Find out about our Decanter World Wine Awards 2014 Languedoc-Roussillon judging panel with biographies of the Regional Chair Rosemary George MW plus Arabella Woodrow MW, Aristide Spies MS, Ben Henshaw, Dimitri Mesnard MS, Elizabeth Gabay MW, Fiona Beckett, Isabelle Bachelard, Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, Matt Walls, Nicolas Clerc MS, Simon Taylor, Tom Forrest and Vincent Gasnier MS.

Regional chair: Rosemary George MW

George was one of the first female Masters of Wine, which she achieved in 1979. She has worked as a freelance wine journalist since 1981, and is a vice-president of the Circle of Wine Writers. She has written 11 wine books, including The Wines of the South of France. She has a home in the Languedoc, and writes a blog on the region at


Arabella Woodrow MW

Arabella Woodrow MW joined the wine trade in 1979 after leaving university with a BA and a D Phil in biochemistry. She worked first in the fine wine division of Harveys of Bristol, which gave her an excellent grounding in all the classic wine regions, and after taking the WSET higher certificate and diploma examinations in the early 1980s, Woodrow was awarded the Vintners’ Scholarship in 1983 and passed the MW exam in 1986. Since then, Woodrow has worked in many different sectors of the trade and has been based in various locations from the south of England to Scotland, and currently resides in West Yorkshire, where she works from home, consulting for Broadland Wineries as their wine director. Outside of work, Woodrow has been a keen sportswoman for a number of years and has run over 40 marathons and numerous triathlons, but her main athletic challenge currently lies in orienteering events.

Aristide Spies MS

Aristide Spies MS discovered his passion for the wine trade during a family holiday in the Périgord and immediately enrolled in a series of wine tasting and cookery courses on returning home to Belgium. Following secondary studies, he spent year as an exchange student in Australia, before beginning his wine career at the one Michelin star restaurant Les Forges du Pont d’Oye, as assistant to Pascal Carré, named Best Sommelier of Belgium 1992, 1996 and 1997. In 2007, Spies won this same title for himself, also winning the Club Gastronomique Prosper Montagné’s Premier Sommelier de Belgique. Spies then went on to represent Belgium at the Best Sommelier of Europe competition in Sofia in 2008 where he reached the semi-finals, and at the World’s Best Sommelier 2013 competition in Tokyo, where he was a finalist. Spies has written and broadcast about wine, and is a member of both the International Federation of Wine and Spirits Journalists and Writers (FIJEV) and the Jurade de Saint-Emilion. He currently runs La Cave des Sommeliers, a chain of wine shops in Belgium and Luxembourg, with his former mentor Pascal Carré.

Ben Henshaw

Ben Henshaw joined the wine trade in 2002 to work on the sales and marketing of Domaine Saint Hilaire, his family’s newly-acquired Languedoc vineyard. He set up Indigo Wine the following year, focusing initially on importing artisanal wines from southern France, and in the years since he has built up a diverse portfolio of Spanish wines.

Dimitri Mesnard MS

Dimitri Mesnard MS is the international brand ambassador for Jackson Family Wines which he joined in 2008. Mesnard got his start in the wine trade in his native France, completing his sommelier training in the Loire Valley. He moved to the UK in 1996 to join the two Michelin-star Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons as sommelier. In 1998 Mesnard moved to the Hotel du Vin Group as head sommelier in Tunbridge Wells, becoming the Group’s food & beverage manager in 2005, and working under the mentorship of Henri Chapon MS and Gererd Basset MS MW. During his time at Hotel du Vin, Mesnard pioneered the Ecole du Vin wine school. Mesnard achieved his MS qualification in 2003 and has been Chairman for the European Court of Master Sommeliers since 2009. Mesnard is a regular judge at the DWWA and other international competitions. He is keen to share his knowledge and often assists friends and colleagues advance in the world of sommelierie.

Elizabeth Gabay MW

Elizabeth Gabay MW has specialised in the wines of south-eastern France since the mid 1980’s, working as an independent wine merchant and consultant. She graduated as a Master of Wine in 1998 and moved to south east France in 2002. Since then she has written on Provence, Hungary and northern Italy for a number of magazines. She has contributed on Provence and Hungary for, has updated the Provence section for the annual guide ‘Oz Clarke’s Pocket Guide’ since 2010 and the Provence section for the 2013 edition of Jancis Robinson’s ‘World Atlas of Wine’ and for the International Wine and Food Society. Gabay is an active educator, working on the MW education programme, gives masterclasses, runs a local wine tasting group and organises themed wine events in France, and is the lead instructor for the Provence immersion course run by the French Wine Society. Gabay also lectures on the history of wine for various conferences and museums. She is working on a book on the history of the drink punch, about which she has contributed to encyclopaedias, television programmes and talked about at various academic conferences.

Fiona Beckett

Fiona Beckett writes Decanter’s regular features on food and wine matching and is the one we send to the front line when challenging food and wine pairings are required. Beckett is also an award-winning journalist who has written regularly for many of the UK’s leading newspapers including The Times, The Guardian and the Daily Mail. In 2002 she was nominated Food Journalist of the year by the UK Guild of Food Writers. She has written 15 books about food and wine including How to Match Food and Wine, Cooking with Wine and Wine by Style. Her latest project is her recently launched website which also includes pairings with beer, cocktails and other drinks.

Isabelle Bachelard

Isabelle Bachelard is a Paris-based, freelance wine journalist and author who writes and tastes for the Revue de Vin de France, VSB Wins Spiritueux et Boissons, and Terre de Vins. She trained with Steven Spurrier at his acclaimed Paris wine school, L’Académie du Vin, and now conducts wine classes and tastings for the general public. Bachelard’s writing style accommodates her wide ranging audience, which includes trade professionals, wine lovers and those who simply like to dabble in wine. She has served on the juries of prestigious national and international wine competitions. Born into a family of restaurateurs, Bachelard has also guided chefs, restaurateurs and food lovers on dawn tours through the colourful aisles of Paris’ wholesale market, Rungis, for over twenty years. When she is not writing about or tasting wines in Paris, Bachelard can be found exploring the vineyards of the world, particularly those of the Loire Valley, her second home.

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW

Justin Howard-Sneyd MW’s career in the wine trade started when he worked in a shop, ran wine education courses, and worked six vintages in South Africa, Hungary, Romania and France. He then settled down in England to become a buyer for Safeway, and passed the MW in 1999, winning the Tim Derrouet Award as the outstanding student from his year. A year later, Howard-Sneyd joined Sainsbury’s, where he was a buyer until 2005, when he moved to Waitrose to head up their wine team for five years. Howard-Sneyd is now global wine consultant to Direct Wines and founder of The Hive Wine Consulting Limited. In addition to the day job, he and his family make 4,000 bottles a year of Domaine of the Bee, a blend of Grenache and Carignan from Roussillon.

Matt Walls

Matt Walls is a freelance wine writer and consultant. He contributes regular articles to Decanter,, Harpers Wine & Spirit and Imbibe. He won Best Newcomer at the 2013 Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards for Drink Me, his first book on wine. He publishes a popular wine blog,, for which he was shortlisted for International Wine & Spirit Competition Blogger of the Year in both 2012 and 2013. When not writing, Walls advises restaurants on wine lists, hosts tastings, judges wine competitions and edits The London Wine Guide iPhone app. Previously he was Fine Wines Manager at Mentzendorff and he set up, managed and bought wines for the flagship store of The Sampler.

Nicolas Clerc MS

Nicolas Clerc MS has been working with D&D London since 2009, and was the restaurant group’s beverage manager until February 2014. From 2009 to 2012 he looked after Le Pont de la Tour’s restaurant and wine shop, as well as the wine lists at neighbouring restaurants The Blueprint Café, Cantina del Ponte and Butlers Wharf Chop House. In 2012, he added Fish Market, Old Bengal Bar, New Street Grill and New Street Wine Shop to his portfolio of restaurants. Clerc started his career in 2000 at Michelin-starred restaurants in his native France (namely La Table Saint Crescent in Narbonne and La Barbacane in Carcassone). In the UK he has worked at Waldo’s in Cliveden House Hotel in Berkshire, Summer Lodge Hotel in Dorset, and the Milestone Hotel and Apartments in Kensington, among others, and in 2008, he spent a year at Vue de Monde in Melbourne. Clerc was named UK Sommelier of the Year 2007, won Best Sommelier and Best Wine List at the Tatler Awards in 2010, and qualified as a Master Sommelier in 2010. In 2011, he was awarded Champagne List of the Year at the Louis Roederer Wine List of the Year Awards.

Simon Taylor

Simon Taylor studied history of art and spent 23 years at Sotheby’s as a picture expert and their European deputy managing director before switching careers. He gave up the big salary to found Stone, Vine & Sun, a mail order wine merchant specialising in Languedoc-Roussillon, the Rhône, South Africa and South America. Taylor makes as many overseas trips as he can afford in order to prospect for new wines.

Tom Forrest

Edinburgh-born Tom Forrest first fell in love with wine, and especially Pinot Noir, at the age of 18 when he was given a bottle of Nuits-St-Georges by a hotel manager. Following a career in hotel management, he began teaching wine & spirits to hospitality students in 1982, and is currently the executive manager for wine experience and education at Vinopolis, where he has been working since 1999. A member of the Institute of Wines and Spirits and an accredited WSET wine educator, Forrest oversees the WSET education programme and the calendar of master classes at Vinopolis, which includes the ‘Meet the Experts’ series where Oz Clarke regularly features. He has judged at various international wine competitions since 1997, is the author of The Complete Wine Course, and in 2007 he won the UK Champagne Ambassador competition and was a European finalist. Forrest has appeared on TV shows including This Morning, the Daily Politics Show and Come Date With Me, as well as on various local radio stations in London and the South East.

Vincent Gasnier MS

Vincent Gasnier MS was born in 1974 in the Loire wine country, and trained in some of the best restaurants in Paris before moving to the UK. In 1996, Gasnier joined the staff of the newly-opened Hotel du Vin in Winchester, being named UK Sommelier of the Year in 1997. Since 2000 Gasnier has been managing director of his own wine consultancy company,, through which he is a wine buyer and sommelier for many hotels and restaurants, and also manages cellars for private clients, hosts events and appears on TV shows. Gasnier is the author of Drinks (Dorling Kindersley 2005) and How to Choose Wine (Dorling Kindersley 2006).

Written by John Abbott