Since its opening in May, 2011, just two months after the launch of ukvine, the Wine Pantry in London’s Borough market has carved out an unique place within the English and Welsh wine industry as a showcase in arguably the most important UK market.
Now, owner and founder Julia Stafford has rightly garnered one of the most prestigious awards in the industry, becoming Wine Merchant of the Year at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2012.
She says: “Since the Wine Pantry opened in May last year, we have been through some truly unforgettable times. There have been wonderful experiences, like winning Smarta 100 and Shell LiveWIRE awards last year, hiring the whole of the Jubilee Market for a Diamond Jubilee English wine festival, and the everyday satisfaction of a job well done – when a new customer’s scepticism melts away upon their first taste of English wine.”
On a more practical note, as important was receiving permission to fit heating in the eight square metre unit in February, staff and customers having spent the previous three months huddled around the English mulled wine cauldron.
The award excited Stafford even before she received it at a glittering London ceremony. She says: “It is no exaggeration to say that we are beside ourselves with joy! We are delighted to receive such a prestigious award and it is overwhelming to see the recognition that English still and sparkling wines are developing with just 50 years commercial operation, as well as our role in creating a platform for them in London.”
Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2007
English wine made an accompaniment to the awards ceremony earlier this month from the start. She says: “I was delighted not only to be greeted at the Royal Opera House with a glass of Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs 2007 English Sparkling wine, which had just won a Decanter Regional Trophy, but also to be seated at the same table as the vineyard owner Andrew Weeber and none other than English wine sage Stephen Skelton.
“I beamed with pride and cheered when our logo was shown on stage alongside the other nominees as the first award for the night and was so excited at the nomination that I hadn’t heard that SA Wines Online were called to the stage as runners up. I assumed they had won. I looked so shocked that Stephen Spurrier, presenting the award, commented on it as we posed for a photograph and must have made very little sense in the video interview afterwards. What I had wanted to say, and can do much more coherently now, is thank you.
“Thank you to everyone who nominated us for the award, to everyone who has dropped by or tweeted their congratulations, and for all of our fabulous suppliers, supporters and customers. We absolutely could not have done it without you.”
Celebrations continued in full force that evening at the Wine Pantry’s Stoney Street location, where Julia says: “Of course, now there is just the small matter of living up to such an amazing accolade. Watch this space for updates coming soon about our expansion plans involving the bigger unit, Christmas and beyond.”