Morrisons has beaten its rival supermarkets once again. Christine Austin finds out how they did i

For the second year running Bradford-based Morrisons supermarket has won the accolade ‘Wine Supermarket of the Year’ at The International Wine Challenge Awards.
This is a tremendous achievement for the buying team at Morrisons. Last year was the first time they had won this prestigious accolade in the 29 years of the competition. To win it twice in a row shows that last year’s achievement was certainly not a fluke.
The store beat Aldi and Waitrose to the title, while Marks & Spencer had to make do with a Highly Commended award.
This is a major achievement for Mark Jarman, head of wine operations at Morrisons and his buying team. “It’s an endorsement for the quality of our own label range and the way we work with winemakers to source and blend everything in our own label range,” he said.
The key to last year’s success was the range revamp, with new wines from South Africa, Spain and Portugal, and a complete review of France. This year that work has continued and quality is clearly to the fore. At the recent Morrisons tasting there was consistency and quality across the board while retaining value for money. When I talked to Mark recently he explained that online sales of wine are surging ahead. “We are 80 per cent up on the year, and while the business is only a small proportion of the amount of wine we sell in stores, it is all heading in the right direction.”

All the wines are tasted blind at the International Wine Challenge.

All the wines are tasted blind at the International Wine Challenge.

One new innovation has been the introduction of chilled wine deliveries, so you can have a bottle of chilled champagne delivered to your doorstep. This service is also good for parties when your fridge might not be able to cope with dozens of bottles. Morrisons wine can be ordered on
One major change this year has been the way the wines are arranged on the shelves. After several years of trying to persuade their wine customers to use taste terms such as ‘Fresh’, ‘Smooth’ and ‘Intense’ to find their favourite wines, Morrisons has bowed to customer pressure and decided to go back to displaying wines on their shelves country by country.
As well as winning the top accolade of Supermarket of the Year, Morrisons won a whole fistful of medals for individual wines. The fortified section did extremely well with a Gold medal for the rich, deep flavours of Morrisons Signature Dry Oloroso Sherry (£6 for 37.5cl). The chain also won a Gold for its gorgeously concentrated Pedro Ximenez (£6 for 37.5cl) and Silvers for Morrisons Dry Palo Cortado (£6 for 37.5cl; Morrisons Signature LBV Port (£10.50 for 75cl) and Morrisons Fino Sherry, priced at £5.50 for 75cl.
More Silver medals went to the rounded, toasty flavours of Morrisons Signature Champagne Brut (£19); the clear, fresh fruit of Morrisons Cava Brut (£7) and the zesty, minerally crisp flavours of Morrisons Signature Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (£8).
“In all we had 103 awards for our wines,” said Mark, “which is the most we have ever won.”
As usual I was part of the judging process at The International Wine Challenge, although I had had no influence on the Merchant Awards.
I spent two full weeks as a Panel Chair, judging around 100 wines each day, all of them blind. For one of those days I was joined by my apprentice for 2016, Helen Scott, a Leeds-based media consultant. She has been interested in wine for decades and she really appreciated the opportunity to taste at The Challenge.
The way the challenge works is very simple and to my mind is the most reliable and rigorous way of judging wines. I judge several wine competitions around the world each year and the Challenge is the one that I regard as the best. Each wine is bagged up so the label and neck label cannot be seen. If it comes in an unusual bottle shape then the contents are decanted into a neutral-looking bottle.
In the first week, wines are presented in flights of up to 12 wines, grouped by style. The aim of the tasting is to decide whether any of these are potential medal-winners in which case they are put forward into the following week’s tasting, or whether they should be rejected or receive the first level of award, Commended. Although I am a Panel Chair, responsible for the group opinion of the five or six professional wine judges around the table, consensus is important and no one opinion dominates the proceedings. Even so, all potential rejections and Commended wines are re-tasted by at least one of five chairmen who include three masters of wine and some of the best palates in the world.
In the second week of the judging process the whole process is repeated, and the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals decided.
Helen’s role was invaluable, and she kept up with the fairly fast pace of blind tasting. She went on to join Challenge Chairmen, TV wine expert Oz Clarke and regular Yorkshire visitor, Charles Metcalfe. They gave Helen a one-to-one tasting tutorial.
“‘Tasting with Oz and Charles was fun and inspirational,” said Helen.
The full results of the International Wine Challenge are listed at

About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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