Plaudits pour in for Crossgar wine seller
Northern Ireland wine retailer JN Wine has won the regional merchant of the year title at a ceremony in London. And 2016's victory marks the 24th year in a row in which the Crossgar-based retailer, led by James Nicholson, has triumphed in the International Wine Challenge Awards.
Judges complimented JN Wine for a "stunning list complemented by some very good events."
And James Nicholson's business was also praised for maintaining both an impressive shop environment and a strong online presence.
The panel said: "They are not standing still but moving with the times, including reinventing their members club."
Mr Nicholson said he was delighted with his win after more than 40 years supplying restaurants and retail customers across Ireland and Great Britain.
"Bringing this award back to Crossgar is a fantastic achievement, and a testament to the dedication and the persistent hard work of all the team at JN Wine in their mission to deliver an unrivalled service," he said.
"To achieve this accolade for the 24th time is a huge honour for the company, and we're delighted that our passion for the industry continues to be recognised at an international level.
"The commitment of the JN Wine team is evidenced in the top class customer service afforded to our many clients, and we will continue to source and supply the finest quality wines for our discerning customers."
And in celebration, the business is reintroducing its JN Sparkling - which is made exclusively for JN by Saumur producer Bouvet-Ladubay.
Mr Nicholson started out selling wine from his Ford Cortina in the 1970s after borrowing £12,000 from Ulster Bank. As the business took off, he added springs so that his boot could carry 60 units of wine.
He told the Belfast Telegraph in an interview last year: "I was 23 when I started the business. I didn't really think too much - it was only the blind faith and when you are doing something you enjoy, it's a lot easier."
And Mr Nicholson has also said he'll continue to sell into the middle and upper end of the business.
"It's very hard to survive by not reaching into the middle tier of any market - if you see a market as a pyramid, you have very few people at the top but you have to attract the tier of people in the middle of any market," he added.
"Everyone is fighting over the bottom - the Aldis and the Tescos, everyone is chasing over that. I'm not interested in that because I can't buy anything intelligent at 50p per bottle."
JN Wine is also a long-term sponsor of the Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Last year it also supplied a special Champagne to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down.