Grasshopper Rock Wine-Stars Winner – the inside story

We are still on a high after Grasshopper Rock made the top 10 at the world’s first ever Wine-Stars. Billed as a Dragon’s Den style wine competition and held at the London International Wine Fair on 24th May 2012 this event has opened people’s eyes to how wineries from seemingly out of nowhere can engage with some of the world’s most powerful wine buyers. It may have revolutionised the way new wineries make it to the top.

Plenty has been written about this event so I will summarise it briefly. It is the brain child of London based Catherine Monahan of Clink Wines who partnered with wine writer Robert Joseph to add some excitement and interest to the traditional wine trade fair. Ask wineries from anywhere in the world, looking to enter the UK wine market, to enter a competition where they would be judged not just by their wine and price but also by their packaging, marketing and business plan. Select the top 20 entrants to present their wines for tasting and then select the top 10 to pitch their story to a panel of top UK wine buyers who are seeking new listings.

This inaugural event was created in a very brief six weeks by a small group of people who had the courage to believe in a new idea and work to make it happen. The event was a resounding success and is vindication for all the hard work and challenges which had to be overcome. Six weeks out there was no competition, no judges, no competitors, no wine buyers, no winemakers, no venues and miraculously it all came together on 24th May with the top 20 contestants flying in with their wine from all over the world.

Catherine Monahan summed it up well in an earlier blog. “We all well know that there are very few, if any, simple solutions in the process of making and selling wine. We now live in a new era. In a world where anything is possible, and with WINE-STARS, we are simply creating a platform for wineries that truly want to embrace possibility, to be seen and heard by the people who matter in the UK market”

So true, every winery which made the top 20 and travelled to London was simply prepared to embrace possibility. None of the wineries had any idea how this would turn out. Every winery in the top 20 had courage, a sense of adventure and real passion for what they were doing.

It is hard to capture in words what it is like to be selected in the top 20 wineries from 200 international entries. To then get on a plane and fly 12,000 miles to show our wine to some of the UK’s top wine buyers. To then be selected in the top 10 and pitch a compelling story in just three minutes to the judges about why they should list our wine. With so much depending on the final three minute pitch there were lot of nervous winemakers who managed to appear remarkably composed and in control while they presented their story with great passion and answered some very searching questions from the judges.

For the record Grasshopper Rock has established relationships with wine buyer judges we are excited about. They have said “we believe in you and what you are doing and we want work together”. There are also new doors opening following on from the event.

Watch the video cut from all Wine-Stars footage – it was exciting stuff. When Justin Howard-Sneyd MW speaks glowingly of a delicious wine he speaks of Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir 2010
A big thank you goes to the many courageous people from senior wine buyers to winemakers who made this happen. They believed in the idea. Those who were less courageous sat back and said we wish them well but we will watch and see how it goes.

Apart from the business outcomes, the memories which will really stay with me most are of the people. Catherine, Amelia and Robert, the wine buyer judges and the winemakers were lovely, adventurous and inspirational people.

When Grasshopper Rock was established by our five families in 2001 we agreed we wanted to establish and become a great Pinot Noir vineyard. Making Wine-Stars top 10 and the enthusiastic response from wine buyers, consumers and other winemakers is humbling but also great recognition that we are on the right path.


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