More than 500 global wine and spirits professionals gathered at the City of London’s Guildhall last night to celebrate the annual Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Awards & Graduation Ceremony, in what is its 50th year.
Hosted by WSET honorary president Steven Spurrier alongside chief executive Ian Harris, the occasion saw Sarah Jane Evans MW, last year’s WSET Outstanding Alumni Award winner, open the ceremony with a key note speech to WSET’s largest ever graduating class of Diploma candidates.
This year 532 new WSET Diploma graduates were honoured, representing a 21% increase over last year. Graduates came from over 40 countries ranging from Chile to South Korea and Croatia. This compares to WSET’s first ever graduation ceremony in 1970 when 84 students from the UK received their diplomas.
“Today we not only congratulate our largest ever class of Diploma graduates and our scholarship and award winners, but also mark the start of our 50th year providing education and qualifications in wine and spirits,” said Ian Harris, WSET chief executive.
“With over 750 Approved Programme Providers and three offices across the world, WSET’s global presence is stronger than ever. We will use our 50th anniversary to continue to inspire and support wine and spirits professionals and enthusiasts worldwide. We are confident that we will be celebrating the success of WSET students for another 50 years and beyond.”
Following the graduate procession, outstanding candidates for the 2017/18 academic year were presented with awards and scholarships in recognition of their achievements at an evening ceremony, which featured a Tio Pepe and Moët receptions.
As the student who achieved the highest overall mark across all units of the Diploma in his year, Joseph Hallam was named the winner of this year’s Vintners’ Cup. Having started his career at Majestic Wine, Joseph, who completed his Diploma at WSET School London, is a certified educator and international development advisor at WSET.
The Riedel Trophy for the WSET Educator of the Year is awarded to the individual or company that has made a significant contribution to the delivery of WSET courses and qualifications. This year’s winner is West London Wine School, which was founded by Jimmy Smith.
This year’s Outstanding Alumni Award, sponsored by JancisRobinson.com, was awarded to Caro Maurer MW, who started her career as a correspondent in the USA before moving back to Germany as lifestyle editor of Forbes magazine and later, Die Welt. Now freelance, she specialises in food and wine writing for local and national titles. She completed the WSET Diploma in 2005 as Germany’s top graduate and became a Master of Wine in 2011. She also teaches the WSET Diploma, hosts educational tastings for international wine associations and consults for Edeka, Germany’s biggest supermarket chain. The nominees for this award were chosen by the WSET International Alumni Advisory Board and Jancis Robinson MW, and Diploma graduates across WSET’s global network voted for the winner.
“What makes the award so unique is that it is voted on by the global community of fellow WSET Diploma graduates who bridge all borders, not only by sharing my own love and passion for wine but also by the pursuit of excellence in their achievements in the most highly regarded wine education programme in the world,” she said.
The WSET also presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW in recognition of her contribution to the development and growth of WSET in the USA.
Mary is a leading wine educator, columnist, and author, and was the first woman in North America to become a Master of Wine. Mary began her career at the Italian Trade Commission, educating consumers about Italy’s wines, and then worked in the private sector, holding a senior position at PepsiCo Wines & Spirits before focusing on wine education. She joined International Wine Center (IWC) in New York in 1984 and, in 1994, introduced the first WSET programs in the USA. In addition to being the owner/President of IWC, in 2003 she was appointed Executive Director for WSET Programs in the USA, laying the foundations for WSET’s success in the region. Mary is also a director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (North America) and previously served as its President.
Receiving her award, Mary said: “In 1994, I believed that the programs could change the face of wine and spirits education in my country. After almost 25 years spent promoting WSET’s expansion across America, my early hopes have come to fruition. I am grateful for the opportunity to support WSET’s mission to make academic excellence accessible to wine and spirits professionals not only in New York but also across much of the US.”