Top 100 Most Influential People in Wine 2015

14 May, 2015

OLN’s annual list of the most influential people in the wine trade is back, with a new number one and a shake-up at the top. 

Scroll down to find out the results of the ultimate wine trade power list...


Managing director, Fells

Moody has spent 23 years at Fells and turned it into one of the UK’s leading fine wine importers, full of exciting brands such as Torres, Vergelegen and Trapiche


Managing director, Champagne Lanson Lanson has become the second largest Champagne brand in the UK under Beavis’s stewardship.


Managing director, Oxford Wine Co

Sandbach’s empire is expanding across the city from which it takes its name. Suppliers are full of praise for Oxford Wine Co whenever they hail the revival of the independent trade.


Managing director, Negotiants

Under Thorpe’s leadership, Negociants has tried to push the Australian category in a premium direction and inject some personality into a country better known for mass production and value offerings.


Director, Dedicated Wines

Evans is making a career out of launching brands that start with variations on the French for “the”. First it was La Différence, then Les Dauphins, and now Les Incroyables. Evans and Dedicated are on a mission to unearth hidden quality from France’s major wine regions while dragging prices up.


Sourcing and supply director, Off-Piste Wines With Yates’ own track record in the buying team of the country’s two biggest supermarket wine retailers, it’s perhaps little surprise that the buyers of today put faith in her sourcing skills to provide them with own-label. The client list includes both her previous employers, plus the Co-operative, Asda and Morrisons.


Managing director, Mentzendorff

As boss of a company whose links with Bollinger go back to the middle of the 19th century and with big-hitting ports like Taylor’s and Croft in the portfolio, Hawes’s position as Mentzendorff boss gives him considerable heft at the premium end of the wine market.


Chairman, B&M Stores

Sir Terry watched with disbelief as the Tesco chain he once fronted staggered through a tumultuous year. It was also a year in which the discount homeware chain whose board he now chairs stepped up its offering in wine. It may be early days for the group in alcohol but it has already established itself as a major force in the north and last year’s stock market flotation and its chair’s declaration that it could double its estate to 850 in the not-too-distant future could prove to be the next Aldi-style game-changer.


Chief executive, Portman Group

Away from the duty battle, producers have won plaudits from government – despite brickbats from the health lobby – for their commitments on labelling and units, both key successes for Portman given Ashworth’s position as industry lead on the Responsibility Deal. The gradual emergence of more lower-in-alcohol products has made wine an increasingly important part of the picture and presented Ashworth with a key role in helping to sell their benefits to detractors.


Managing director, Félix Solís Avantis UK

Cochrane admits the British arm of the pan-Spanish wine producer hasn’t really cut it with independents, but when the names of all the biggest multiples are on the order book it probably doesn’t matter too much. Cochrane has become increasingly vocal, always bringing a dose of commercial realism to the wishful thinking some suppliers can be guilty of.


Event director, London Wine Fair

The London Wine Fair has undergone a small revolution since Carter took the helm: a new/old venue, depending how you look at it; a refocus away from international buyers to chime with the needs of the UK trade; a reconnection with lapsed exhibitors; and a power shift from multiple executives to the independent wine merchant and restaurant trade. As this year’s show looms, the jury may still be out on its commercial strength but signs are encouraging.


Managing director, Friexenet

These are difficult times for cava. On one hand, it’s benefiting from overall growth in value-for-money sparkling wine. On the other, it’s reaching the point where it’s having to play second fiddle to Prosecco, a suspicion confirmed by the sales figures for Freixenet’s Italian rival Valdo released by IRI last month. The fizz with the famous black bottle remains best in class for Spain, but Freixenet will need all Clarke’s FMCG experience to meet the Prosecco challenge head-on.


Director, Wines of Chile UK

The late Michael Cox – former boss of the Chilean generic organisation – was a tough act to follow. The top job was well-earned after 11 years working in a supporting role to Cox and Jackson’s CV points to a crucial understanding of the commercial needs of both suppliers and retailers that should prove a strong suit for Chile as it heads into the new era.


Executive director, Prowein

The Düsseldorf show continues to outpoint the London Wine Fair on the international wine trade exhibition circuit. Despite the latter’s resurgence in 2014, Prowein remains the number one date to punch into the smart phone for retail buyers, British-based suppliers with an eye on exports and ambitious independents looking to source exclusive wines to ship direct. If numbers count, Degen and Prowein win hands down – visitors were up 7% again this year and outnumbered last year’s LWF by almost five to one.


Managing director, Sopexa UK

Sopexa’s role has long been misunderstood by many in the wine trade, who mistakenly regard it as the generic body for French wine in the UK. Any doubts people had that it was, in fact, an independent marketing organisation that merely listed individual regions and appellations among its client base will have been firmly dispelled by the recent acquisition of its first non-French account, the Portuguese producer Sogevinus. France, though, remains the lion’s share of its work and Burchett is a key cog in the country’s place in the UK.


UK manager, Wines of South Africa

South Africa has enjoyed several years of growth, thanks to good quality at accessible price points. It’s also been helped by the coherent and consistent trade and consumer marketing message transmitted by Wehring and her team. The joint tasting with Chile and Argentina under the Wines of the Beautiful South banner challenged the conventions of generic-run wine events in the UK. But sales have dipped in the past year and Wehring faces a challenging 2015.


Bordeaux critic, The Wine Advocate After Robert Parker decided to hang up his spurs as the US wine bible’s kingmaker for Bordeaux en primeur, his successor wasn’t so much appointed as anointed. Martin professes to have been enthused by little more than cheap cider, Liebfraumilch and Mateus Rosé until his mid-20s, when his eyes were opened by a bottle of Château Montrose 1992. He went on to found wine- and has now been writing about Bordeaux and other regions for The Wine Advocate for almost a decade. It’s his scores in the controversial 100-point system that will determine the way the collector and investment markets tilt in the future.


Super-franchisee, Conviviality Retail

When the owner of Bargain Booze and Wine Rack bought 37 shops from GT News in January, 36 of them were placed under the control of James, an East Anglian c-store operator and chairman of the Association of Convenience Stores. At a stroke, the deal meant he was head of a licensed store estate almost the size of Oddbins. He hasn’t ruled out moving into the Wine Rack fascia if the right sites become available – and it would almost seem inevitable given he has his sights set on controlling 100 shops under the Conviviality umbrella in five years.


Owner, SH Jones and managing director, Reh Kendermann UK

There aren’t many people who can claim to speak for one of the UK’s biggest and most- respected independent wine retailers and an international brand with a long track record in the nation’s multiples. In fact, we can think of only one. Jones divides his time between the company behind Germany’s Black Tower – leading the charge on lower-alcohol with its B brand – and the family-owned SH Jones chain. The latter’s stock has risen with bold moves in the digital space, including the 2013 acquisition of Slurp and the addition to the empire of the wholesale arm of the former Stevens Garnier.


Managing director, Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines

Although he is heading up one of the longest-established companies in the wine agency world, Bewes has resisted the temptation to let things just tick over. He has ensured that the Hallgarten portfolio meets the needs of customers all the way up the price ladder, not just on the uppermost rungs. Under his stewardship, the company has also raised its game in support and training to make customers better- equipped at selling Hallgarten’s wines, taking the company out of the dusty old wine trade shadows and turning it into a modern agency supplier, befitting its £45 million-plus turnover.


Managing director, Sogrape UK

It’s been a busy year for Douglas and Sogrape, not least the name change from Stevens Garnier to more closely reflect its Portuguese parentage. Perhaps the most significant developments have been behind the scenes, with a beefed-up national accounts team as the company trains its sights on retail and the on-trade after divesting Stevens Garnier’s wholesale division early in 2014.


Managing director, Cambridge Wine Merchants

Wilson’s role on the advisory board of the London Wine Fair has put him at the heart of the exhibition’s shift towards the UK trade and a package that better meets the needs of the nation’s independent wine retailers. No one is better placed than Wilson to understand the needs of that sector. The company he founded with Brett Turner is now into its third decade and has won many awards recognising its evolution into a quality merchant.


Managing director, Hatch Mansfield

Last year saw McGrath enter his third decade in the top job at one of the wine trade’s most respected agency suppliers, so he must be doing something right. Producers tend not to hang around if agencies don’t come up with the goods, so it’s to Hatch’s credit that its portfolio has a consistent year-in, year-out look – Taittinger, Jadot, Villa Maria and Errazuriz are the staples. Trade customers know where they are with Hatch and independents suggest support is good. It’s still prepared to add to the line- up when the right producer comes along and this year it was New Zealand’s Te Awa that fitted the bill.


Managing director, Boutinot

There’s barely a corner of the UK wine trade that the company founded by Paul Boutinot almost four decades ago doesn’t reach. It lists supermarkets and most independent specialists of note among its client base and satisfies the demands of different trade channels with a portfolio that comprises more than 1,000 wines from 150-plus producers and sales of some 44 million bottles a year. The Whiteley-led management buyout of 2013 cemented Boutinot’s position as a trusted source of wines for trade buyers across the board.


Wine & spirits trading director, Spar

Drinks sales in convenience stores are set to match those in supermarkets by 2020, according to IRI. Initiatives such as the Spar Wine Festival, with discounts to round numbers of pounds, and own-label innovations are helping the symbol group’s drinks sales to compete in a busy market.


General manager western Europe, Treasury Wine Estates

With a background ranging from Scottish & Newcastle and Matthew Clark to Louis Latour via Constellation, Townsend is well placed to handle major brands including Penfolds, Lindemans, Rosemount and Wolf Blass. He has been in the role since 2011 and this year was named the new chairman of drinks industry charity The Benevolent. Price-marked packs have been a key strategy for Townsend over the past year, as well as focusing on the top-end Penfolds portfolio.


Chief executive, The Wine Society

Former Berry Bros & Rudd chief operating officer McMillan has headed the Wine Society’s executive team for three years, and has 25 years’ experience in the wine trade. The trade’s only mutual society has its roots in Victorian London, and its aim remains the same – to buy good-quality wine at good prices for its members. McMillan promised a “fresh approach” when he was appointed to the role in 2012, and he faces the challenge of facing up to 21st-century competitors while remaining rooted in the society’s history.


Owner, Corks Out

Leading independent Corks Out has opened its sixth store in Knutsford this month, after being named Small Chain of the Year in OLN’s Drinks Retailing Awards. The newcomer has a late licence and will operate as a bar as well as a retail shop – a concept that has worked well for Corks Out in other outlets. Yates, who has been an outspoken voice on issues affecting independents as well as an outstanding entrepreneur, opened the first Corks Out in Stockton Heath in 2003 and has pioneered concepts such as tasting machines, on-licences and premium spirits. She is seen as an inspiration by many ambitious retailers and a key customer for top suppliers.


Director, Copestick Murray

Two major distribution deals have helped push Copestick, the UK face of Copestick Murray, up our Top 100 chart. Lisa McGuigan, fourth-generation winemaker in Australia’s legendary McGuigan dynasty, and advertising guru John Hegarty, who owns Minervois estate Hegarty Chamans, have both signed up the agency to distribute their brands in the UK. On top of that Copestick is busy building global brand I Heart and cashing in on the Prosecco boom with Mionetto. German- owned sparkling wine producer Henkell bought a 60% stake in the business in 2013.


Managing director, Origin Wine

Origin Wine is targeting new wine drinkers with a series of innovations, from fighting to get lower-alcohol wines in chillers alongside cider and RTDs to the Stormhoek Stack, a column of four single-serve portable cups adding up to a 75cl bottle of wine. Swiss entrepreneur Fontannaz set up Origin as a full-service exporter of South African wines in 2002 and founded leading Fairtrade brand Fairhills in 2004. He now trades in France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia and has even set up an office in Sweden to target the Nordic markets.


Chief executive, Federation of Wholesale Distributors

From this autumn, wine wholesalers will have to sign up to a new register, designed to stamp out duty evasion and the grey market. The scheme was the brainchild of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, which has been transformed under the leadership of James Bielby from a genial body that celebrated community-minded independents to a campaigning voice.


Trading manager, wine, beers & spirits, M&S

Brooking has been heading up BWS at M&S for more than a year now, after former head Andrew Bird was seconded to Woolworths in South Africa in 2014. Working as part of a team including ex-Spar and Sainsbury’s buyer Dror Nativ, and Emma Dawson, also formerly of Sainsbury’s, he has led the retailer to win more awards for its innovative and high-quality own-label range. Brooking worked through a number of buying roles at M&S before coming to drinks, and started his career as a store manager for Waitrose, where he went on to join the buying team.


UK director, Les Grands Chais de France

JP Chenet and Calvet owner Les Grands Chais de France has been growing its empire. The past year has seen acquisitions in Nîmes and northern Burgundy, and the company is focusing on AOPs, especially in the Languedoc. It was one of the first companies to introduce aromatised, fruit- flavoured wine-based drinks – a major growth category in France – to the UK, where a number of suppliers are hoping to replicate the French sector’s success. The understated and insightful North is the company’s UK face.


Chief executive, Australian Vintage

Australian Vintage’s chief executive started making a name for himself 30 years ago when he was winemaker for Wyndham Estate and was named “the most brilliant young winemaker of his time” by restaurateur and wine merchant Johnny Walker. Australian Vintage may be best known in the UK for its entry-level and mid-range wines, but last year it ventured into finer territory with £100 The Philosophy to remind consumers that Australia can make red wines with finesse as well as big blockbusters.


Chief executive, Hedonism Wines

Hedonism opened in Mayfair in 2010 with the mission to become “the finest wine shop there is” and its influence has soared over the past year as more suppliers cometoseeitasoneofthekey retailers they must be listed in. Fokina has a background in luxury retailing, which has helped give the shop its glitzy image, and her aim is to offer outstanding customer service as well as an exceptional range of wines shoppers won’t find anywhere else. Hedonism owner Yevgeny Chichvarkin appeared in the latest Sunday Times Rich List with £120 million to his name.


Writer and broadcaster

Robinson remains the go-to wine writer for authoritative and comprehensive reviews and news in her Purple Pages, the encyclopaedic Oxford Companion to Wine and seminal reference work Wine Grapes, written with Julia Harding MW and Dr José Vouillamoz, which has now teamed up with the London Wine Fair to bring two grapes a year to visitors’ attention. She describes herself as a wine, food, words and family- loving workaholic and her jobs include a weekly column for the Financial Times and advising the Queen on what to put in her cellar.


Wine buying director, Berry Bros & Rudd

Pardoe is one of eight Masters of Wine on Berry Bros’s team – the largest number working for any one company. It is a fitting accolade for a business with more than 400 years of trading from the same shop, a royal warrant and more than 5,000 wines on its list. In the past year the Queen’s merchant has overhauled its wine club and given it a major push in a bid to attract younger consumers. As well as heading up the company’s buying team, Pardoe is one of the main lecturers in its wine school, specialising in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Austria and southern Italy.


Owner, Kingsland Wine & Spirits

Last month Kingsland bolstered its growing empire with the acquisition of £34 million-turnover off-trade wine supplier Bottle Green, which counts Blue Nun and French Connection among its brands. The year before it consolidated the various strands of its business – Kingsland, Legacy and Stratford’s – under the Kingsland name, and is powering forward in its ambition to become the UK’s leading supplier.


Chief executive and co- owner, Virgin Wines

Virgin Wines has pledged to corner the market in wine gifts after launching a specialist gifts business last autumn. The online and mail order business then teamed up with Accolade to launch an exclusive range of Hardys wines, called Chronicles, and saw sales of fizz soar 20% last Christmas. Wright led a £15.9 million management buyout in 2013 to take the business over from Direct Wines, and now holds a 35% stake in the business.


Winemaking consultant, Encirc

As if making his own wines, consulting on bulk shipping and packing company Encirc and speaking at trade events about sulphur dioxide levels in wine weren’t enough, Knock has this year bought London wine merchant Philglass & Swiggott as part of a consortium. An astute commentator on all aspects of the market, Knock has a high profile in the trade and in the growing bulk business.


Chief executive, Booths

The northern supermarket chain’s chief executive is a former wine buyer who has remained involved in the drinks strategy – including being instrumental in the retailer’s pioneering (among supermarkets) move to install tasting machines in its wine departments in 2013. He was promoted from chief operating officer in February, after 20 years at Booths, and is presiding over a burst of expansion plans which sees the retailer opening five stores in a year.


Group chief executive, Direct Wines

Former Carphone Warehouse boss Thatcher moved swiftly from heading up Laithwaites’ 800 staff to becoming group chief executive of Direct Wines. He had been at Laithwaites just 10 months when former Direct Wines boss Simon McMurtrie stepped down, and had already made such an impression that he was quickly promoted. The mail order and internet business has been transformed from a UK business to an international one over the past decade.


Wine & spirits buyer, Selfridges

Selfridges’ drinks department is going from strength to strength, with a successful revamp of its Oxford Street flagship store being rolled out around the country, but with each shop being given leeway to cater to local tastes. The high-profile Davies came into retail after holding several sommelier roles. She was instrumental in changing an arcane law that prevented retailers from selling 2.5cl “sips” of wine, and her innovative approach to marketing and nose for the latest trends have blazed the retailer’s way to a number of awards, including OLN’s prize for Independent Drinks Retailer of the Year two years running.


Chief executive, Booker

Booker scooped OLN’s Drinks Retailing Award for Drinks Wholesaler of the Year this year, thanks to a focus on giving retailers a broader range of smaller packs, its award- winning range of own-label speciality spirits and a three- tiered wine range designed to help independents boost their sales. It is just the latest in a long list of accolades clocked up since Wilson took the helm 10 years ago, after working for major corporations including Procter & Gamble, Arcadia Group and Marks & Spencer. With wholesalers and cash and carries playing a growing role in the independent sector, his influence is on the rise.


Managing director, Diageo Wines Europe

Hyde was replaced by Pernod Ricard’s Denis O’Flynn as chairman of the Wine & Spirit Trade Assocation, but he still wields strong influence over the trade in his role at Diageo’s wine division, presiding over brands such as Blossom Hill.



The gregarious one-time Waitrose buyer landed a plum job on TV when he replaced Kate Goodman as the drinks expert on Food and Drink. His hell-raising antics are legendary among the trade, but he is even more renowned for his remarkable palate and memory, and millions tune in to be swept up in his enthusiasm for wine.


Prime Minister

A 2012 biography of Cameron noted that he would often enjoy three or four glasses of wine with lunch, but he’s known for prohibitionist ideas. Four years ago he pledged to introduce minimum unit pricing, however he showed he can be influenced by lobbyists when he scrapped plans in 2013, citing a lack of evidence.


Wine writer and broadcaster

Clarke got a standing ovation from the UK’s leading retailers and suppliers when he scooped the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Drinks Retailing Awards. But TV’s favourite wine critic has no plans to slow down and just released a book called The History of Wine in 100 Bottles. Not bad for an actor who played the first criminal to be arrested by the Man of Steel in 1978 film Superman.


UK director, Wine institute of California

McLaren is a champion of the UK’s thriving independent wine merchant sector. He knows the supermarkets can’t help him with his objective of pushing Californian wines in a premium direction, so he targets indies and the high-end on-trade with innovative marketing to ensure Golden State wines sitting in the higher price points continue to grow in this market.


Vice-president, E&J Gallo

Gallo’s wines may not be to everybody’s taste, but it has been arguably the most innovative producer operating in the UK as it releases a steady stream of new products in a bid to appeal to younger drinkers. It spearheaded the UK’s Moscato revolution with seven-figure ad campaigns, while launching fruity, easy-drinking, low- alcohol, wine-based drinks such as Gallo Family Vineyard Spritz and Gallo Refresh in an attempt to break down barriers and encourage young adults to start drinking wine.


Chief executive, Liberty Wines

Liberty Wines’ influence has expanded since Gleave started the business with a staff of four in 1998, backed by a handful of Italian producers. The company now employs more than 100 staff and its portfolio has swollen to more than 200 producers from across the globe, with highly-rated Peter Lehmann Wines from the Barossa Valley among the latest additions. It reported a record December in 2014, adding that in the 2013-14 financial year it grew turnover 10% to £40.3 million.


Chief executive, Enotria

Former Accolade boss Christensen has set about overhauling Enotria since taking over a year ago, focusing on upgrading technology in the supply chain, improving the way it markets its portfolio and driving innovation to counter the threat of rival categories such as beer and spirits. He urges the wine trade to unite to claw back volume that it has lost to these categories, rallying everyone to pull in the same direction to improve “brand wine” and preaching that sharing a growing pie is better than squabbling over a shrinking one.


Alcohol Health Alliance

Gilmore has emerged as the loudest and most influential member of the prohibitionist health lobby in his role heading up the Alcohol Health Alliance. He is a professor of liver diseases and in 2001 chaired a Royal College of Physicians working party that produced the report Alcohol – Can the NHS Afford It? As president of the College, from 2006 to 2010, he made several public statements on alcohol misuse in the UK, and under his leadership the College launched the Alcohol Health Alliance UK in 2007.


BWS category trading manager, The Co-operative Group

Cairns has been at the Co-op for more than two years and has overseen a successful period. Sales were up 6.1% in the past year (Kantar Worldpanel, year to February 1) and Cairns was rewarded for his efforts last October when he was promoted to a new role incorporating beers and spirits. His decision to leave Morrisons for the Co-op has been vindicated.


Groceries Code adjudicator

Tacon has pledged to act if she discovers unfair treatment of suppliers by retailers. Several wine suppliers said they felt mistreated by multiple retailers in the wake of Tesco’s £263 million “black hole” scandal, and Tacon has promised to deal with their complaints confidentially if they get in touch. She has already had some success in getting multiples to change their behaviour, and says she will act if given hard evidence from the wine trade.


Wine personality

Jolly Olly has cemented his position as the UK’s most recognisable wine critic by maintaining a busy schedule of appearances on Saturday Kitchen and This Morning, presenting shows on Food Network and Travel Channel, hosting live tastings, acting as senior judge at the International Wine Challenge and writing a wine column for the Daily Mail. In 2015 he made Debrett’s 500, a list that recognises influential people in British society. Keen to move with the times, he also has his own iPhone app, offering wines of the week and food pairing tips.


General manager, Concha y Toro UK

Sales of Concha y Toro’s wines are soaring since it upped its marketing budget in an ambitious bid to drive double- digit growth in each year between 2014 and 2019. Total sales in 2014 grew 17% to pass the 6.5 million-case mark, with star brand Casillero del Diablo growing 20.7% and seizing the crown as the UK’s best selling Cabernet Sauvignon. Isla Negra has struggled, but Cono Sur and Argentinian brand Trivento are going from strength to strength. Continued sponsorship of the rugby Premiership and the Tour de France cycling championship should help keep momentum going, and Doyle’s Chilean paymasters should be happy to see his strategy of being stricter and more disciplined with a tighter portfolio paying off.


Chief executive, Bibendum PLB

In October 2014, Bibendum swallowed PLB in one of the biggest deals in wine trade history and claimed it was forming the UK’s “most powerful independent drinks company”. Saunders heads up the new firm and says he is playing a game of chess against his peers, as suppliers try to squeeze money out of a declining market hampered by high duty and increasing competition. Aided by the buying skills of Andrew Shaw, his focus is now on using the bigger team at his disposal to tailor services for independents, multiples and the on-trade.


Chief executive, Wine & Spirit Trade Association

It’s been a mixed year for Beale: his association’s campaigning earned a 2% cut on spirits duty in the Budget, but he could not deliver the same shot in the arm for the wine trade. Duty was frozen on wine – not a bad result, but not the 2% cut Beale hoped for and that looked realistic from a Conservative government eager to win votes. He will have his work cut out in the years ahead as the new government takes a more prohibitionist stance to alcohol and re-examines duty rates, with smaller parties that have their own anti-alcohol agendas gaining a louder voice in government.


First minister of Scotland

Sturgeon emerged as the standout performer in the televised leader debates in the run-up to the general election, and her SNP was rewarded by gaining 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland. Her influence will now grow vastly and spread to England and Wales, and she could prove a large thorn in the wine trade’s side by driving a prohibitionist agenda. She was Scottish health minister before taking over from Alex Salmond as head of the SNP, and has been a vocal advocate of minimum unit pricing after claiming “teenagers can buy enough alcohol to kill themselves for just a few pounds”. She recently dismissed attempts to overturn a 35-year ban on alcohol at Scottish football matches and will wield influence across the UK.


Managing director, Oddbins

Oddbins is resurgent under the leadership of the often outspoken Akintola. In the past year it bought 20 Nicolas stores to fuel ambitious growth plans and Akintola says he is on course for his goal of returning the business to profit by the end of the 2014-15 financial year. He has also cemented his reputation as a colourful and candid commentator. When Majestic launched a much-maligned scheme asking suppliers to fund a new warehouse by agreeing to a price cut on wine, Akintola branded his rival “morally repugnant”. He said he had no problem ending 25 years of cordial relations because he felt the need to stand up for the suppliers he claimed were being “screwed”.


BWS category director, Morrisons

Morrisons’ sales fell 0.7% in the first quarter of 2015, taking the market share of the UK’s fourth-biggest grocer down to 10.9%, but wine is the exception to the rule. Sales are up 5.5% over the past year and it is stealing shoppers from Tesco. Mosey is persisting with the Taste Test scheme, which groups wines based on taste rather than colour, country and region, while ramping up its own-label offering and introducing swingeing price cuts at key trading times, and the strategy seems to be working. Morrisons drew a backlash from the trade when it started selling supposedly premium brands such as Campo Viejo and Wolf Blass in a three-for-£10 deal last summer, and raised eyebrows when it scrapped its dedicated e-commerce wine site, but it has shrugged off criticism, got on with business and been rewarded with strong sales.


UK & Europe director, Wines of Australia

Jewell sent shockwaves through the trade when she left Britain’s biggest retailer to head up Wine Australia in the UK and Europe. She knows the retail trade like the back of her hand, having been at Tesco for four years, and previously at Spar. She will be able to use her contacts and experience to push Australian wine into a range of channels. Many expected her to concentrate on grocers and symbol groups, but she has pledged to devote a lot of attention to independents and the on-trade in a bid to expand Australia’s offering.


BWS category director, Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s has slumped to an annual loss for the first time in a decade amid the intense supermarket price war that has seen shoppers march to hard discounters, but its wine sales are growing 6.6% year on year. It has just lost its head of BWS after Andy Phelps moved to the Co-operative Group, and his replacement will have her work cut out as she bids to balance its own-label and branded offer and build on the growth. Newman has spent the past two-and-a-half years working as category planning manager in Sainsbury’s BWS team, responsible for promotions, range and merchandising across the £2.2 billion category. She has a background in retail and performed various merchandising roles for the likes of Tesco, Morrisons and WH Smith before moving to Sainsbury’s in 2010.


BWS category director, Asda

Ford has driven 5% year-on- year growth in Asda’s wine division by selling more wine to existing shoppers. Wine has been taken out of the BWS aisle and scattered across stores on prominent freestanding displays to drive penetration, and deals on leading brands have been marketed strongly. Ford axed the controversial three- for-£10 mechanic, but the retailer still offers shoppers great value at the budget end and is not afraid to forgo margins to drive footfall in stores, a prime example being the £10 Champagne it sold throughout Christmas. But its own-label offering includes some gems, such as its Dão and Old Vines Garnacha that offer excellent value for money at just £5. Asda is also taking the lead on driving more low-alcohol products into the market.


Managing director, Pernod Ricard UK

O’Flynn recently took over as chairman of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association and has since grown more vocal on issues such as wine duty. He says the trade should be proud of its economic contribution, and has vowed to lobby the government to stop undermining investment, growth and success through heavy taxation. Pernod Ricard’s Campo Viejo brand is surging in the UK, driving the Spanish wine category in premium tiers and claiming the title as bestselling red wine SKU in the trade. Jacob’s Creek is struggling in a competitive Australian category, but O’Flynn’s premiumisation mantra is capturing retailers’ imaginations.


Senior buying manager, Lidl

Hulme put his degree in English and German Studies to good use by joining Lidl immediately after graduating in 2010. He said he thrived in an environment where he was given a great deal of responsibility at an early stage and he soon became a senior buying manager. Along with wine, he looks after spirits, cooking sauces and condiments, and says he is given a large amount of responsibility and freedom to make decisions about the categories he looks after, which he describes as exciting but highly pressured. Lidl’s wine department is thriving, posting double-digit sales growth and happily chomping away at Tesco’s market share. It made wine the focus of its high-profile, big budget TV ad campaign and was rewarded with growth to leave rivals green with envy.


UK general manager, Accolade Wines

Schaafsma holds his crown as the most influential supplier in the UK trade after a year of strong growth across Accolade’s market-leading brands. Schaafsma rubbished claims that Australia is broken after announcing flagship brand Hardys grew 12.4% in volume over Christmas. He hailed the performance of Mud House, the firm’s new brand from New Zealand, which grew UK sales from 10,000 9-litre cases to 250,000 in nine months, and he urged the trade to take South Africa in a premium direction after announcing strong sales figures for Kumala.


Chief executive, Conviviality Retail

Conviviality has become an unstoppable force under Hunter’s leadership, snapping up rival chains, launching new formats, invading Scotland and constantly growing its estate. Wine has become a crucial part of its offering after it acquired the Wine Rack chain and hired an MW to take it in a more premium direction. It competes with supermarkets and discounters by aiming to undercut them on well-known wine brands at its Bargain Booze, Thorougoods and BB’s Warehouse stores, while competing with independent wine merchants and upmarket chains through its Wine Rack stores. Hunter promises that Wine Rack will not stay confined to the south east of England and that Bargain Booze will also move out of its northern heartland.



The Chancellor has announced several duty cuts on alcohol in recent years and many in the trade will be pleased to see him continue in the post. His generosity surely bought the Tories a few votes, but the beneficiaries of duty cuts were the beer, cider and spirits industries, while wine only received a duty freeze. A Labour victory would have brought a more interventionist government keen to clampdown on alcohol marketing and give power to local health chiefs over licensing, so many will breathe a sigh of relief that the Tories prevailed. But there is nothing to say the Conservatives won’t become more prohibitionist now they don’t have coalition partners to contend with, or that Osborne won’t put duty back up as he doesn’t have to buy votes for many years yet.


Chief executive, Majestic

The surprise acquisition of Naked Wines by Majestic and Rowan Gormley’s appointment as the combined group’s boss propels him into the top echelons of this year’s chart. We may not yet know exactly what shape the new generation Majestic will take but we can be certain that it won’t be a case of the same old same old. In a business sector where a revamped blend or label too often passes for invention, Gormley has shown himself to be a true innovator. In founding Naked, he ripped up the rulebook for internet wine retailing. While most were attempting to reproduce a list version of a wine shop online, Gormley fashioned a different model that invested directly in winemakers and locked customers in by giving them a sense of ownership and involvement. The Majestic acquisition takes him into bricks and mortar territory for the first time and it should be interesting if Gormley allows his imagination to let rip in the same way that it has in the digital world. Gormley doesn’t just think outside the box – he doesn’t even have a box.


Head of BWS, Waitrose

Waitrose has managed to significantly outpace rivals by growing wine sales 11.9% in the past year (Kantar Worldpanel, year to 29 March 2015) despite shunning deep discounts. That is testament to the hard work of Petrassi and his buying team, which continues to excite shoppers by sourcing a range of wine from across the globe that is unrivalled among the multiples. Shoppers have voted with their feet by making more trips to Waitrose and buying more premium wine. The discounters have gained most of the headlines and the credit for the big four grocers’ tanking sales, but at the other end of the market Waitrose has been a big winner too. A focus on South Africa and Italy has paid off, while it has emerged as a real champion of English wine. It reported sales up 177% in the past year and claims to account for three in every five bottles sold in the UK. Petrassi is not afraid to put his head above the parapet either. He is one of the few retailers to publicly support minimum unit pricing, is a vocal critic of any discounting that distorts the true price of wine and is in favour of scrapping multibuys. Petrassi’s mantra is that fighting on price will never take the market forward, but inspiring customers will. Waitrose is growing in a sustainable fashion by focusing on value above volume, and suppliers are constantly urging fellow multiples to copy this model.


Wine buying manager, Tesco

Few could have predicted the rollercoaster ride Tesco’s wine buying team has been on over the past year. This time last year we named Dan Jago, Tesco’s former UK and global boss of BWS, the most powerful name in the trade for the third year running, but five months later the affable and respected head was suspended amid an investigation into an accounting scandal that rocked the trade. This February, Jago was reinstated, with a new remit of category director of group wine. The reshuffle paved the way for Gavin Warburton, who oversaw the department in Jago’s absence, to be promoted to UK category director for BWS and usher in sweeping changes under the watch of new chief executive Dave Lewis. The appointment of James Davis MW as category buying manager for wine creates a new order in the buying team’s power hierarchy. Jago maintains that his position is now more strategic, less concerned with day-to-day management and also takes in a global dimension, which could grow or decrease in importance at the will of the board’s worldwide expansion plans. But in the UK, at least, Davis is the one to watch when he takes up his role later this month. Tesco’s wine buying manager between 2004 and 2007, he returns to a much-changed team from the one he left to join pub group Greene King. During his time away from the retail frontline, he studied for his MW, which makes him the most knowledgeable in the Tesco line-up and plugs any gap in credibility that might have been perceived following the departure of Laura Jewell MW. The remaining buying team has been severely reduced and Davis’s role looks set to be as much a commercial one as about product development. Managing both functions boosts his potential to influence the UK wine scene. However, combining the roles could stretch Tesco’s ability to spend time foraging for lesser-known wines while pressure mounts for it to stem haemorrhaging sales. With the axe falling across its range in coming months, Davis could find some of the biggest decisions have already been made for him.


Wine category director, Aldi

The march of the discounters has made a huge dent in the armour of the big four, not only through snatching sales but also by destroying many of the philosophies the large retailers have lived by for a decade or more.

Conventions of wine retailing have been eroded in a few short years, with Aldi emerging as the victor in the battle for market share. It might not yet sell as many cases as traditional supermarket rivals, but it is significantly outpacing the market.

Latest Kantar Worldpanel figures show a surge of 18.7% on last year as it netted an additional £43 million in wine sales – almost the same figure as the drop of 3.3% registered by Tesco, equating to £46 million worth of wine business.

It’s not only Tesco feeling the force of Aldi’s strengthening consumer pull. Last month it became the UK’s sixth- biggest supermarket and, with ambitious expansion plans, its reach will only grow.

The gap in sales between Aldi and closest rival Waitrose is narrowing – despite Waitrose’s own healthy 11.9% growth.

Aldi has changed the game in the UK, adopting the same strategy here that’s worked across Europe and forcing seismic changes to the retail scene as a result.

Mechanics such as two- for-£10 and artificial half-price deals have never been a feature, nor has gondola end positioning been employed to, at best, encourage shoppers to explore the rest of the wine aisle or, at worst, flog volume on the cheap.

Instead, Aldi’s model has been built around sourcing a tight range with an everyday price tag that doesn’t yo-yo unexpectedly.

Central to its proposition is keeping its margins lower than rivals to beat them on price and create a more transparent

approach, causing consumers to switch in their droves.

Unlike other wine-buying teams, Aldi is as lean and mean as it gets, with sourcing done by a team of two, headed by Mike James.

A company-wide policy to publicise its range ahead of its personnel means James is rarely in the spotlight himself, though his range has won more column inches than any other over the past year.

Some bloggers report that search traffic rockets following any posts about its lines as the hype far outweighs what you might expect from a modest sized range of around 70 wines. Approachable and down to earth, away from media glare, James is not going for the lowest common denominator wines to hit price points and achieve margin gains.

His buying shows skill and a quirkiness that led to Aldi picking up the gong for Wine Retailer of the Year at OLN’s Drinks Retailing Awards in February.

His background couldn’t be further removed from the wine trade’s old guard. A doctor of philosophy, conservation and ecology, he spent more time writing his PhD on the world’s smallest butterfly than studying for the WSET two-year wine diploma course.

He gave up a job as a school lab assistant to join Aldi in 2004 as an area manager and became wine buying director in 2010.

Five years on, aged just 41, he has created a more significant impact than many of the wine trade’s great personalities.

His mantra is to cater for shoppers who want what he describes as “X-Factor wines”, bottles consumers can enjoy on the sofa on a Saturday night. It’s an honest approach that might not chime with attitudes long-held by some in the industry, but it’s caused crashing waves in the commercial wine landscape.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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