Meet the judges

Once again this year’s judging panel will be entirely comprised of independent wine merchants, and overseen by David Williams.

We’ll be introducing all of our judges over the coming weeks so keep an eye on this page for details.

Meanwhile, here’s a reminder of last year’s judges.

amps for web

Philip Amps, Amps Fine Wines

Amps Fine Wine in Oundle dates back to 1901. Philip is the fourth generation of the family to run the business, which opened a second branch in the town in 2016.

sam from harper wells for web

Sam Howard, HarperWells

Sam joined Norwich independent HarperWells in February 2014, his 15th year in the wine industry. He has been involved with great wines since graduating from the University of East Anglia in 1998. He’s a private client sales specialist who in previous roles has worked the fine wine market selling to international clients.

hal wilson cut out for web

Hal Wilson, Cambridge Wine Merchants

Cambridge Wine Merchants was established in 1993 by Hal and friend Brett Turner. The business now operates seven branches (four in Cambridge, plus three franchises elsewhere) and has a large wholesale operation. In 2017 it was voted the UK’s top independent wine merchant.

alex bal for web

Alexandre Bal, Authentique Epicerie & Bar

Alexandre is part of a collective of Frenchmen who set up the Tufnell Park business in 2018. He also works as a senior sales executive for Yapp Bros.

Richard Ballantyne

Richard Ballantyne MW, Noble Grape

Richard established Noble Grape in 2017 in Cowbridge, south Wales. He previously worked for the family business, Ballantynes in Cardiff, and has a particular specialism in Italian wines.

kelli coxhead

Kelli Coxhead, The Wine Shop, Winscombe

Kelli’s passion for wine was ignited on a trip to New Zealand in 2006. Three years later she started The Wine Tasting Company, followed by the shop itself in a Somerset village near Bristol in 2012. A WSET Diploma holder, she is also an accredited WSET tutor.

chix chandaria cut out

Chix Chandaria, The Wine Parlour and Vintage 1824

Chix started her wine business in 2009 and now runs a thriving shop and a popular wine bar in south London. She also offers wine courses.

Mike Boniface

Mike Boniface, No2 Pound Street

Mike is the manager and wine buyer for this independent wine shop and deli based in Wendover, Buckinghamshire. He has over 20 years’ experience in the wine trade.

janine pert

Janine Pert, Discover Wine

Australian-born Janine Pert arrived in the UK in 1987. Her passion for discovering wine began when she lived in Melbourne and spent weekends visiting the wineries of the Barossa Valley. Her shop, in the Hampshire village of Denmead, opened as an extension of her wine events business.

penny champion

Penny Champion, Champion Wines

Penny is another Aussie, specialising in “tasty, small-production wines that don’t cost the earth”. She also has a sideline in artisan cheese and operates a wine bar from her base in Chislehurst. Before becoming a  merchant, Penny ran the UK division of a large wine supplier.

Duncan McLean, Kirkness & Gorie-1 copy

Duncan Mclean, Kirkness & Gorie

Kirkness & Gorie was founded in 1859 in Kirkwall, Orkney, and remains a family-run business.  In addition to selling wine retail and wholesale, K&G is the leading cheese shop in the north of Scotland.

Nish Patel, The Shenfield Wine Co

With no formal training or great knowledge of wine, Nish gave up a career as an ITV cameraman back in 2006 to set up the Shenfield Wine Co on the site of an old Unwins store.

jess scarratt

Jess Scarratt, Borough Wines, Beers & Books

Jess established her business with partner Michael Smith in Hastings in 2015. She describes it as “an unofficial franchise” of Borough Wines in London – there’s a family resemblance, but the premises has its own arty vibe that locals love.

marc hough cork of the north

Marc Hough, Cork of the North

Marc is a former DJ at Manchester’s legendary Hacienda club and now tours with New Order. But he’s loved wine from an early age and now runs his own shop and bar in Sale, with a second branch on the way soon.

Nichola Roe, Wine Therapy

In 2011 Nichola and Terence Roe relocated their family to Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, where they opened a boutique wine shop with four Enomatic sampling machines to encourage their potential customers to come on the wine discovery journey with them.

paul auty

Paul Auty, Ake & Humphris

Like many independents, Paul learned his craft during the glory years of Oddbins and now manages this thriving Harrogate independent. He’s part of the buying team for all three shops within the group.

Gregory Pearce, Cloud Wine

Gregory has been the owner of Cloud Wine in Southampton since 2001. He was previously with Hall & Woodhouse for a few years and Oddbins for 15.

matthew hennings for web

Matthew Hennings, Hennings Wine Merchants

Established in 1960, Hennings Wine Merchants is one of the largest regional independent wine merchants in the south. In 1994 third-generation Matthew Hennings joined the company, which has a significant wholesale business, four retail shops and a thriving online presence.


Daniel Illsley, Theatre of Wine

Daniel worked in theatre, film and TV for 10 years, most notably at the ground-breaking Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. In July 2002 he created Theatre of Wine with Jonathan Warren, David Simmonds, and a lot of helpers. The business has shops in Greenwich, Tufnell Park and Leytonstone.

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