Since introducing South Africa’s first Brandy trophy in 2009, followed by the competition opening for spirits entries in 2014, Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards has built this section of the competition to include a complete additional spectrum of 21 spirits classes with some 80+ sub-classes. With the input of professional spirits specialist from Europe and the Americas, who wrote and refined these classes, Michelangelo now attracts the most spirits entries of any competition in Africa. But it is in the judging that the proof lies, and so the entries are judged by a spirited ensemble of local and international experts.
The sole South African judge, Dr Winnie Bowman (Cape Wine Master) finds herself in the illustrious company of René van Hoven from the Netherlands, Carlos Arturaola from Uruguay, American expert Steve Beal and Bernhard Schäfer from Germany.
Dr Winnie Bowman is one of South Africa’s leading wine and spirits writers, educators and judges who is especially known for her expertise on brandy. She is a member of the exclusive South African Brandy Guild and served as panel-chair on many leading spirits judging events including International Wine and Spirit Competition (UK), Brandy and Husk Spirit chair for the Platter’s South African Wine Guide and Concours Mondial de Bruxelles.
A regular judge for Michelangelo, Bernhard Schäfer started his professional career in the world of spirits in 1985 behind a cocktail bar. Some years later he began giving lectures on different spirits (specifically whisky), and subsequently received some of the highest accolades in the industry, including: Keeper of the Quaich (1996), and Master of the Quaich (2007). He is also a co-founder of the European Network of Spirit Experts and has earned a WSET Spirits Level 3.
Bernhard has been a panel member at various spirits competitions in Europe, and since 2010 in the US. In 1997 he became a professional spirits taster, and subsequently was invited to judge on the panel of the IWSC in Germany and the UK, the Belgian Concours Mondial Spirits Selection, the German and the Miami Rumfestival and the German Craft Spirits Awards. Bernhard lectures on Rum, Gin, Whisky, Cognac and Champagne, and is contributing Editor for several international bar and drinks magazines.
Whisky expert Steve Beal joins the Michelangelo panel for the first time this year. Besides his judging prowess and intimate knowledge of his subject, Steve has extensive experience on the business side of the drinks business having been senior brand educator for the whisky portfolio of Diageo North America for over 15 years.
Since 2000 he has served as an international spirits judge, broadcast presenter, spirits journalist and as a master accreditation educator with the United States Bartenders Guild. In 2015, he was inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame. He was also recognised by the Scotch whisky industry in 2010 when he was inducted as a life member into the Keepers of the Quaich. Since retiring as senior master of whisky at Diageo in February 2015 he has actively continued to serve the distilled spirits industry as a consultant.
From Uruguay Michelangelo will this year welcome celebrity sommelier Charlie Arturaola, a familiar face in international culinary and oenological circles. A charismatic wine and spirits expert, Charlie is the president of the Miami based Grappolo Blu Inc. where he lectures, conducts educational tastings, acts as an expert appraiser for insurance companies, consults with foreign importers, and mentors new members of the wine and spirits communities.
And yes, he is also a film star having played the lead role in El Camino del Vino a fictionalized documentary about a leading sommelier who loses his palate to taste wine and embarks on a quest through the South American winelands in an attempt to rediscover his ability to taste and appreciate wine.
Charlie is a recipient of the International Wine and Spirits Competition Communicator of the Year Award which recognises an individual whose communication skills have made an exceptional contribution towards promoting and increasing public awareness and interest in wines and spirits.
René van Hoven was born in the Netherlands and studied Food & Beverage at the Technical University of Amsterdam. He is a trained chef and waiter with an education in wine and spirits. In this field, he is also qualified as a teacher with a special interest in rum and has visited five continents as a judge for rum, spirits and wine. This year sees Rene joining the Michelangelo panel for the third consecutive year, having witnessed the proliferation of the number and diversity of spirits entries in this time.