Meet the GBPA nominees: Best Wine Bar/Pub

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at the Hilton on Park lane on 7 September
Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at the Hilton on Park lane on 7 September
Our penultimate set of previews for the finalists in this year’s John Smith’s Great British Pub Awards are the nominees in the Best Wine Bar/Pub category.

This category seeks to recognise bars/pubs with an excellent and profitable wine offer, that has been a key part of the pub's success in the past year.

Guinea Grill, Mayfair, West London

Taking a step back in time, this managed Youngs operation is gloriously old school, with white jacketed waiters serving first rate food and drinks to discerning Londoners. However, there’s nothing old fashioned about this business when it comes to it’s wine offer, with an extensive range that the pub believes makes it unique across London.

The level of energy it puts into its wine offer is reflected in the fact that it recently promoted the pub’s sommelier to the position of wine director, to lead a new wine team to expand the operation’s wine list and ensure it has the best offer in the market.

The wine director’s focus is to ensure he is sourcing the best quality wines at the best prices, while making sure the team have weekly training session to remain informed and to offer the best advice to customers.

The Inn West End, Woking, Surrey

This business makes no bones about it. “Wine and Champagne are what we do best”, says operator Gerry Price. New customers are encouraged to get on board with monthly and seasonal wine tasting lunches and dinners, ranging from relaxed wine and burger tastings through to three-course dinners. The pub even has its own label house wine, Labradouro!

Training plays a big part in its success. Staff start with an impressive induction scheme, while more senior team members take WSET training.

Not content with simply delivering the wine over the bar, future plans see the business gearing up to take customers to the wine, with trips to Rioja, Douro Valley and Champagne, that will see 12 customers given the opportunity to learn more about the wines the pub serves.

The Red Lion & sun, Highgate

Defending his win from last year’s Great British Pub Awards, operator Heath Ball is hoping his north London pub can make it twice on the bounce at this year’s ceremony. Wine is certainly something that Heath takes seriously, even to the extent of investing into an Enomatic machine to ensure he can serve fine wines by the glass.

His ethos is to try to make wine fun and accessible to his clientele and he regularly holds informal winemakers dinners with an emphasis on enjoyment where producers host the event.

Staff training is well structured and each member of staff has to sit an internal wine test, with the results of the exam having a bearing on their share of the service charge, which helps motivate the team members to pass. The exam covers everything from basic wine knowledge through to the perfect serve.

The Ship Inn, Wadebridge, Cornwall

This Cornish pub has built a strong trade around its wine offer, which has seen it create its own monthly Wine Club, hosted by a local wine merchant, who shares her favourite discoveries and insights with customers.

The pub has also created a Wine of the Month offer that allows it to showcase new and interesting wines to customers and this year it took part in Real Wine Month – an initiative to embrace organic, biodynamic and natural wines.

The business has invested in equipment to ensure wine quality is maintained, and uses a Vacu-Vin pump to protect opened wines.

Stockholding is kept deliberately low as both of the pub’s wine suppliers are within a five minute drive of the business, ensuring it is able to have deliveries six days a week.

Three Crowns, Chagford, Devon

A recent arrival to the Three Crowns, Steve Bellman has gone on to give the pub’s wine offer a major overhaul. It now includes a number of local Devon produced wines, in still and sparkling variants, a range of “green” wines, featuring organic and vegetarian offerings as well as an allergen menu to help guide customers.

With an impressive range of 20 wines by the glass, another feature that Steve brought with him into the business is the opportunity for customers to try out flights of wine, allowing them to taste and sample a greater range of products – a move that’s gone down well with customers.

The introduction of a loyalty scheme has also proved a hit, with customers who buy nine glasses of wine getting their 10th free – an offer available on all the pub’s wine products including Champagne.

The White Horse, Chilgrove, West Sussex

This West-Sussex-based operation, situated in the picturesque South Downs, has invested in Enomatic and Coravin systems to ensure it can provide an impressive range of wines, still and sparkling, by the glass.

Training is also strong in this business, with four members of the team having sat their WSET exams this year, and more to come. Knowledge and passion in the team are clear to see, fostered by trips to local vineyards alongside regular tasting sessions provided by the pub’s wide range of suppliers.

Plans are in place to engage further with customers by hosting French regional wine tastings and also to work with vineyards in the south of

England to provide tours and tastings for more of the pub’s guests as well as help promote domestic wine production and the pub’s commitment to a “field to glass” philosophy.

Tickets for the Great British Pub Awards can be bought by phoning 01293 846508. For more information about the event visit its dedicated website.

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