Today we publish the last of our articles selected from the 117 entries into our writing competition designed to celebrate the wonders of dedicated independent wine merchants and we are now able to announce the winners.
By complete coincidence, both the winning writer and the winning merchant are American. This is perhaps not so surprising since we received almost as many entries from the US as from the UK. Other entries came from Argentina, Canada, France, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. (Nothing from Germany or Iberia.) I wonder whether American wine retailers are especially good, or perhaps especially good at persuading their customers to lobby on their behalf? Certainly all the accounts of independent wine merchants received, from whichever spot on the globe, were truly heartwarming. Clearly wine lovers have a very special relationship with their preferred retailers, and the retailers described really seemed to go the extra mile.
Our declared aim was to find the best independent wine merchant in the world and it was truly very difficult for us to decide on just one winner to present with two tickets to our (sell-out) Barolo Night on 23 November in London and treat them to a lunch at The Quality Chop House beforehand, but sheer weight of numbers – an unparalleled total of 13 enthusiastic reviews – makes Chambers Street Wines in New York the winner.
Eben Lillie of Chambers Street Wines wrote, on learning that they had won, 'We are honoured and very proud to be the winners of the competition. I spent some time reading some of our customers’ writing and I have to say that I was literally moved (I might have even shed a tear). I helped open Chambers Street with my father (David) and Jamie Wolff in 2001, and it’s been a big part of my life since then. Meeting the growers, travelling, tasting wine and learning from my colleagues and our clientele… these have all been enriching experiences for me. Seeing that this store means so much more to our customers than just another retail shop... it’s pretty special. We have become a home for wine, and our customers have become friends. It’s a special place and I’m so glad to see that the folks who shop with us feel the way they do. It means we’re doing something right! ' You can read this collection of enthusiasm for Chambers Street Wines. (Their team is pictured here. Jamie and David are, respectively, third and fourth from the left while Eben is right at the front.)
Runner-up wine retailer, and keeping Britain's reputation for wine merchantery intact, was Private Cellar in southern England, about which we received no fewer than 10 enthusiastic endorsements of how personal and skilled their service is, even though they do not have a retail shop. This goes to show that there can be several possible models for exceptional wine retailing.
If it was difficult to choose our winning wine merchant, it was almost impossible to choose just one entry for the quality of the writing and the sentiment. We marvelled at just how literate so many of you are. At times I wondered whether we would have to give out about 20 copies of Wine Grapes, but in the end there was one account of a favourite wine shop that was just so beautifully expressed that it was our unanimous choice. Marcy Waterfall of Burlington, Vermont, (pictured here in a photo taken for her work security badge) wrote about her local wine store Dedalus with real warmth and humour. It seemed to us that she had clearly identified all the aspects of a great wine retailer and also told a great story.
She will soon be receiving the prize for the winning writer, a personally dedicated copy of our tome on 1,368 vine varieties including their origins and flavours. You can find a guide to all the accounts we have published since the end of July here. We'd like to thank everyone who took the trouble to write to us about their favourite independent wine retailers. We really are very lucky with our readers.