Find out about our Decanter World Wine Awards 2014 Tuscany judging panel with biographies of the Regional Chair Monty Waldin plus Alex Hunt MW, Andrea Briccarello, Ben Robson, Clément Robert, Emily O’Hare, Gerd Stepp, Gordon Lawrence, Jean Reilly MW, Kathrine Larsen MS, Meiyu Li, Sergio De Luca, Simon Woods and Theresa Paopao.
Regional chair: Monty Waldin
Waldin became the first wine writer to specialise in green issues in the mid-1990s and his first book, The Organic Wine Guide, was published in 1999 and voted Britain’s Wine Guide of the Year. At the time, Waldin was developing a biodiversity project for a Demeter-certified biodynamic vineyard in California and has drawn on this and other winemaking experiences for subsequent writings. He is the author of other award-winning books, including Biodynamic Wines and Wines of South America, as well as being filmed in 2007 for Britain’s Channel 4 documentary, Château Monty, on biodynamic winemaking in Roussillon in France. In addition, Waldin has contributed to radio, newspapers and wine, travel and environmental publications. He frequently visits Tuscany, where his Italian partner and their son live, and advises farms, vineyards, gardens and olive groves across the globe on biodynamics.
Alex Hunt MW
Alex Hunt MW joined the wine trade as a van driver for Oddbins while studying philosophy and psychology at Oxford, where he captained the varsity blind tasting team. After graduating in 2000, he joined Mayfair Cellars, holding both sales and buying roles, before moving to Berkmann Wine Cellars in 2006, where he is currently purchasing director. Hunt received the Madame Bollinger Medal for excellence in the Master of Wine tasting exam, and since February 2012 he has written a regular column on taste and tasting for JancisRobinson.com.
Andrea Briccarello is head sommelier at La Chapelle, the winner of Best Wine List at the National Restaurant Awards 2011. He was previously group sommelier and wine buyer for Corrigan’s Mayfair, Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill, and Lindsay House, and has also worked at Michelin-starred Umu. In 2009 he was named Sommelier of the Year by Taste of London, and he was the winner of the Wines of Roussillon Dessert Trophy in 2010.
Ben Robson has always worked in the wine trade. In 1994 he opted for self-employment when he established Bat and Bottle, which he still owns. His company imports wines from small Italian estates and intermittently from France, Spain and Portugal. Ben is also an occasional WSET educator, a regular visitor to Italy who has not missed a Vinitaly since 1996.
Clément Robert started his wine career from an early age, attending the catering school in Le Touquet. At the age of 18 he moved to Angers to take his sommelier degree. After a spell as trainee sommelier at a Michelin starred restaurant in the Loire, Robert moved to England in 2006 where became assistant head sommelier of the Hotel Du Vin Brighton, before becoming head sommelier of the Hotel Du Vin Cambridge. In 2009 he joined Summer Lodge Hotel as assistant sommelier to Eric Zwiebel MS. In 2009 Robert won the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs International Young Sommelier of the Year competition and, in 2013, he was named UK Sommelier of the Year. He is currently head sommelier/wine buyer at Medlar and is studying for his Master Sommelier.
Emily O’Hare is the head sommelier, wine buyer and WSET tutor at London’s River Café, where she has worked for almost seven years. She also writes about Italian wine for various publications and sits on the judging panels for Decanter. In May 2012 O’Hare won the Harpers Wines & Spirits Sommelier of the Year Award, and in her spare time she runs a women’s tasting group Women, Know Your Wine! and also The London Wine Sessions, a bi-annual wine festival which includes talks and tastings, music and food.
Gerd Stepp’s family has been growing grapes in the Pfalz for generations and he himself has been in the wine trade for 25 years. For 10 of those years, Stepp was a winemaker for Marks & Spencer and has worked in Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Italy and the UK. In 2009, Stepp set up a winery at the site of Stepp Family Vineyards, where he now makes wine. He also consults through WeinWerk on various wine-related matters.
Gordon Lawrence is head sommelier at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall. His working life began in the world of finance in London, during which time he was able to indulge in his passion for food and wine, including having the opportunity to learn about many different wines and their regions through travelling around the globe. In 2001, Lawrence moved with his family to the north coast of Cornwall and started working for Rick Stein at The Seafood Restaurant, using his wine knowledge to start a new career in wine. He joined Fifteen Cornwall as head sommelier when it opened in 2006. Lawrence lives right on the beach, with his three kids and ever patient wife.
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.
Kathrine Larsen MS
Kathrine Larsen MS is head sommelier at ZUMA restaurant in London. She joined ZUMA in 2013 after working for D&D London, first as assistant head sommelier at Skylon, and then as head sommelier at Pont de la Tour and Orrery. Originally from Copenhagen, Larsen began her career in hospitality in 2002, interning for a number of one and two Michelin star restaurants, while at the same time studying at Copenhagen Hospitality College. In 2013, Larsen was named UK Young Sommelier of the Year and, later that year, was admitted to the Court of Master Sommeliers, having also been awarded the Grand Siècle Trophee for the highest exam results of her year.
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.
Sergio De Luca
Sergio de Luca is director of buying for Italy at Enotria World Wine. He has over 30 years’ experience in the UK market, and has been at Enotria for more than 25 years. de Luca’s family is in farming and all his experience is connected with the wine world, having studied and completed a degree in winemaking in Italy.
Simon Woods abandoned a career in computer systems design in 1988 to join the wine trade, thus indulging his two hobbies of wine and writing. In his twenty-five years of communicating about wine, Woods has been a columnist for The Financial Times’ The Business magazine, and five-times editor of the annual Which? Wine Guide. He was voted International Online Wine Columnist of the Year at the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards 2010 for his work on simonwoods.com, a site offering a combination of tasting notes, rants and videos, and his books include the award-winning I Don’t Know Much About Wine But I Know What I Like.
Theresa Paopao hails from the small town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. She left island life to pursue a graduate degree at the Yale School of Drama in New Haven, and then moved to Boston where she fell in love with the restaurant business and the world of wine. On joining the Oleana in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Paopao became serious about a career in hospitality and beverages, and after working as manager, she went on to be their wine director and general manager. In 2010, she joined the New York Momofuku team as wine director, a role which took her to Ontario to open their new spaces in Toronto in 2012, and Paopao is now back in Boston where she is the beverage director and general manager of Ribelle which earned four stars from the Boston Globe shortly after it opened last summer.
Written by John Abbott