Nominations close this week for The Julian Brind Memorial Trophy, which celebrates outstanding achievement in the wine industry.
The prestigious award, sponsored by Waitrose, is designed to find the next big star in the wine industry. The title will be awarded to the individual who demonstrates they have courage of their convictions, dedication to the industry, and a real passion for wine.
The recipient will have established an early track record in their field, be seen to be ‘going places’, and will already be taking part in the wider aspects of the wine trade, showing commitment and determination in everything they do.
The late Julian Brind MW was a leading light in the wine trade and an integral part of the Waitrose wine team for over 40 years. The award was created by Waitrose in association with the IWSC, where he was a longstanding judge, to honour his contribution and service to the trade that he loved.
Meet last year’s winner, Nik Darlington
Few people have an orthodox route into the wine trade, and Nik Darlington is certainly no exception.
From starting as a management consultant with Simon-Kucher & Partners where he specialised in strategy and marketing for universities and newspapers, to chasing down scoops in the House of Commons as a journalist for BBC Scotland, Darlington’s road is typical in its atypicity.
As well as a keen love of rugby and cricket, Darlington has written for The Spectator, The Huffington Post, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and Total Politics on a wide range of topics, including literature, politics, universities, the environment and sport. But the one topic that has always exerted a powerful pull is a fascination for wine, one that began in Darlington’s case during his time living in France as a teenager.
Later, in 2012, Darlington turned his love of wine and his ambition to run a business into a reality when he founded Red Squirrel Wines, initially as an online retailer. Now it is increasingly a wholesaler too.
His non-wine background has enabled him to approach the business, said one judge, with “fresh eyes, fresh thinking and extraordinary dynamism,” while his journalist’s eye for a story has proven invaluable. Dedicated to sourcing wines made from native, unusual, forgotten and endangered varieties (“red squirrels not grey squirrels”*) Darlington has built up an esoteric and eclectic range of wines covering every style.
Today, Red Squirrel is one of the fastest-growing specialist wine importers in the UK and supplies some of the country’s best restaurants. Judges were full of praise for Darlington and Red Squirrel, calling his approach “fresh and innovative” and praising the “originality” of the marketing and the “verve” with which he had established the business in just a few years.
One judge remarked: “Nick has achieved a great deal in a short space of time, having had no exposure to the wine trade previously. His championing of the esoteric and his craft as a storyteller make him a worthy winner of the Julian Brind award.”
*A reference to the native red squirrel population in the UK, which is under threat because of loss of habitat and the invasive grey squirrel.
Nominate for the Julian Brind Memorial Trophy now. Nominations close 2 March 2018.