estate of shops to five this spring when it bought Stevens Garnier’s Oxford shop along with its wholesale operation.

46 Cliff Roberson

Owner, Roberson Wine and London Cru

Past CV: Buckingham Schenk

When, in 2012, Roberson retired from Buckingham Schenk, the agency he founded as Buckingham Vintners in 1974, one might have expected him to step back and start taking it easy. Instead, the man who was named OLN’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner at our 2014 Drinks Retailing Awards bought a former gin distillery in Earls Court and set about the unlikely project of creating London’s first urban winery. Meanwhile Roberson Wine, the Kensington-based independent retail and wholesale business he founded in 1991, is going from strength to strength – it won Independent Wine Retailer of the Year at the same awards.

45 Greg Wilkins

MD, Brand Phoenix

Following the departure of co-director Steve Barton, Brand Phoenix has regrouped, cut back its massive lower-alcohol wine offer and refocused on value- for-money full-strength wines. The company built its name with South Africa’s First Cape brand, and Wilkins has been there from the start. Now Brand Phoenix has a strong portfolio of European and New World brands, including those of former Oddbins owner, French wine company Castel – signalling an entirely new direction.

44 Dawn Davies

Wine and spirits buyer, Selfridges

Past CV: The Ledbury, The Square

Davies has overseen the creation of a whole new drinks department for Selfridges in the past year, and the luxury retailer was named Independent Drinks Retailer of the Year in OLN’s Drinks Retailing Awards as a result. Low-level fixtures have increased customer visibility and navigation, while showcase categories such as fine wine and whisky have been given their own enclaves for customers to browse at their leisure. Davies joined Selfridges as sommelier in 2007, heading a team providing table service in the store’s bar as well as holding buying responsibilities.

43 Jay Wright

CEO & co-owner, Virgin Wines

Past CV: Averys of Bristol, Warehouse Wine Co, World Wines Direct

Last year Wright led a £15.9 million management buyout of Virgin Wines and now holds a 35% stake in the business with finance director Graeme Weir and marketing director Paul Adams. He has ambitious plans to take the business to £50 million in the next five years. At the time of the buyout the online and mail order business was turning over some £35 million – nearly double the £18 million it was taking in 2008.

42 Tim North

UK director, Les Grands Chais de France

One of France’s biggest wine merchants, Les Grands Chais de France is the company behind the country’s biggest brand worldwide, JP Chenet – the bottle with the stand-out skew-whiff neck. North has been its UK face for many years. Lately the company, which focuses on good value French wine across the gamut of price points, has been pioneering countrywide appellation Vin de France.

41 Victoria Anderson

Wine buyer, Booths

Past CV: John Armit Wines

Last year the family-owned equivalent of Waitrose in the north introduced sampling machines that put 64 wines permanently on taste in its Knutsford store – a first for a major multiple. Nibbles and canapés alongside drinks tastings aim to give customers a bit of an experience along with their weekly shop, and French- inspired wine fairs have boosted sales of a wide and eclectic range, with an average bottle price well over £6. Anderson has taken over from Andy Green, who left last year, and is working alongside buying manager and beer and cider specialist John Gill. She plans to grow the retailer’s New World offer to match its comprehensive European range.

40 Mark Tinsley

UK & Ireland sales director, Gallo

Tinsley has come through the ranks at the UK arm of the Californian wine giant to oversee a substantial brief that also includes the Middle East and Africa. The UK market has become more complex and competitive than it was in Gallo’s heyday, and it may never again rule the roost in branded wine in the way it once did. But sales of Gallo Family Vineyards top £130 million and adding a £40 million contribution from Barefoot makes the company as significant a branded drinks player as, say, Bell’s whisky. This year Gallo is making huge investments into marketing its sweeter-style Moscato.

39 Simon Thorpe MW 

MD, Negociants UK

Past CV: Waitrose, Constellation, Western Wines

Negociants may not be sitting on some of the blockbuster brands of its rivals in the Australian wine market, but the Yalumba-owned supplier has a £35 million seller in Oxford Landing and an increasingly impressive stable of premium brands from across the country, including Brokenwood, Jim Barry, Jansz, Pewsey Vale and Redbank. With an MW at the helm, it’s as much about the product as it is about hitting price points, reflected in an increasing focus on the specialist independent sector.

38 Jancis Robinson MW

Writer and broadcaster

You’ll never see Robinson become embroiled in unseemly Twitter-spats or the navel-gazing favoured by some wine writers. For Robinson it is – and always has been – about a dignified and instructive approach to the wine, and nothing but the wine. Understandable, really – there could have been little time for anything else in a career that has included a regular column for the Financial Times, presenting numerous TV programmes, co-authorship of the World Atlas of Wine, providing consultancy to British Airways on its lists, and advising the Queen on what to put in her cellar.

37 Andrew Shaw

Head of buying, Bibendum Wine

Past Cv: Waitrose

Few distributors have grown as rapidly as Bibendum in terms of either sales or ambition in the past five years. It’s increasingly looking like the full package as a wine supplier, with bespoke services for indies, supermarkets and hospitality, including training programmes for staff and the open sharing of industry insight. Ex-Waitrose buyer Shaw heads a team that sources wines from niche producers and big names such as Lustau, Delicato, Boisset, Bouchard and Valdivieso.

36 Henry Ashworth

CEO, Portman Group Past CV: Better Regulation executive, Cabinet Office

As head honcho at the trade’s marketing regulator and the industry’s lead player in the government Responsibility Deal, Ashworth has a key role in helping retailers, suppliers and producers stay on the right side of the health crusaders and Whitehall.

35 Eamon Fitzgerald 

MD, Naked Wines

Past CV: Donnybrook Fair, Accenture, Decanter

Fitzgerald completed a rapid risetothetopoftheUKarmat the start of 2014 – just two years after joining the company as its wine development manager. He’s hinted that the company expects to break new ground in purchases of wine through mobile devices, as it has with its business model that brings together “angel” customers and fast-rising winemakers.

34 Robin McMillan

CEO, The Wine Society

Past CV: Berry Bros & Rudd

Reliability isn’t really a buzzword in the innovation-obsessed world of alcohol, but what probably keeps members of the wine trade’s only mutual society retailer coming back for more is the knowledge that they can depend on getting decent quality at a fair price – and that the stuff ’s going to turn up on time. The challenge for McMillan remains embracing the next generation of customers in the digital age, faced with the eager competition of Naked Wines, Virgin and any others that emerge with cheeky names and new approaches.

33 Charles Wilson

CEO, Booker

Past CV: Procter & Gamble, arcadia, Marks & Spencer

From Barrow to Brighton and Perth to Plymouth, Booker’s 172 cash and carry depots are the go-to suppliers for the 80,000- plus independent retailers who want to give their customers consistency, availability and value on exclusives and leading brands. The Wilson era has seen a sharper focus on helping independent c-stores to compete with the muscle of the multiples’ smaller formats, especially through its Premier fascia, an increasingly common sight on the UK’s high streets.

32 Dan Townsend

GM Western Europe, Treasury Wine Estates

Past CV: S&N, Matthew Clark, Constellation, Louis Latour Agencies

With Wolf Blass, Lindemans, Rosemount and Penfolds in its stable, Treasury sits on arguably the most diverse array of big-name Australian brands on the market. Yet it still seems to operate under the shadow of some of its bigger rivals. However, there are signs that things are on the turn, with impressive sales gains for Blass and Lindemans over the past year and Townsend making strident efforts to champion the premium end of Australia, which has found itself pulling clear of other major producing countries selling to the UK.

31 Chris Lewis

Wine trading director, Spar

Past CV: Nisa-Today’s

With 5 million customers and 15 million transactions a week – and a quarter of all symbol group sales in the UK – the buying power of Spar in the wine world is easy to overlook against its more shouty supermarket competitors. Not that Lewis allows the group to hide its alcohol light under a bushel. Spar champions the category on a regular basis through its wine festival promotions, which this spring were beamed into the nation’s homes through a TV ad that focused on everyday wines at rounded-up £4, £5 and £6 price points.

30 Damian Clarke

MD, Freixenet

Past CV: P&G, Gillette

Sparkling wine is the fastest- growing category in the drinks market and Clarke has carved out a bigger share of it than anyone else. Freixenet has enjoyed unprecedented growth throughout the economic downturn as consumers look for affordable treats to be enjoyed at home. Clarke has a clear strategy to continue to drive this growth by targeting the convenience channel and pushing new products aimed at younger adults and those with a taste for something sweeter. The business is thriving and it is a model others can learn from.

29 Andy Sagar

Owner, Kingsland Wines & Spirits

Sagar took the sensible decision of consolidating the various strands of the business – Kingsland, Legacy and Stratford’s – under the Kingsland name in April. It still offers wine retailers of any size a one-stop shop brimming with quirky New World brands and the quality wines Stratford’s brought to the party, but it simplifies the business and allows it to concentrate on its ambition to become the UK’s leading supplier. Sagar is perhaps not as vocal as fellow managing directors on the issues affecting the trade, but the business is quietly growing and rivals are clearly taking note.

28 Michael Degen

Executive director, Prowein

Prowein has been a runaway success story under Degen’s stewardship and its influence over the UK trade grows every year as record numbers of buyers and suppliers flock to Düsseldorf to sell and buy wines from around the world. Degen’s meticulous organisational skills and vision have seen Prowein leave rival shows in its shadow and, with a vast expansion in 2015 to accommodate spiralling demand, the only way is up.

27 John McLaren

UK director, Wine Institute of California

McLaren’s bold strategy of pushing premium and super-premium Californian wines with high-end wine merchants and restaurants is transforming the UK trade’s perception of wine from the Golden State. California still competes at the bottom-end and big producers continue to pioneer low-alcohol wines and Moscato, but the array of elegant wines championed by the Wine Institute of California provides the perfect counterpoint. An innovative approach to marketing sees McLaren make every cent of the budget count.

26 Oz Clarke

Writer and broadcaster

Oz Clarke took one of the biggest gripes shared by many in the wine trade – disingenuous half- price deals at the grocers – on to primetime TV this year when he fronted a BBC Watchdog special. It was a bravura performance that sent Clarke’s stock rising and received widespread acclaim. If he keeps up the strong and precise investigative work he could emerge as the most important consumer wine journalist in the field.

25 Yvonne May

UK director, Wine Australia

Australia cemented its place as the UK’s top supplier by growing value sales 4% to £1.1 billion in the past year, according to Nielsen. The generic body’s Australia Day tasting, Tasting Blind Club and work on food pairings has helped raise the average bottle price slightly above duty rises. Suppliers are full of praise for May’s diligent work and her creativity.

24 David Thatcher

MD, Laithwaites

Past CV: Eircom, Carphone Warehouse

Thatcher is a newcomer to the wine world but has a strong retail background, having previously headed up Carphone Warehouse. He now speaks for around 800 staff and more than 500,000 customers, so he has the chance to become a leading voice in the fight against prohibitive legislation pushed by the health lobby. He is well placed to capitalise on growth in online shopping channels.

23 Justin Knock MW, 

Winemaking consultant, Encirc

Past CV: Southcorp Group

Bulk shipping and UK bottling is an increasingly important part of the supply chain and Encirc is at the heart of the trend. Knock brings a wealth of expertise to the business as one of only a few hundred Masters of Wine, and he has proved himself an astute, insightful industry commentator. He is confident and succinct when talking about global harvests, bulk shipping costs and long- term trends. Knock has been a vital consultant as Encirc has invested £350 million in its processes and facilities, and his influence can grow as he advises the trade on how to save money by taking advantage of technological advances.

22 Ben Hulme

Senior buying manager, Lidl

The discounters have spooked the major multiples and they are keeping an eye on what Hulme and his opposite number at Aldi, Mike James, will do next. Lidl has won hundreds of awards and consumers lap up stories of it beating upmarket rivals. Lidl has brought in four MWs as it seeks to grow and improve its range.

21 Simon Doyle

Group manager, CyT

Concha y Toro continues to grow under Doyle’s stewardship and he recently announced plans to drive double-digit growth after upping the marketing budget by 20%. Doyle is keen to offer different retail channels a tailored service, and to upset the Old World order by explaining that Chilean wines often trounce their Burgundian counterparts in blind tastings.

20 Norman Baker MP

Home Office Minister

Baker has waged a personal war against the drinks industry, gaining coverage in the mass media for regularly slamming “booze Britain” and its “embarrassing binge-drinking culture”. The Liberal Democrat Home Office minister has laid into retailers for launching “irresponsible promotions”. He is a fan of minimum unit pricing and wants alcohol advertising curbed.

19 Julian Dyer

UK group manager, Australian Vintage

Past CV: Sainsbury’s

Dyer brings a wealth of retail experience to one of the UK’s largest suppliers. He heads a growing London team looking after four brands in the UK off- trade top 50, with McGuigan the jewel in the crown. Its average bottle price is slightly above average and Dyer is keen to take Australian wine in a premium direction with the likes of McGuigan Black Label Reserve. He also aims to build a more concrete low-alcohol category.

18 Olly Smith

Writer and broadcaster

Smith is now arguably the most recognisable wine expert in the UK, with regular slots on popular TV shows such as Saturday Kitchen and This Morning and writing a weekly column for the Daily Mail that reaches 5.3 million consumers. He is a judge on a range of wine challenges, has recently published a book and he is the co-host of a new TV series on the BBC Food Network and Travel Channel.

17 Ayo Akintola

MD, Oddbins

Akintola sent shockwaves rippling through the drinks industry in November 2013 when he announced on the pages of OLN that he plans to grow the 54-strong Oddbins chain into an empire of 300 stores. Some have written it off as a pipe dream but Akintola remains bullish and if he delivers on his pledge his sphere of influence will flourish enormously. He has also pioneered innovative marketing techniques such as The Palate – a consumer initiative that drove a surge in footfall – and a range of quirky promotions, bringing personality to the retailer and gaining mass media coverage and appeal. 

16 Laura Jewell MW

Product development manager, Tesco

Past CV: HWCG, Spar and Sainsbury’s

Jewell is responsible for sourcing and blending a quarter of the wine sold in the UK. She has been a Master of Wine for 17 years and wines must make it past her highly demanding palate if they are to make it on to the shelves of Britain’s largest retailer. As Dan Jago focuses on Tesco’s global retail portfolio, Jewell’s influence on the UK business continues to grow. She is also unafraid to raise her head above the parapet on key issues affecting the trade, recently urging it to be less snobbish about the lower-alcohol category.

15 Steve Mosey

BWS director, Morrisons

Past CV: Heineken, Sara Lee

Morrisons suffered a 7.1% fall in sales during the first quarter of 2014 and the poor performance is starting to hamper Mosey’s aspirations. Wine was supposed to be a halo category for Morrisons that would grow £100 million by 2016 after the retailer launched a dedicated wine e-commerce site. But now the site has been scrapped the £100 million target seems far away. If Mosey is supported by the board and his Taste Test scheme takes off, wine could drive the retailer back to growth.

14 Simon Cairns

Category trading manager, The Co-operative Group

Past CV: Morrisons, Spar

Cairns raised eyebrows when he left his role at Morrisons and crossed the Pennines to take over the Co-operative Group’s wine category from Paul Bastard a little over a year ago, but he has flourished in the role. Sales are up more than 5% on the previous year after Cairns overhauled the range. The Co-op accounts for 9.4% of off-trade wine sales and is strong in the convenience channel, aiming to give supermarkets a run for their money in every postcode.

13 Nick Hyde

Chairman, Diageo Wines Europe

Hyde presides over some of the biggest brands in the UK market, such as Blossom Hill and Yellowtail, but his influence extends beyond Diageo’s Percy Fox subsidiary. As chairman of the WSTA, he was instrumental in convincing George Osborne to scrap the duty escalator on wine. He will continue to be a crucial ally to Miles Beale as the WSTA seeks to convince the government that harsh taxation on wine is counterproductive to creating a healthy economy.

12 Chris Ellis

Commercial director for wine, Pernod Ricard

Past CV: Holsten UK, First Drinks Brands

With brands such as Jacob’s Creek, Campo Viejo, Brancott Estate, Mumm and Perrier Jouët, Ellis took a decision not to join the race to the bottom and is reaping the rewards of playing in the premium tiers. Campo Viejo enjoys an average price point of £7.23, almost £2 higher than the average bottle of wine, while the other brands are all performing well. The commercially astute Ellis continues to chant the premiumisation mantra and rivals are racing to join in.

11 Diana Hunter

CEO, Conviviality Retail

Past CV: Waitrose, Sainsbury’s

Bargain Booze owner Conviviality Retail is going from strength to strength under Hunter’s stewardship. In the past year it floated on the AIM and exceeded expectations, took over the Wine Rack chain for £1.7 million, hired an MW, revamped its range, culled a bunch of troublesome stores, enjoyed a 3.2% rise in sales per shop, and bought 26 Rhythm & Booze stores for another £1.7 million, cementing its position as the UK’s top off-licence owner. Franchisee grumblings have died down under Hunter’s unflappable leadership and it seems the only way is up for the former Waitrose and Sainsbury’s executive as the convenience channel continues to grow.

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