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DWWA 2014: Champagne judging panel

Find out about our Decanter World Wine Awards 2014 Champagne judging panel with biographies of the Regional Chair Richard Juhlin plus Antony Moss MW, Beverley Blanning MW, Christy Canterbury MW, David Vareille, Dawn Davies, Dee Blackstock MW, Gearoid Devaney MS, Igor Sotric, Jan Konetzki, Jane Parkinson, Jean Reilly MW, Laura Rhys MS, Margaret Rand, Meiyu Li, Michael Edwards, Roberto Della Pietra, Rytis Jurkenas, Simon Field MW and Xavier Rousset MS.

Regional chair: Richard Juhlin

Juhlin is the author of seven books on Champagne and contributes to a number of wine magazines. He also runs Champagneclub.com, through which he arranges tours to Champagne, and manages the members-only Richard Juhlin Champagne Bars in Stockholm and Copenhagen. He is currently working on the television series Drinks & Restaurants in Europe, to be aired in the US and China. Other TV appearances include the Norwegian series Nesevis. The recipient of numerous awards, Juhlin was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole in 2002 and in 2014 was presented with the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur for his contribution to Champagne. Juhlin also carries out cellar consultations, holds wine tastings and lectures across the globe. He holds the world record for the number of Champagnes tasted – more than 8,500 to date.


Antony Moss MW

Antony Moss MW is director of strategic planning for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET). His current role covers long-term business planning and new product development, and he was previously responsible for the WSET’s textbooks and other education materials. Moss has worked for the company since 2004 and was the author of Wines & Spirits: Looking Behind the Label. Moss joined the wine industry in 1998 as a part-time sales advisor for S.H. Jones in Leamington Spa, and completed his WSET diploma in 2003 while working for Sainsbury’s supermarkets. He won the Austrian wine marketing board’s prize for both his WSET diploma and MW, and he is now a member of the education committee for the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW), supervising one of their two European second year residential programs.

Beverley Blanning MW

Beverley Blanning MW is a London-based independent wine journalist and the author of Wine Tasting and Biodynamics in Wine. A feature writer and taster for Decanter, and a contributor to other publications around the world, Blanning has judged at numerous wine competitions internationally. She is also a presenter and educator for corporate, consumer and trade events, including the Christie’s Wine Course.

Christy Canterbury MW

Christy Canterbury MW is a journalist, speaker, judge and educator based in Manhattan, New York. Her articles have been published in Decanter, Wine Enthusiast, Food Arts, Beverage Media and TASTED, among other magazines and blogs, and she is the Italy editor for the Professional Wine Reference, and consulting editor of the GOURMAND AWARD-winning book Rock and Vine. As a frequent public speaker, Canterbury’s 2013 appearances included VINEXPO, the Cool Climate Chardonnay Festival in Niagara, the Balkans International Wine & Spirits Competition & Fair in Sofia, Austria Now! in Manhattan and TEXSOM. Upon becoming a Master of Wine, Canterbury received the Villa Maria Award for outstanding performance in the viticulture examination.

David Vareille

David Vareille was raised in Chablis, and his career began at the age of 16, when he worked in the Michelin-starred La Salamandre, spending much of his time in the cellars establishing a love for fine wine. A career working with some of the best chefs in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Spain followed. Vareille moved to the UK in 2004 as head sommelier at L’Enclume in the Lake District and has since worked at the Hotel du Vin group and the Bleeding Heart before, in 2010, joining Bar Boulud as head sommelier for the opening of chef Daniel Boulud’s first UK restaurant. With a focus on Burgundy and the Rhône Valley, as well as new world selections, this was a natural move for Vareille, taking him back to his roots. Vareille believes Bar Boulud is a combination of his three great passions: fantastic food, fantastic wines and the best guests you can dream of.

Dawn Davies

Dawn Davies joined Selfridges as its first sommelier in March 2007 and is now the company’s wine and spirit buyer. Previously, she worked as head sommelier, and then restaurant manager, at The Ledbury restaurant in Notting Hill and as sommelier at the Square Restaurant in Mayfair, both in London. Before that, she was head sommelier at Boxwood Café (Gordon Ramsay) and Zuma. At Selfridges, Davies assists clients in selecting that special case of wine, gives advice on how to set up a new cellar, or helps with the growth of an established one.

Dee Blackstock MW

Dee Blackstock MW began her career in the wine trade in 1984 through Gerard Harris Wines in Aston Clinton, the wine side of the Bell Inn. She joined Waitrose in 1991 and passed the MW exam at the first attempt in 1992, securing a bursary scholarship for the marketing paper. She then went on to study for the Institute of Grocery Distribution diploma and was awarded a scholarship for overall marks by Safeway Supermarkets. She has been made a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole in recognition of her services to French wine in her buying role. Blackstock sits on the Government Wine Committee, which selects wines for visiting heads of state and other dignitaries. She has the WSET qualification to teach up to Diploma level. Blackstock spent 22 years as Buyer at Waitrose (the food and beverage section of the John Lewis Partnership). During this time her buying responsibilities were: Alsace, Australia, Burgundy, Champagne, Germany, New Zealand, Rhone, South Africa, South of France and Sparkling wines from around the world, latterly specialising in Burgundy, New Zealand, sparkling wines and Champagne. Having retired from Waitrose in 2013, she acts as a consultant through Rootstock & Barrel.

Gearoid Devaney MS

Gearoid Devaney MS works at Flint wines, an independent merchant based in London. He was named Restaurant magazine’s Sommelier of the Year 2007, UK Sommelier of the Year 2008, and is now a Master Sommelier. He was head sommelier at London’s Capital Hotel and has additionally worked at London’s l’Oranger and the 3 Michelin starred Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. In 2003 he assisted Tom Aikens in opening his signature restaurant and was part of the team instrumental in the restaurant winning a Michelin star.

Igor Sotric

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.

Jan Konetzki

Jan Konetzki began his professional career with an apprenticeship as a baker before leaving his native Germany to work in Switzerland, Greece and the USA. Returning to Germany, he worked as a bar manager and then apprenticed as restaurant manager in the renowned Hotel Louis C. Jacob, before moving into the role of sommelier. In 2007 Konetzki moved to London to join Gordon Ramsay Holdings where he worked as sommelier for Maze, Maze Grill and Claridge’s and as assistant head sommelier at the Michelin three-star Gordon Ramsay. In 2010 Konetzki was promoted to head sommelier and, since then, he has achieved WSET qualifications and the Court of Master Sommeliers Advance Sommelier Certificate. In 2012 he won both Moët UK Sommelier of the Year and the Prix Le Montrachet. In 2013 Konetzki co-founded WineMeister, an app which helps users select wines from German supermarket shelves and features Konetzki’s tips to help you enjoy wine even more.

Jane Parkinson

Jane Parkinson is an award-winning wine writer and communicator. Working freelance, she’s a wine expert for BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen Live, wine editor-at-large of Restaurant magazine, the wine expert for Stylist magazine, wine reviewer for 60 Second Reviews and is releasing her debut book, Wine & Food, this autumn. Parkinson is the IWSC Communicator of the Year 2014 and is a member of The Wine Gang, a group of five experts who host consumer fairs and review wines each month on thewinegang.com. She hosts tastings at consumer fairs such as the BBC Good Food Show and the Ideal Home Show, as well as privately for restaurants and wine merchants. Parkinson also has her own website janeparkinson.com, on which she posts her published features, recommends wines, and writes restaurant reviews.

Jean Reilly MW

Jean K Reilly MW has over a dozen years experience in the wine industry. She has traveled to more than 60 wine regions across four continents. Reillycurrently works as a public speaker and a purchasing and private label consultant to retailers. In the past, she has run the purchasing operations of JJ Buckley Fine Wines, Morrel & Company and the Morrell Wine Bar & Café. In 2010, Reilly became the fifth American woman to earn the Master of Wine title. Her dissertation on US Sommelier Opinions of German Riesling won the Quinta do Noval Award for Outstanding Dissertation. Reilly appears frequently on television and radio speaking about wine and writes for a variety of publications, including Beverage Media, Fortune and American Airlines’ Latitudes magazine. Reilly is also a professional skydiver, having made over 800 jumps. She recently completed a qualification which will allow her to fulfill her dream of parachuting into famous vineyards and iconic wine events around the world.

Laura Rhys MS

Laura Rhys MS started her wine career after gaining a degree in hospitality from college and taking a WSET course, which led her to focus on wine. Her first job was at the Hotel du Vin in Winchester, and during her two and a half years there, Laura ran for and won a regional heat of the Ruinart UK Sommelier of the Year in 2007. When Hotel TerraVina opened in 2007, Laura moved with Gerard Basset MS MW as Head Sommelier, and in 2009, she began studying for her Master Sommelier qualification, passing the practical the first year and gaining the theory and tasting parts in 2010.

Margaret Rand

Margaret Rand is a past editor of Wine Magazine, Wine & Spirit International and Whisky Magazine. She now writes for World of Fine Wine, Drinks Business, Decanter and the FT among others, and is general editor of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book. She is working on a new edition of Grapes and Wines, and in 2013 won the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year award.

Meiyu Li

Former winner of China’s Best French Wine Sommelier Competition and China’s Sommelier Competition, Meiyu Li completed a management diploma in Shandong then moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, before training as a sommelier at Bistrot du Sommelier, run by M. PhilippeFaure-Brac, the World’s Best Sommelier 1992. While in France, Li also worked at Domaine Seppi Landmann in Alsace, Château Haut-Bailly in Pessac-Léognan and La Vinotheque Wine Cellar in Bordeaux. Li then returned to China to join the Park Hyatt in Beijing as sommelier, where she worked for three years. With the support of Hyatt, Li is currently studying in London and completing further sommelier training at Le Gavroche.

Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards originally trained in law, reading the Bar at Gray’s Inn, London, before joining Laytons in 1968. During the seventies, he represented several top estates in Burgundy and Alsace. Edwards has also been a restaurant reviewer, is a former chief inspector of the Egon Ronay Guide and, during his 20 years as a freelance writer, Edwards has specialised in Champagne and gastronomy. In 2010 for his most recent book, The Finest Wines of Champagne, Edwards won the Prix Roederer for International Wine Book of the Year, while his blog, michaelbulles.blogspot.co.uk, ranges well beyond Champagne. In January 2014, Edwards was made a Confrère of St Vincent de Vertus, the first non-Champenois to be admitted to this order.

Roberto Della Pietra

Roberto Della Pietra is head sommelier at Champagne restaurant and bar Tirage in London. He joined the new venture in 2013 after working as head of Gauthier Wines, where he devoted his time to the retail side of Michelin-starred London restaurant Gauthier Soho after several years on the floor. Della Pietra began his career in hospitality in 1993, as commis de rang at the Grand Hotel Moroni in Finale Ligure, Italy, before moving to the UK and joining the team at Pennyhill Park Hotel in Surrey, where he worked his way up to the role of sommelier. After a stint as head sommelier at L’Ortolan in Berkshire, Della Pietra went with his employer, John-Burton Race, to The Landmark to open the John-Burton Race restaurant in 1999, which was subsequently awarded two Michelin stars. In 2002, he became head sommelier and wine buyer for the Michelin-starred Roussillon restaurant in Pimlico, before joining Gauthier Soho in 2010.

Rytis Jurkenas

Rytis Jurkenas is joint director of Champagne Tracker, a resource devoted to Champagne, and the manager of Kalba.Lt, the largest educational company in his native Lithuania. After graduating from medical school, Jurkenas worked in the pharmaceutical industry for about 10 years and only started to learn about wine in 1993, due to limited availability in Lithuania. His discovery of Champagne came nine years later, and this has since become an absolute passion. Since 2002, Jurkenas has been a regular visitor to the Champagne region, where he goes to taste and to learn the latest about the terroir, the technology and the winemaking process. He currently holds more than 2,500 tasting notes for Champagnes, judges regularly in wine competitions in Lithuania, and was asked to judge at FINE Champagne Magazine’s Top 100 Champagnes for 2013 in Reims. Jurkenas also organises tastings devoted, naturally, to Champagne.

Simon Field MW

Simon Field MW joined Berry Brothers & Rudd in 1998, having spent several misguided but lucrative years working as a chartered accountant in the City. His passion for opera and travel is well suited to buying trips down the Rhine and into the darker recesses of Andalucia, and in addition to buying the Spanish and fortified ranges, Field is also responsible for purchasing wines from Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon, The Rhône Valley and England. He gained his Master of Wine qualification in October 2002.

Xavier Rousset MS

Xavier Rousset MS started working as assistant chef sommelier at Gérard Basset’s Hotel du Vin in Bristol at the age of 20, after studying to become a sommelier in Saumur. Rousset’s career took off in 2002 when he was promoted to head sommelier, won the Ruinart UK Sommelier of the Year competition, and became the youngest Master Sommelier in the world at the time. In 2004, Rousset was appointed head sommelier at Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, a position which introduced him to head chef Agnar Sverrisson. Rousset and Sverrisson launched Texture restaurant in 2007, which has received a lengthy list of awards including a Michelin star in 2010, the Drinking Out Excellence Award 2009, the Rémy Martin London Restaurant Awards Newcomer of the Year 2008-2009, three rosettes in the AA Guide 2008-2009, the Independent New Restaurant of the Year 2007, Best Newcomer in the 2010 Caterer & Hotelkeeper Catey Awards, and UK Best Restaurant Wine List 2012 at the National Restaurant Awards. Rousset and Sverrisson’s second venture, 28 50 Wine Workshop and Kitchen, was launched in 2007 in Fetter Lane. The combination of great wines, food and atmosphere proved to be a great success, and two more venues were opened in Marylebone Lane in 2012 and on Maddox Street in August 2013.

Written by John Abbott

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