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WSET celebrates record number of Diploma graduates at annual awards ceremony

21/01/2019
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Over 500 global wine and spirits professionals and industry influencers gathered at London’s historic Guildhall today to celebrate the annual Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Awards & Graduation Ceremony – the first event in WSET’s 50th anniversary 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 worldwide ranging from Chile to South Korea to Croatia. This compares to WSET’s first ever graduation ceremony in 1970 when 84 students from the UK received their diplomas.

Ian Harris, WSET Chief Executive, said, “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. 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. The key award winners were:

Vintners’ Cup

As the student who achieved the highest overall mark across all units of the Diploma in his year, Joseph Hallam is 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 Manager at WSET. He is responsible for supporting WSET course providers across Europe and promoting the benefits of education to new markets around the world.

Joseph Hallam commented, “It’s wonderful to receive the Vintners’ Cup. I put a lot of effort into studying, but the award is a complete surprise. In this industry there’s never a time to think you know everything – at least now I finally feel I have a solid grounding and can spend the next few years concentrating on some favourite regions and topics.”

Educator of the Year

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. The School has established an outstanding reputation as an educator for both consumers and the trade. It has seen continuous growth in candidate numbers and in 2019 will be expanding its offer by introducing WSET spirits and sake qualifications.

Jimmy Smith, Founder & Director, said, “We are incredibly honoured to be recognised as the Riedel WSET Educator of the Year for 2018. Since West London Wine School was founded almost 10 years ago, WSET courses have provided a fantastic avenue of learning for all our students, both in the trade as well as consumer enthusiasts. WSET continues to consistently set the bar globally for wine and spirits education, which is why we are so enthusiastic about our WSET course offerings at West London Wine School.”

Outstanding Alumni Award

This year’s winner, Caro Maurer MW, started her career as a correspondent in 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 WSET Outstanding Alumni Award, sponsored by JancisRobinson.com, aims to celebrate and nurture a WSET Diploma graduate who is notably contributing to the industry. The nominees 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.

Caro Maurer commented, “What an honour it is to be awarded this distinguished accolade. 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.”

Lifetime Achievement Award

This year 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 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, “I am honoured beyond words to receive this Lifetime Achievement Award from WSET. When I introduced WSET’s courses to the US. 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.”

See the full list of graduates and award winners on the dedicated microsite here