In case you have been living under a rock, I have been very lucky enough to have visited London just recently. The trip of a lifetime I didn’t know I needed began in mid-May when the IWSC (International Wine & Spirit Competition) contacted me wanting to meet over “possible opportunities”. What I originally thought would be another ‘pick your brains meeting’ very quickly turned into something completely different when they invited me to London in July to judge in their No & Lo Awards. It felt incredible to be recognised as a voice in this international community less than two years into running Dry but Wet. And as difficult as this would be financially and for my family, this was an opportunity just too good to pass up. I was going to London, the beating heart of this alcohol-free movement and things became clear very quickly that it was all meant to be.
By the time I had booked my flights and accommodation, I had secured sponsorship from some incredible brands. A massive thanks to Sans Drinks, 1920 Wines, Big Drop Brewing Co, Naked Life Spirits, ALTD Spirits and Yes You Can, without who’s support I would have been selling a kidney to cover the cost of such a mammoth and last-minute trip across the world. We have such an incredible community, and the generosity of these makers is really a reflection of that spirit.
So here we have a blog in two parts. The first covers the awards and the results themselves. The second, my reflections post-trip. If you’d like to catch my trip coverage, there is plenty to enjoy on my Instagram.
This is the third year the IWSC have run their No & Lo Awards. In 2022 entries for the 1.2% and lower category were up over 225% versus the previous year demonstrating the continuing surge in popularity and relevance for these drinks. For your pleasure I have compiled the medal winners from Australia and New Zealand.
GOLD Medal Winners
0% Merlot NV, Giesen, New Zealand
7 Stewed Cherry & Coffee, NON, Australia
Ara Zero Sauvignon Blanc NV, Giesen, New Zealand
Sparkling Shiraz NV, Edenvale Beverages, Australia
Naked Life Spirits, ALTD Spirits, Finery Cocktails, Hardy’s, Lyre’s, Ovant, Jacob’s Creek Unvined, Altina Drinks, Giesen, The Everleigh Bottling Co, Wolf Blass & Banks Botanicals.
Naked Life Spirits, ALTD Spirits, Yes You Can Drinks, &Then Wines, Altina Drinks, Clovendoe Distilling Co, Giesen, Lyre’s, NON, East Forged, Edenvale, Monday Distillery, Pals, Brown Brothers, Hardy’s, Jacob’s Creek Unvined & Wolf Blass.
You can read the full results here.
But Amy, how did it work? Well judging took place over two days. On each day there were two floors of a function centre full of judges, broken into panels of three. As a group we would get about 8 or so ‘flights’ over the course of the day, each flight consisting over up to 12 drinks of a particular category. As an example on one day we had, sparkling, medium red, wine alternatives, beer & meade, cider, distilled spirits, gin replacement and non-defined. So quite a mix over the course of the day. We individually blind tasted the drinks, scored them and wrote tasting notes. As a group we came together to discuss the drinks, nut out any major discrepancies in scoring and award the medals. We never found out what we were tasting on the day… quite a head f**k for a nosey parker like me. I found myself on panels with industry experts and “real” wine people and I am VERY pleased to say I held my own. I was able to communicate how I felt about certain drinks and plead a good case for some that I felt were undervalued. Such a great experience, I made some invaluable contacts, and I am already looking forward to working more with the IWSC… stay tuned!
The UK Non-Alc Scene
Prior to jumping on the plane, I was telling literally anyone who would listen that “the UK is so far ahead of us”, “London is the heartland of NA” and “we are at LEAST 18 months behind!!”. And given the intense week of alcohol-free related activity I have just had I could be mistaken for thinking this. First thing I did jumping off the plane was attend Imbibe Live, a two day beverage industry trade show that had a FORMIDABLE alcohol free drinks presence. Then two days of No & Lo tasting for the IWSC, a bougee Lyre’s influencer event, before jumping on a train to attend Club Soda’s Mindful Drinking Festival. It felt like I’d landed in the perfect vortex of alcohol-free activity. And of course, I had. Not every week in London is quite so jam packed with so much AF Event goodness. Just as it’s not a balmy 27 degrees every day.
But where I had been expecting to be walking into every pub and restaurant and have a broad range of non-alc options, I instead found a situation similar to, if not worse than the hospo scene is here in Australia. There is one beer, Lucky Saint, that has excellent distribution (quite possibly the best I’ve seen) and it is available everywhere, but past that your options get a little thin. YES you can get Big Drop on tap in some venues which is most excellent and of course tastes better but that’s not giving me what I want. Wine options. I was very lucky to go on a venue tour with Shyamal from Noughty where he took me to some places selling Noughty but that was my first on-premise alcohol-free wine experience. I feel like there are some venues especially in Melbourne, really pushing the envelope and offering excellent options for the non-drinkers.
I think we are doing really well here in Aus & NZ in terms of alcohol-free wine offerings. Especially in the last six months or so it feels like the bar has really been lifted and there’s a new (and quality) AF wine being released almost weekly. Walking round both the trade fair and Mindful Drinking festival in the UK, I couldn’t help but feel like the wine element is coming seriously far behind beer, spirits, RTD’s and alternatives there. There is a big market there just waiting for our Aussie exports!
What we are really noticeably behind in, is the unifying presence that brings everyone (brands, retailers, advocates and consumers) in the alcohol-free community together. What I watched Laura from Club Soda do over the course of the week was a seriously impressive display of community building and advocacy. The work she has done has seriously lit a fire under me and I am choc full of exciting ideas about how I can bring that energy to all of us here in the Australia/New Zealand community. The only way is up from here on in folks, I hope you are coming along for the ride!
How you can support me to grow to support you:
- Attend my Dry but Wet tasting events.
- Shop via the links in my Reviews (that way I earn a little commission)
- Subscribe to my mailing list
- Join my ‘Alcohol Free Drinks Club’ on Facebook
- Listen and subscribe to my Podcast ‘Knock-off Drinks With A Difference’
- Get social with me on social media. I put a lot of love into my Instagram account, I love when you are there and chatting back!
- Buy Dry but Wet Merch