Wine Merchant of the Year! September 4 was a strange night. An enormous electric storm AND an earthquake the same night! Sitting, soaking wet and shaken, round a table drinking firewater with these fierce-looking Albanian grape growers in the most primitive winery I have every been in - that's another story, coming later - wondering why, at my age I am still doing this, as the gods obviously hate me, when the Blackberry pinged and in came the following.
"To all at Laithwaites . At last night's Decanter World Wine Awards in London Laithwaites was named INDEPENDENT WINE MERCHANT OF THE YEAR. We have been runners-up a number of times but this is the first major wine industry award for a few years - and it feels great! This is recognition for each and every one of us who works for Laithwaites and all aspects of our services and wines. We are officially the winning team - something we can all share in and should feel very proud of. Our customers really played their part by voting for us in large numbers -"trouncing" our competitors according to the competition organisers. PETER".
Well, that lifted the gloom!!!!
The earth stayed still and the sun came out.
Life was good.
You may already know about this if you registered your vote for Laithwaites in the first Decanter Wine Merchant of the Year competition voted for by actual wine customers.
We are all deliriously happy.... except for my dear wife (and business partner) who has long held the view that winning any 'Something of the Year' is the kiss of death to businesses. Because, she's noticed, they immediately get far to cocky and smug, with predictably dire consequences. But I assure her, and everyone, that 'cocky and smug' we will not do. Surely, after waiting 38 years for an award like this we are unlikely to go too mad! Seems to me that, actually, this award puts the pressure full on rather than induces complacency. So, as I've already told our lot, we actually have no option; we just must raise our game, and find good ways of getting you out to vote next year. They are working on it.
Bribing you with lots of good wine seems to be the best possibility.
Our actual title is 'Independent Wine Merchant of the Year'. I would much prefer it to be 'Fiercely Independent Wine Merchant of the Year', because we always have been willfully stubborn, plowed our own furrow and found our wines in some very odd places. Me being in impoverished and very wet Albania rather than the glitz and glamour at the Awards event at the V and A, shows we have no intention whatever of changing.
My extremely heartfelt thanks go out to Peter and his amazing team of buyers, to all who write, phone, compute, pack and add things up. Above all, thanks to those who buy, drink and give us their enthusiastic custom.
Cheers to All. Calls for a nice drink I think.