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Meet the judges: Q&A with Pierre Mansour

Decanter speaks to The Wine Society's head of buying, Pierre Mansour, about his journey into wine, buying tips, regions to watch in 2024 and his new appointment as joint regional chair for Spain at Decanter World Wine Awards.

Pierre Mansour is by no means new to DWWA judging. A wine judge with the competition since 2006 – just two years after it launched 21 years ago – he is one of competition’s longest standing judges.

Mansour’s standout memories: ‘Sherry judging!’ he exclaimed. ‘If you luck out and get selected to judge for this panel, you’re always in for a fantastic day of tasting.’

Involved in the wine trade his entire career, Mansour fell into wine a bit by chance, he said. ‘In my last years at university – and still undecided about my career path – I was fortunate to try some decent bottles with my dad who was just getting into fine wine himself.

‘It sparked my curiosity. Why did these wines provide a very different drinking experience to the ones I tried with uni mates! The curiosity led me to learn more about wine, I enrolled in a tasting course at Christie’s which opened up a world of flavours, fascinated me and inspired me to get my first job in wine after graduating.’

Mansour’s career started with the Antique Wine Company, followed by four years at Berry Bros & Rudd. In 2000 he joined award-winning retailer The Wine Society, where he still works today as head of buying.

The Wine Society’s CEO Steve Finlan (left) and Pierre Mansour (right) hold up Decanter Retailer Awards certificates. In 2023 the award-winning retailer received six accolades, including Best Large Online Retailer, Best Own Brand Wine Range and Outstanding Wine Retailer of the Year.

Recently named ‘Outstanding Wine Retailer of the Year’ and ‘Best Wine Buying Team’ among more wins at Decanter Retailer Awards 2023, his tips for buying at The Wine Society are simple: ‘All the wines we sell are accompanied by a tasting note that is written by the buyer, so my advice is follow the ones that suit your palate.’

In 2022, Mansour stepped in as acting regional chair for Spain, a position shared between Pedro Ballesteros Torres MWFerran Centelles and Beth Willard, but with the recent appointment of  Willard as DWWA co-chair, Mansour’s regional chair role has been made official.

‘I’m excited to be working alongside the other regional chairs,’ Mansour said. ‘Learning from them, discussing and debating the pros and cons of the wines we taste, and I’m looking forward to hearing the views of the panels.

‘Spain is one of the most exciting wine countries in the world. There are few places that provide tasty wine across all styles – red, white, sparkling, sweet and fortified. Plus there is a real energy amongst winemakers who are experimenting and modernising wines whilst retaining the rich heritage and classic expressions of this traditional wine producing country.’

Mansour judging Spanish whites at DWWA with regional chair Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW.

Naming Garnacha among the grape varieties to watch in 2024, Mansour added, ‘representation is already pretty thorough at DWWA. I would love to see more Spanish Garnacha win awards because I think it is still relatively underrated.’

With a wealth of wine knowledge and experience, Mansour’s most valuable lesson learnt in the industry is learning. ‘You never stop learning about wine’ he explained. ‘Every year brings new opportunities and challenges, and the wine industry is really good at adapting, so there is always something new to learn!’

In terms of his biggest inspiration, ‘there have been so many’, he said. ‘Wine is blessed with a community of people that are fun, professional and generous with their time. People really matter in this business.

‘I have been fortunate to work alongside some pioneers, learning directly from their wisdom. The names that spring to mind are Steven Spurrier and Michael Schuster (who I learnt so much about tasting), my boss Sebastian Payne in my first buying job at The Wine Society who helped me understand the nuance of commerciality and product quality, and a good family friend who saw the twinkle in my eye that first sparked by curiosity in wine.

‘But there are many many others, winemakers, vineyard owners from all across the world, colleagues, all who have been instrumental in inspiring me during my career.’

DWWA 2024 entries are open now until 15 March 2024. Learn more and enter today at enter.decanter.com

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