Vidya Narasimhan joins the Decanter Retailer Awards 2022 judging panel alongside new judge Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW and returning industry experts Peter Richards MW (Chairman), Andy Howard MW and Laura Clay.
An independent wine consultant, Vidya has recently transitioned to the wine industry after years in management consulting and banking across three continents. She now advises restaurants and private equity firms on investments in food and wine, is a wine writer and a Be Inclusive Hospitality Ambassador, among other wine related activities.
With entries now open for the 2022 Decanter Retailer Awards, we get to know more about the awards’ newest judge, including her thoughts on what makes a wine retailer stand out, tips for wine buying in the UK and what she looks forward to most about judging…
Q&A with Vidya Narasimhan, Decanter Retailer Awards 2022 judge
Tell us about yourself briefly. How did you get into the wine industry?
I grew up in India without much access to wine. I got into the wine world via food and travel as I sought to ‘eat and drink local’ on my global travels, first as an international student in Germany, then in the US during my management consulting and banking career.
Once I moved to the UK I wanted to educate myself about wine, and am very much enjoying learning about it. About three years ago I quit my banking job to pursue my passion of food and wine and now am very pleased to be able to combine my corporate background with my passion.
As a new judge on the 2022 panel, what’s your impression of the Decanter Retailer Awards?
Decanter Retailer Awards is the Oscars / Grammys of the wine retail world – very prestigious and a recognition of superlative quality!
What do you think is unique about the UK wine retail industry?
One of the things that struck me as unique about the UK wine retail industry when I relocated from the US almost a decade ago is the wide range of affordable and really good quality wine from all over the world. This is indeed something very special even today, and while prices may rise (increasing fuel prices, supply chain constraints etc.) I am hoping that the range and value on offer stay the same or improve further as UK wine consumers are extremely discerning, not just price conscious.
What do you think makes a wine retailer stand out?
A couple of things help differentiate a wine retailer including the range of wines offered – not just on the price dimension, but hidden gems that are comparable in quality and price to widely recognised labels, regions, and/or grape varieties.
Engagement with consumers in-store and digitally also makes a wine retailer stand out, as many purchase wine online since the pandemic. Offering adequate information on a wine so consumers feel confident and encouraged enough to try something new, while not overwhelming them with detail, is key.
What tips do you have for someone buying wine in the UK?
I have a few as there is considerable innovation happening across the board which will continue to pave the way forward…
- Try a new grape or a new region every now and then
- Attend a tasting at your corner wine shop or at your nearest independent retailer to know more about the wines you are trying – you will soon start making better choices with more information
- Try wines in alternative formats to reduce your carbon footprint: bag-in-box, cans, paper bottles, lighter bottles etc.
- Try no- and low-alcohol wines if you are conscious about the impact of wine consumption on your health
What do you look forward to most as a new judge on the 2022 panel?
I am very excited to see how retailers are using technology and innovative techniques to engage with and educate the consumer now that the world has gone back to almost pre-pandemic levels of activity. I am also curious to see which retailers are taking the lead in this besides the range of wines on offer!