Find out about our Decanter World Wine Awards 2014 Central and Eastern Europe: Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia & Romania judging panel with biographies of the Regional Chair Caroline Gilby MW plus David Bird MW, Dimitar Nikolov, Gábor Cseke, Igor Sotric and Sebastian Payne MW.
Regional chair: Caroline Gilby MW
Gilby is a freelance writer and consultant, specialising in Central and Eastern Europe. She contributes to Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book, The Oxford Companion to Wine, The World Atlas of Wine as well as contributing to various websites and magazines. Prior to this, Gilby spent seven years as a senior wine buyer at Augustus Barnett off-licences, where she became the first major buyer to import Hungarian wines to the UK. She initially studied plant biology, in which she holds a doctorate, but abandoned life behind the microscope for a career in wine soon after winning the Decanter-Macallan Malt Whisky Taster of the Year Award while still a student. Gilby passed her MW in 1992 and has been visiting and tasting the wines of Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Romania for more than 20 years.
David Bird MW
David Bird MW started his working life as an analytical chemist for Colmans of Norwich. A promotion to quality control manager of the new wine department in 1973 sparked a huge interest in wine, leading to Bird passing the MW in 1981, and in the same year winning the Tim Derouet Award and becoming a chartered chemist. He was instrumental in the development of the bag-in-box whilst working for Stowells of Chelsea as quality assurance manager and in 1994, Bird set up his own consultancy to provide a service of quality management to ISO9001 and wine production audits around Europe. The author of Understanding Wine Technology, first published in 2000 and re-published in 2010, Bird is past chairman of the Technical Committee of the WSTA, and is technical advisor to both The Wine Society and the Royal Tokaji Wine Company.
Dimitar Nikolov has ten years’ experience in the wine industry as a wine buyer, sommelier and wine judge, holds qualifications from the ISG Chicago, the WSET advanced certificate, and is currently studying for the WSET diploma. He is a wine buyer by profession and a sommelier by heart. Starting his career as a sommelier for a major hotel chain in Bulgaria, and at a restaurant in Chicago, Nikolov then returned to his native Bulgaria to work for Metro Cash & Carry, firstly as the wine buyer for Bulgaria, and then as wine buyer for Metro Cash & Carry’s entire Russian Federation operations, which saw him move to Russia. After five years with the company, Nikolov was appointed to a top management position at a wine importer specialising in Hungarian wines. Together with his wife, he owns the online wine shop apollowine.com, which stocks a selection of high end Bulgarian and Balkan wines.
Gábor Cseke is a Hungarian sommelier who graduated in 2005 from the College of Commerce, Catering and Tourism in Budapest. Following this, he took further sommelier and WSET courses in London and Budapest. Between 2007 and 2011, Cseke lived in England, working at the two-Michelin-starred Pied á Terre, Hotel Andaz and the Hotel Great Fosters in Surrey. He represented Hungary at the Meilleur Sommelier d’Europe competition in 2008 and 2010, won Best Sommelier of Hungary in 2010, and in 2009 Cseke organised a wine tasting at the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London for the press and trade. He has been a member of the OBB, the National Committee of Wine Experts in Hungary since 2013. Transforming himself to a winemaker, he currently manages his own tiny vineyard in the Zala wine region of Southwest Hungary, and he is also a sommelier of the famous Csalogány 26 Restaurant in Budapest. Specialising in Central European wines, Cseke tastes frequently in Austria, Croatia and Slovenia, and judges regularly in regional wine contests in Hungary.
After graduating with a degree in microbiology, Igor Sotric moved to the UK and entered the wine industry 18 years ago. Qualified to WSET diploma level, he is head sommelier and wine buyer at China Tang at the Dorchester, and has prior experience with Asian restaurants, including Cocoon and the St Martins Lane Hotel. Sotric also acts as consultant to several restaurants, and since 2009 he has been making his own Chardonnay in Goriska Brda, Slovenia, with his friend Marijan Simcic.
Sebastian Payne MW
Sebastian Payne MW joined the wine trade in 1970 at Fred May, a shipper specialising in the wines of France, Germany and Hungary. Three years later he joined The Wine Society as promotions manager, responsible for publications, and in 1977 he passed his MW. Payne was appointed chief buyer in 1985, has travelled to all of the world’s major wine regions, and is a Chevalier dans l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole. In 1995, he served as chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, and in 1996 he was chairman of the Masters of Wine examiners. Having stepped down as chief buyer, Payne remains an integral part of The Wine Society’s buying team and currently sources its Italian, German and Eastern European wines, as well as writing for the Society List and website.
Written by John Abbott