WSET announces nominees for educator of the year

WSET Awards and Graduation 2017 Credit Ede & Ravenscroft

The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) has announced the nominees for its award for its top educator of the year.

Leading wine and spirits suppliers Berry Bros & Rudd and Conviviality, owner of Matthew Clark and Bibendum, are among the UK line-up along with Erica Dent of Enjoy Discovering Wine and Laura Kent of Yorkshire Wine School.

They have been nominated alongside Bordeaux Wine Campus in France, Adam Chase of Grape Experience in the USA, Enocultura in Brazil and TS Wine Academy in China.

The nominees for the Educator of the Year Award, sponsored by Riedel, are selected from WSET’s approved programme providers (APPs) and individual WSET-certified educators across the world.

WSET chief executive Ian Harris said: “The dedication and passion of our APPs and educators has led WSET to see phenomenal growth over the past year, with 19% more candidates expanding their wine and spirits knowledge through one of our qualifications. The nominees for this award have been identified as exemplary in our growing pool of Certified Educators and we look forward to celebrating the winner.”

The WSET has also announced the nominees for its Outstanding Alumni Award, sponsored by, which was introduced last year to celebrate and nurture a WSET Diploma graduate who is notably contributing to the industry.

They are Sarah Jane Evans in the UK, Jeannie Cho Lee in Hong Kong, Michael Hill Smith in Australia, and James Tidwell in the USA.

Ian said: “WSET Diploma graduates are achieving amazing things across all areas of the industry in all corners of the world. We’re proud to have nurtured so many successful individuals, and this award is a dedicated celebration of one graduate who is making outstanding contributions to the industry, chosen by our global alumni network including Jancis Robinson.”

The winners of both awards will be announced and presented at the WSET graduation ceremony at the Guildhall in the City of London on January 22, 2018. Hosted for the first time by new WSET honorary president Steven Spurrier alongside Ian Harris, the event is set to attract over 500 guests including industry leaders and influencers.

It will honour 441 WSET Diploma graduates from around the world, marking their success as being among over 9,000 people globally to have ever held the accolade. Outstanding candidates for the 2016/17 academic year will be presented with awards in recognition of their achievements.

WSET Educator of the Year 2017 nominees

Berry Bros & Rudd (UK): A dynamic APP, run by Rebecca Lamont in the UK, Berry Bros & Rudd has seen strong growth in student numbers for WSET wine qualifications for a number of years, as well as the newly introduced Levels 1 and 2 Awards in Spirits. Its extensive fine wine portfolio and increasing spirits range offers WSET students the chance to taste some incredible product.

Bordeaux Wine Campus (France): To create a thriving business running WSET courses in a market that is one of the cradles of world wine culture, with a multitude of education options, is testament to the work that Bordeaux Wine Campus has achieved. Since owner Fanny Darrieussecq started offering WSET courses in 2009 student numbers have grown progressively, more than doubling over the last two years.

Adam Chase DipWSET, director of Grape Experience (USA): Previous winner of WSET Educator of the Year 2012, this year Adam is nominated as an individual to highlight the work he has done to ensure that the APP offers consistently high standards of WSET education on both coasts of the USA (in Boston and San Francisco).

Conviviality (UK): With the addition of Bibendum-PLB in 2016, Conviviality created a significant national on-trade supply capability while bringing together two of WSET’s key route-to-market APPs, Matthew Clark and Bibendum. Training almost 1,000 candidates from a diverse range of hospitality businesses with WSET wine qualifications, and now spirits qualifications at Matthew Clark, their focus on fomenting engaged relationships with key customers includes an integrated approach to training with WSET.

Erica Dent DipWSET, owner of Enjoy Discovering Wine (UK): Previous Educator of the Year 2013 winner, Erica has had another amazing year delivering wine qualifications, and newly introduced spirits qualifications, to both consumers and trade across southern England whilst travelling Europe to help other providers improve their teaching. She has seen great success hosting students from catering faculties at southern colleges through WSET qualifications to help them gain their first job in the hospitality industry.

Enocultura (Brazil): Thiago Mendes and Paulo Brammer set up Enocultura in Säo Paulo in 2013 and now run courses across the country. Impressive growth has been matched with excellent exam results and their introduction of scholarships has enabled more members of the trade to access WSET courses.

Laura Kent DipWSET, owner of Yorkshire Wine School (UK): With a new venue in north Leeds and having recently added Level 2 Award in Spirits to her offering, Laura is building on her success to widen the reach of her courses. She runs consumer courses and trains local trade businesses won through her ever-growing network, and even finds time to run Level 3 Award in Wines courses in Spain for a local APP.

TS Wine Academy (China): TS Wine Academy, part of the wine media and education platform TasteSpirit, started offering WSET courses in 2013. Driven by co-founder and director Young Shi, student numbers more than doubled last year and results have been excellent. Young Shi has pioneered WSET sake qualifications in China and was the first mainland China-based Level 3 sake educator.

WSET Outstanding Alumni Award 2017 nominees

Sarah Jane Evans DipWSET, MW (UK): Evans is an award-winning writer and co-chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards. Beginning her career in book publishing, she spent a decade as associate editor of BBC Good Food magazine. During that time she was president of the Guild of Food Writers and completed the WSET Diploma, winning the Freixenet Scholarship. She became an MW in 2006 and won the Robert Mondavi Winery Award for the best results in the theory papers. She was chairman of the IMW (2014-16). Spain and Sherry remain special interests: she is a member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino, has received a number of awards in Spain, and is finishing a book on the wines of Rioja and northern Spain.

Jeannie Cho Lee DipWSET, MW (Hong Kong): Lee is an award-winning author, TV host, wine judge and educator. She is a professor at Hong Kong PolyU where she helped launch the MSc International Wine Management programme and is a visiting professor at the Chinese and International Culinary Institutes. Lee co-hosts a weekly wine programme In Vino Veritas on Hong Kong’s leading English-language TV broadcaster and is the former CEO of lifestyle publication, Le Pan. She is wine columnist for Robb Report China, Forbes and Kris Flyer and also consults for Singapore Airlines. Lee also authored two pioneering books exploring Asian wine descriptors and food pairings. Achieving her MW in 2008, she holds a Cordon Bleu Certificat de Cuisine, is a trained Sake Sommelier and both a WSET and SWE Certified Educator.

Michael Hill Smith DipWSET, MW (Australia): Hill Smith is an international wine judge, producer, consultant and writer. In 1988, he became the first Australian MW and won the Madame Bollinger Tasting Medal. In 2008, he was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to the Australian Wine Industry. He is co-managing director of Adelaide Hills pioneers Shaw + Smith and Tolpuddle Vineyard in Tasmania and is a wine consultant for Singapore Airlines, alongside Oz Clark and Jeannie Cho Lee. He has featured in Decanter’s International Power List three times, is vice chair of Decanter Asia Wine Awards and co-chair of Decanter World Wine Awards.

James Tidwell DipWSET, MS (USA): Tidwell is co-founder of TEXSOM, North America’s premiere professional beverage education event and co-owner and producer of TEXSOM International Wine Awards, one of the USA’s most recognised wine competitions. In addition to his WSET Diploma, Tidwell also passed the Certified Wine Educator exam on first attempt, earning the highest score out of hundreds of candidates, and was later elected to the Society of Wine Educators Board of Directors. In 2009, he also passed the Master Sommelier examination. Alongside his work with TEXSOM, Tidwell is Master Sommelier at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Picture: WSET Awards and Graduation 2017. Credit Ede & Ravenscroft

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