Interview with Shay Waterworth (Drinks International)

Drinks International has been dedicated to the global market of spirits, wines, and beers for over 5 decades. What is the secret to maintaining itself as an editorial reference for so many years?


The magazine has undergone lots of changes in management over the years and each editor along the way has left their own mark. However, the consistent thread running throughout has been Independence, integrity and original content.


Among its readers, is the professional buyer in the industry more numerous, or is the final consumer gaining more relevance?


Overall buyers remain a significant part of our readership, particularly when we’re reporting on a specific category or region. However when we’re talking about the on-trade we’re seeing a growing rise in consumer engagement, particularly with bartender awards and lists.


Over the years, how has the wine sector evolved within the beverage business?


In my opinion the wine industry is a slow mover, trends are slower to develop than they are in spirits. But over the past decade there’s been a collaborative move from brands to rid the ‘dusty’ image which the wine sector carries because consumers have been moving more to premium spirits rather than wine. Within the wine segment it seems consumers continue to demand fresh styles over rich, full-bodied reds, for example. This is why we’ve seen the Prosecco boom and why Cava and Crement are also on the rise – people want to to celebrate more and drink better in less formal environments.

Has this positioning also influenced the importance of the wine sector within the magazine?


Yes. Wine remains an important part of Drinks International’s coverage and we’re continuing to talk to wine producers about their strategies and how they’re adapting to the current trends, while simultaneously balancing the pressures of climate change on wine growing.


What is your vision for the future of the wine world, and how do you expect Drinks International to continue leading in the coverage and promotion of the industry?


I believe consumers will begin to demand more complex wines in the long term. Trends tend to run full circle but once fresh wines become more common place, people will desire more complexity and interesting wines, perhaps balancing both is the key or even offering both.


You recently travelled to Spain, where you visited several wineries and wine regions. What conclusions did you come back with?

I’ve recently spent time in Rioja and Ribera del Douro and both regions, despite being neighbours, carry very different audiences and challenges. Both regions are aware of the trend for fresher wines and managing to achieve this with their aged reds, however Rioja has a big opportunity to champion this with their white wines – for me, Rioja Blanco should have a big future given its ability to be refreshing and simultaneously complex.


Your annual lists of the world's most admired brands, including those in the wine industry, are highly anticipated. How does the selection process work, and what criteria do you use?


Over the past 13 years Drinks International has built up a comprehensive voting academy featuring the world’s leading wine experts. It includes hundreds of wine buyers, wholesalers, sommeliers, MWs, bar owners, wine writers and educators among other specialists. They are not a­ffiliated with any brand to ensure that the results are free of any bias. We ask each of these experts to name the five wine brands they most admire, in descending order.

We ask them to consider the following criteria:

• The quality and consistency of the wine

• The price to quality ratio

• The strength of the branding and marketing.

The votes are weighted, so a brand is awarded five points if it secures a first-place vote, four points for second, three points for third, two points for fourth and a single point if a voter ranks it fifth. We then compile the numbers to create our final tally. It’s important that our academy features wine experts from across the globe, and we work hard to ensure that there is a broad geographical and demographic spread.


Our winery, La Rioja Alta, S.A., reached the fourth position in 2022 in its second year appearing on that list of the world's most admired wine brands. How do you assess that outstanding position?


To appear in the list in any position is an exceptional achievement, so to finish fourth is credit to the outstanding reputation which La Rioja Alta, SA has within the global wine trade.

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