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Nominees announced for new WSET Outstanding Alumni Award

Main image partners with WSET for new award to celebrate industry talent has partnered with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust to launch the new WSET Outstanding Alumni Award, an annual accolade that will celebrate a WSET Diploma graduate who is notably contributing to the industry.

The website, run by one of WSET’s most esteemed alumni, Jancis Robinson MW, described by Decanter magazine as 'the most respected wine critic and journalist in the world’ and a WSET Diploma graduate, is sponsoring the new award to celebrate and nurture talent in the industry.

This new annual award will celebrate the outstanding contributions of one successful individual, chosen by our alumni network, and who better to partner with than the website founded by one of our most esteemed graduates, Jancis Robinson.

Ian Harris, WSET Chief Executive 

The nominees have been chosen by the WSET International Alumni Advisory Board and Jancis Robinson MW herself. WSET Diploma graduates from across the world are invited to vote for who they think should win this industry honour. Voting is open until 14th November 2016 and the winner will be revealed at the end of the month.

Ian Harris, WSET Chief Executive, says, “Our WSET Diploma graduates go on to achieve amazing things across all areas of the industry. This new annual award will celebrate the outstanding contributions of one successful individual, chosen by our alumni network, and who better to partner with than the website founded by one of our most esteemed graduates, Jancis Robinson.”

Jancis Robinson DipWSET, MW, says, “Having been an enormous admirer of the WSET, especially in its successful recent bid for world domination of the wine education sector, I am thrilled to be instigating a permanent link between it and”

The nominees are:

Maureen Downey – USA

Dubbed, “The Wine Detective”, Maureen is an expert on fine and rare wine and an authority on counterfeit wine and wine fraud. Starting her career managing some of New York’s top restaurants, she became Senior Fine and Rare Specialist at prestigious auction houses on both coasts of the USA.  In 2005, she founded Chai Consulting to help wine collectors build and manage collections to enhance their returns. Maureen advises the FBI and the US Department of Justice and works closely with authorities to prosecute fraud.  In 2015 she founded, an online resource to combat wine fraud and also recently launched the Chai Wine Vault by Everledger, a solution for securing the authenticity and provenance of fine wine. Maureen is an active competition judge and a Senior Judge for the International Wine Challenge. As a columnist for, Maureen educates collectors and the public about collecting, investment, and how to avoid fakes and fraud. She completed her WSET Diploma in 2007. In December 2012, industry magazine Drinks Business named Maureen as one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Wine”.

Joe Fattorini – UK

Between researching his MPhil on Food & Religion and teaching Structuralist Food Theory and Hotel Valuation Models, Joe wrote the world’s first textbook on selling and marketing wine in restaurants; a book still used in universities over 20 years later. He completed his WSET Diploma in 1995, and wrote about wine for 14 years as wine correspondent for The Herald Newspaper and spent years talking about wine across the USA as wine consultant to the US PGA Tour. Since then, Joe has been selling wine for 20 years to restaurants, hotels, bars and celebrity weddings as one of the UK’s leading wine merchants. As host of ITV’s ‘The Wine Show’, Joe brings his expertise and passion for wine to TV screens in in over 100 countries worldwide, including the UK, USA and Australia. He also works with the Brand and Communications Team for Conviviality PLC and prior to that was a Director of Sales at Bibendum.

Isabelle Legeron, MW – UK

Isabelle is an advocate of natural wine and founder of RAW wine, the UK’s largest artisan wine fair, which has expanded to include annual events in Berlin and New York. She consulted for restaurants in London including the 2-Michelin starred Hibiscus in Mayfair, Borough Market local, Elliot’s, and The Richmond in Hackney. She has hosted her own TV shows including ‘That Crazy French Women’ and ‘Journey into Wine’, four seasons of which were broadcast to 120 countries in 20 different languages. Her work in wine has also seen her founding the wine school at Divertimenti in Marylebone, helping to curate the drinks offerings at eco-luxury resorts including Soneva Fushi in the Maldives and Kittitian Hill in St Kitts and founding Bacchanalia, a private members wine club for a select group of professionals in the City. She completed her WSET Diploma in 2003 and went on to become a Master of Wine. In December 2012, Drinks Business named Isabelle as one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Wine”.

Yang Lu – Hong Kong

Yang is widely regarded as one of the most influential sommeliers in Greater China, raising the status of Chinese sommeliers across the industry.  Having studied Viticulture and Winemaking in Canada and completing his WSET Diploma in 2011 with Wine of Germany scholarship, Yang moved back to Shanghai in 2009 where he won Best Sommelier Greater China 2014, and has won all three major sommelier competitions in China.  He was previously sommelier at the Peninsula Shanghai, where he profoundly raised the status of Chinese sommeliers across the industry.  Yang is currently Corporate/Group Wine Director for Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, overseeing the wine program and sommelier team for the entire group.  He is a highly regarded wine educator in China, regularly teaching WSET courses and giving seminars on wine. He is a columnist for, contributes to several magazines and worked on Chinese translations of How to Taste by Jancis Robinson MW and World Atlas of Wine.

Kenichi Ohashi, MW – Japan

Ken is a champion of global sake promotion. Born in Tochigi Prefecture, he is the third generation owner of Yamajin Co. Ltd., a distributor specialising in wine, sake and local spirits. As a pioneer for natural wine, he convinced his family to diversify into wine and wrote the book ‘Natural Wine’ in 2004, which is still considered the reference text for this sector in the Japanese market. After completing his WSET Diploma in 2006 he went on to become a Master of Wine whilst becoming one of only 200 people in the world to be awarded the highly prized Master of Sake qualification from Sake Service Institute. He contributed to The World Atlas of Wine 7th Edition, edited by Jancis Robinson MW and is the sake chairman of the International Wine Challenge and a Sake Expert Assessor, the highest qualification of National Research Institute of Brewing Japan. In 2016, he was awarded IWC Personality of the Year. Ken also has his own consultancy company, Red Bridge Co., Ltd. and assumes the post of director of Somersault Co., Ltd., a large business group of liquor retailers in Japan.

WSET alumni will receive an email explaining how they can cast their vote.