IWSC announces Emerging Talent in Wine winner

Wine news

Tue 13 Apr 2021

By Pip Mortimer

The IWSC Emerging Talent in Wine, in partnership with Waitrose, is an award that looks to recognise an individual whose creativity and innovation have brought them into the public eye. Their drive and passion for what they do highlights them as the superstar of the future. View the nominees

Launching a new venture over the past turbulent year could be viewed as a risky move. Doing so with aplomb, creating sold-out demand and redesigning the home wine tasting scene is the stuff of Hollywood movies. However, this was achieved by this year’s winner of the IWSC Emerging Talent in Wine, Jamie Smith.

Smith has all the credentials to back the success of his business, Urban Craft Wine, which he launched with business partner Alex Taylor at the end of 2019. The venture aimed to marry the enthusiasm seen in craft brewing with an urban wine environment.

Smith brought with him over 15 years of experience in the hospitality world, being a sommelier in places as diverse as fine-dining restaurants on the east coast of the USA and The Berkeley in London, as well as a trained educator and wine judge. Combined with Taylor's wine-making knowledge and engineering experience, he was well placed to roll out a business plan bringing Urban Craft Wines to several towns.

However, the pandemic put a pause on such a scheme and instead, the pair turned their attention to the Online Wine Tasting Club. As Smith says: “We needed to solve the problems of transport, costs and the format of the tasting to keep it good value for money but, more importantly, accessible and interesting.”

Therefore, huge effort and research went into creating online tastings that coupled value with entertainment, interesting wine with a new audience - all the while keeping the fun and informative style they had made a local name for.

Rising impressively to the challenge, Smith and Taylor rolled out their tasting school nationally with fun, informative and educational content that one user described as ‘like Top Gear, but for wine’, praising its jargon-free and unpretentious delivery.

The huge success of the business has been the creation of small, light, postbox-friendly wine packaging, that allows samples to be delivered in an environmentally- and financially-friendly way – encouraging people from all backgrounds to get involved. It also means that the business is hugely scalable and has been able to reach audiences of thousands, something that would not be possible in a traditional tasting environment.

It was this massive and varied skill set that made Smith the most outstanding candidate for this award. “Innovation, skill and persistence,” was the comment from the judging panel. “Jamie has done really impressive things this year: practically, logistically, commercially and with a focus on his customer.”

Therefore, the judging panel was unanimous in awarding the Emerging Talent in Wine award to Jamie Smith of Urban Craft Wines and The Online Tasting Club.

The following results have also been announced: