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Amidst the bans and lockdown regulations of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have drawn the cream of South Africa’s wine and spirits industry for our 2020 judging panel. 

The following judges have accepted invitations to this year’s Michelangelo judging panel:

Elsie Pells

South Africa

Elsie Pells is a South African wine veteran, having been active in the industry for two decades as an international wine judge and lecturer, sales manager, market developer, importer, consultant, and writer. Elsie began her career in 2000, when she became a Cape Wine Master, following her research into local brandy. She spent the next five years working with NMK Shultz Wine Distribution in Johannesburg and Cape Town. She is currently working as a wine purveyor, buyer, and shareholder at House of Wine S.R.O in Prague, where she is responsible for selecting the company’s global wine portfolio with a focus on South African wine.
Elsie’s expertise has taken her to wine regions all over the world such as Bordeaux, Cognac, Burgundy, Loire, Champagne, Rhone, and Alsace to name a few. She is a specialist in the wines of New Zealand and Australia, where she travels regularly, and in 2003 she was named as an Australasian Wine Master in a pilot programme run by the Centre for International Wine Studies at the University of Western Australia. She has also lectured at several universities in the United States, England and Australia on South African wine.
Elsie has spent several years as a professional wine judge, having participated in various international competitions including Mundus Vini in Germany, the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London and South Africa, Vinař Roku in Prague, the Prague Wine Trophy, Vino Llubljana in Slovenia and the Berliner Wein Trophy in Germany. We are honoured to have Elsie as part of the 2020 Michelangelo panel.

Spencer Fondaumiere

South Africa

Joining the Michelangelo judging panel for the first time this year, is Kenyan-born Spencer Fondaumiere. Spencer is an internationally certified sommelier (Dip Association de la Sommellerie Internationale) with a Level 2 certification from the South African Sommeliers Association, where he also currently serves as vice chairman and treasurer. In 2016 Spencer was a semi finalist in the African Edition of the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) for the title of World’s Best Sommelier.

Spencer has achieved a WSET Level 3 certificate, and is a qualified chef and pastry chef.

Spencer has judged on several South African wine competitions including the Amorim MCC Challenge, the Chenin Top 10 and the Ultra Value Wine Challenge. He currently works as a wine brand manager and consults to several East Africa hospitality outlets for the importation of South African wine.

Wilhelm Pienaar

South Africa

Wilhelm is Head Winemaker at Hermanuspietersfontein Wines in the Hermanus region. He holds an MSc Agric degree from the University of Stellenbosch as well as a European Masters of Science in Viticulture, Oenology and Marketing from ENSAM, Montpellier in France.

Over the past 14 years Wilhelm has been judging in various competitions in South Africa, including Veritas, the Cape Blend tasting competition and the South African Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc competition.

His 20-year career in the South African wine industry spans every aspect thereof, backed by his experience as – among others – seasonal winemaker with Champagne Jean Vesselle in France and with Weingut Germersheimer in Rheingau, Germany. Wilhelm has also held the positions of Chief Winemaker and Cellar Manager with The House of JC le Roux in Stellenbosch for three years as well as that of Chief Winemaker for the production of red wines with Nederburg Wines in Paarl.

Danielle le Roux

South Africa

Danielle Le Roux is a Cape Wine Master with more than 18 years’ experience and 22 harvests as a winemaker to her name. During this time, she has managed production processes in vineyards across South Africa and the world, including Chateau de La Colline (France), Terreno (Italy) and Guardian Peak (Stellenbosch) where she currently resides. Her expertise has garnered her several accolades, including an ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Award, the Old Mutual Wine Trophy, and a Michelangelo Award.
Before this, Danielle completed extensive studies in the art of wine making. She holds a BSc in Agriculture, with majors in Viticulture and Oenology, from Stellenbosch University; a Cape Wine Diploma from the Cape Wine Academy; a Cape Wine Masters Diploma; and several wine judging and evaluation certificates from Stellenbosch University and the Michael Fridjhon Academy. In 2018, Danielle was named amongst the Cape Town Top 5 in the SA Wine Tasting Championship.
She has since served on several wine judging panels across South Africa and specialises in balanced full-bodied reds (with a soft spot for Merlot) and dry whites, in particular Chenin Blanc and sparkling wines. We are excited to welcome Danielle and her vast knowledge to the Michelangelo judging panel this year!

Ben Snyman

South Africa

Ben Snyman is the Head Winemaker at Overhex Wines, where he has spent the last ten years cultivating his knowledge and passion for fine wine. His winemaking career began at Stellenbosch University, where he graduated with a BSc in Agriculture majoring in oenology and viticulture. Following his studies, Ben travelled to California, USA, where he was offered an internship at Chalk Hill Estate. Upon his return to South Africa, he continued to develop his winemaking expertise by completing several courses at Stellenbosch University, the Wine Judging Academy, and Harvard Business School, with his next set to be a Diploma from the Cape Wine Academy.
As Head Winemaker, Ben oversees the exportation of 7,000 tons of Overhex wine to 47 countries worldwide each year and is responsible for the brand’s award-winning ‘Survivor’ range. His years at Overhex have seen him travel abroad to develop an appreciation for international methods, which he exercises frequently at several local wine judging competitions. We are excited to have Ben’s well-rounded palate as part of the Michelangelo Awards this year.

Anton Swarts

South Africa

With a career in wine dating back to 1999, Anton Swarts is a Cape Wine Master and currently one of the senior winemakers at Spier Wines. He is also a respected wine taster, having served on numerous local and international panels and completed the Van Ryn’s Advanced Brandy Course. He is a graduate of the Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy and is currently studying at the Rioja Wine Academy in Spain.
In 2019, Anton was crowned “The Best Wine Taster in South Africa” during the South African Wine Tasting Championship. In addition, he has qualified numerous times to be a member of the Official Wine Tasting Team of South Africa, representing Team South Africa in France at the World Blind Tasting Championship (Championnat du monde de dégustation La RVF) from 2013 to 2019. A further accolade is that he is the first winemaker and Cape Wine Master to have won the “Springbok” title as a member of the South African Wine Tasting Team.
Anton is continually and actively involved with wine judging and wine education. He serves on numerous wine judging panels and forms part of the Education Committee of the Institute of Cape Wine Masters. We are honoured to have Anton’s renowned expertise at this year’s competition.

Morgan Steyn

South Africa

One of the younger judges on our panel, Morgan Steyn is the assistant winemaker at De Grendel Wine Estate and a Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé with impressive judging experience under his belt.

Morgan completed his BSc in Agriculture majoring in Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University before going to work in several esteemed estates, including Groot Constantia, Ernie Els Wines, Delaire Graff Estate, and Domaine Lejeune in Burgundy, France.

He completed his SA Wine Industry Information and Systems (SAWIS) training in 2016 and a wine evaluation short course in 2018. In 2019, Morgan finished his IPW training and graduated from the Michael Fridjhon Wine Tasting Academy. His studies are complemented by his service on several South African judging panels, and we are thrilled to have him serve on the Michelangelo panel for the first time this year.

Gregory Mutambe

South Africa

Gregory Mutambe first encountered the world of wine while he was working as a cellar-hand in his home country of Zimbabwe. Since then, he has never looked back and is now the Head Sommelier at the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town. As part of his role there, Gregory is responsible for putting together a multi-award wine list and helps to curate gourmet wine dinners and tastings for guests, while also ensuring that hotel staff are appropriately trained in the field of wine.
Before assuming this role, Gregory worked as a Sommelier at the Cape Vineyard Hotel and Signature Restaurant in Johannesburg. He has studied garagiste winemaking and wine evaluation at Stellenbosch University, and was also part of the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business’ Wine Judging Academy.
We look forward to having Gregory’s deep appreciation for and understanding of wine at this years’ Michelangelo Awards.

Raymond Noppé

South Africa

Raymond Noppé is a Cape Wine Master and the current Assistant Manager for Sales and Marketing at Kanonkop Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. He is a seasoned industry expert, having previously served as the Communications Officer and Secretary for the Institute of Cape Wine Masters, while also managing wine logistics, sales and marketing for brands like MAN Family Wines, Oldenburg Vineyards and Delheim Wines. These positions have seen him facilitate wine trades in countries all over Africa and Europe.
Raymond’s interest in wine first developed in 2001, when he joined a Cape Town-based touring company that specialised in wine tours. In 2002, he was offered a position in the tasting room at Villiera Wines in Stellenbosch, where he worked two harvests in their cellar and completed the Cape Wine Academy Certificate Course. With his studies complete, Raymond started lecturing at the Cape Wine Academy in 2004, and in 2007 completed the Cape Wine Academy Diploma Course. He opted to continue his studies and in 2012, received the Groenland Wines Award for the Top Viniculture Student. In 2017, he completed the Van Rijn’s Advanced Brandy Course, and received the Top Student Award again.
Throughout this time, Raymond remained actively involved in wine judging and education, having served on numerous local panels. We are honoured to have his expertise at the Michelangelo Awards!

Karin Visser

South Africa

Karin’s journey to wine was quite roundabout with a successful career established in the biokinetic medical world in the United Kingdom and South Africa. After experiencing many diverse wine countries abroad and studying further on her return to South Africa, she graduated from the Cape Wine Academy. In 2010 medicine’s loss was oenology’s gain when Karin and a partner opened ‘French Toast’, a wine and tapas bar, in the then burgeoning Bree Street. French Toast specialised in fine wines, many of them by the glass, and was soon established as THE place to meet and greet by the cognoscenti. After selling French Toast in 2013, Karin moved to Great Domaines, a fine wine importing company based in Johannesburg, where she was responsible for running the sales division in the Western Cape, looking after private and trade clients. As a logical progression of her ongoing wine journey, she qualified as a Winemaster in 2016.

Michelangelo Awards is privileged to welcome Karin to our judging panel in 2020.

Conrad Louw

South Africa

Conrad Louw is a Cape Wine Master, financial advisor and business coach who discovered his passion for wine while working in the pharmaceutical industry. It was during his business-related travels that his interest in oenology started to develop, due to the opportunities to taste wines from many different countries.

From here, Conrad enrolled himself in a basic course at the Cape Wine Academy to learn more about the winemaking process and completed his studies with a dissertation on the fortified wine styles of Sherry. Today, Conrad is still involved with the Academy as a lecturer, examiner, and mentor to several Cape Wine Master students. He has also been a judge on various South African panels, and we are thrilled to have his passion for fortified wine and Cabernet Sauvignon at this years’ Michelangelo Awards.

Boela Gerber

South Africa

Boela’s pedigree in wine is almost as impressive as the 330+ year provenance of the Groot Constantia Estate where he is the winemaker, with an impressive history of 14 harvests, and an awesome array of awards. After obtaining his BSc Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University in 1995, he joined mentor André van Rensburg at Stellenzicht in 1996. His profile took a quantum leap when he became cellar master for the 1998 harvest. His two years thereafter at Rickety Bridge as winemaker/vineyard manager further enhanced his hands-on knowledge and expertise.

In 2001, Boela was welcomed into the Groot Constantia family where he continued to shine when he won the 2002 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year Award. In his unceasing quest for improvement, he has worked harvests in France, Italy, Spain and the USA, with a recent sojourn at Bodega Baigorri in Rioja Alavesa. His philosophy of minimal interference has garnered many accolades and legions of admirers.

Boela joined the Cape Wine Academy as a student in 1998 and he started lecturing some three years later. He has been a member of the illustrious Cape Winemakers Guild since 2009. This year he graduated from the Institute of Cape Wine Masters.

Boela’s gravitas and history brings welcome additional prestige to the 2020 judges of the Michelangelo Wine Awards.

Lizette Tolken

South Africa

Lizette Tolken is a Cape Wine Master and Human Resource Manager at Boekenhoutskloof Winery in Stellenbosch. Her career in the world of wine began after spending 19 years in the legal profession, when she started at the Cape Wine Academy and completed her diploma in 2009. Her insight into wine continued to develop from there as a lecturer and examiner for various courses at the Academy, while also serving as a facilitator in Langa for the Department of Tourism’s Sommelier project.
Over the years, Lizette would refine her palette by completing the Van Ryn Advanced Brandy Course as well as the Master Court of Sommelier Introductory course in Austria. It was during this time that she visited several winemaking countries, with Portugal being her favourite wine destination and the Bordeaux red varietals being her most intriguing cultivars. After her travels, Lizette became the Southern Representative at the Institute of Cape Wine Masters and served as a member of the Education Committee. She is currently a mentor to four Cape Wine Master students.
Having judged on several local panels, we are excited to have Lizette join the Michelangelo Awards for the first time in 2020.