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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 (CWM) 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 works 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 has visited most major wine regions in the world, including Bordeaux, Cognac, Burgundy, Loire, Champagne, Rhone, and Alsace. She is a specialist in the wines of New Zealand and Australia, having been named an Australasian Wine Master in 2003. She has also ln South African wine at several universities in the United States, England and Australia.

Elsie has participated in various other international drinks competitions, including Mundus Vini and the Berliner Wein Trophy in Germany, the IWSC, Vinař Roku in Prague, the Prague Wine Trophy, Vino Llubljana in Slovenia and in Germany.

Wilhelm Pienaar

South Africa

Wilhelm Pienaar is chief 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.

Wilhelm is a regular judge at various competitions in South Africa, including Veritas, the Cape Blend tasting competition and the South African Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc competition. This is also his second year judging for the Michelangelo.

His 20-year career in the wine industry spans every aspect thereof, backed by his experience as 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, as well as that of chief winemaker for the production of red wines with Nederburg Wines in Paarl.

Ben Snyman

South Africa

Ben Snyman is chief 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.

Ben has completed wine courses at Stellenbosch University and Harvard Business School as well as a Diploma from the Cape Wine Academy.

Currently Ben also oversees the exports of Overhex wine to 47 countries each year and is responsible for the brand’s award-winning ‘Survivor’ range. He has also travelled abroad to develop an appreciation for international winemaking methods, which come in handy when judging various styles at wine competitions. This is also Ben’s second time judging for Michelangelo.

Anton Swarts

South Africa

Anton Swarts CWM has a career in the wine industry stretching back more than 20 years. He currently works at Spier Wines as senior winemaker and has earned a reputation as a respected wine taster. Having served on numerous local and international panels, he has completed the Van Ryn’s Advanced Brandy course while also currently studying at the Rioja Wine Academy in Spain.

In 2019, Anton was awarded the title of Best Wine Taster in South Africa at 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 serves on numerous wine judging panels and forms part of the Education Committee of the Institute of Cape Wine Masters.

Morgan Steyn

South Africa

Morgan Steyn works as assistant winemaker at De Grendel Wine Estate and is 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 wine judging panels, as we welcome Morgan to the Michelangelo panel for the second time this year.

Gregory Mutambe

South Africa

Gregory Mutambe has judged regularly for the Michelangelo since 2015, and joins us again this year. Greg first came into contact with the world of wine while he was working as a cellar-hand in his home country of Zimbabwe. As a result he “fell in love with wine and never looked back” and why he has become a qualified Cape Sommelier.

Gregory works as sommelier at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa. He has completed various courses in winemaking and wine evaluation at the University of Stellenbosch and was also part of the Wine Judging Academy at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

Raymond Noppé

South Africa

Raymond Noppé CWM joins the Michelangelo judging panel for the second time this year. He currently works in 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 worked in the tasting room at Villiera Wines in Stellenbosch for two years, where he also worked two harvests in their cellar and completed the Cape Wine Academy certificate course. In 2012 Raymond 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 wine judging panels. We are honoured to have his expertise at the Michelangelo Awards!

Karin Visser

South Africa

Karin Visser CWM started her journey to wine in quite a roundabout way. She had a successful, established career in the UK and South Africa, where she worked in the biokinetic medical world. 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 Breë Street in Cape Town.

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 and looking after private and trade clients.

As a logical progression of her ongoing wine journey, Karin qualified as a Winemaster in 2016. We welcome her for the second year to the Michelangelo judging panels.

Conrad Louw

South Africa

Conrad Louw CWM is a 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 served as a judge on various South African wine competition panels, and we welcome him for the second time to the Michelangelo panel.

Jacques Steyn

South Africa

Jacques Steyn CWM joined Jordan Wine Estate in 2014 as national sales manager. In 2016 he was appointed general manager and also offered a directorship.

Jacques started his journey in the wine industry in 2009 when he joined Lourensford and worked his first harvest as cellar-hand. After a stint as sommelier at Singita Safari Lodge, Delaire-Graff Estate and Equus Collection, Jacques joined Jordan Wine Estate in 2014.

In 2012 he passed his WSET Level 3 exam with distinction and in 2016 completed his CWM thesis with the title Biodynamic Viticulture in South Africa – Nature’s Way or Pseudoscience? In the same year Jacques was also named the Institute of Cape Wine Masters’ Best Sparkling Wine Student.

Jacques is a regular judge on local wine competitions, including Veritas, the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, the Young Wine Show and the FNB Top 10 Sauvignon Blanc Competition.

Johan Venter

South Africa

Johan Venter joined Distillers Corporation in 1990 and was appointed director of Primary Production in 2009. His responsibilities included overseeing the distillation, maturation, production and blending of wines, ciders and distilled spirits products. At the time of his retirement, Johan was head of Distell’s Centre of Excellence: Intrinsic.

As Master Crafter this includes ensuring that all Distell’s product’s intrinsic quality is of a Global standard. Johan and his team have also been the recipients over the last years of multiple World Wide International Prizes and Awards, for Distell’s top notch products.

Johan is currently also chair judge at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, and we welcome him to the 2021 Michelangelo judging panel!

Mary-Lou Nash

South Africa

Mary-Lou Nash CWM is the co-owner, winemaker and viticulturist at Black Pearl Wines.

She obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree (summa cum laude), with a major in anthropology from the University of New Hampshire in 1989, and then taught English in Japan for two years followed by two years travelling in Asia before settling in Paarl.

Teaching herself entirely, she planted 4, 5 hectares of Shiraz in 1997 and three hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon in 1998 and established her family-run boutique cellar in 2001. Mary-Lou completed her first brandy course in 1998, followed by a with the Cape Wine Academy diploma in 1999. In 2006 she received her wine evaluation certificate from Stellenbosch University followed by top marks in the Advanced Brandy Course at Van Ryn’s.

In 2011 Mary-Lou was also the 2011 winner of the Van Ryn’s Award for Brandy Excellence, achieving the highest score in the section of the Cape Wine Masters’ examination, devoted to brandy.

Fiona McDonald

South Africa

Fiona McDonald currently works as a freelance writer in the wine industry, editing Cheers magazine for TOPS at SPAR and serving as regional chairman of the South African panel at the Decanter World Wine Awards in London.

Fiona has also judged extensively at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, International Wine Challenge and Concours Mondial for many years. Her tastebuds and knowledge are also hired out to the annual Platter Guide for which she tastes and writes.

Fiona was originially trained as a news journalist, working as a wine columnist, editor and newspaper designer before being headhunted to take over WINE magazine. Here she juggled deadlines, chased writers, cracked the whip over designers, made budgets stretch and tap danced through management meetings while simultaneously dreaming up story ideas and chronicling the changing face of South African wine. Eight years at the helm provided her with broad knowledge and unique insight into the profound changes and growth within the local wine industry.

François Cillié

South Africa

François Cillié CWM works as International Marketing Manager for Stark-Condé & Man Family Wines. He has worked extensively in sales and marketing on all continents in both the retail and corporate sectors.

François started his career in the wine industry as manager for Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar from 2002 to 2004. This was followed by an eight-year spell from 2004 until 2011 in marketing and sales for Fairview and Citrusdal Wines.

His later career history includes being instrumental in putting Red Espresso – a strong, espresso style rooibos tea to a patented grind on the world beverage map. His involvement and interest in the qualities and benefits of rooibos tea, resulted in François’ Cape Wine Master dissertation: “Alternative anti-oxidants and preservatives in wine: the viability of Rooibos and Honeybush wood”.

His dissertation discussed the viability of the use of the wood from the indigenous Rooibos (Aspalathus linearus) and Honeybush (Cyclopia genistoides) as an alternative to sulphur for their proven natural anti-oxidative and preservative qualities in wine.

Boela Gerber

South Africa

Boela Gerber CWM joined Groot Constantia as winemaker in 2001. With 15 harvests behind him, Boela’s career at the iconic 330+ wine estate has brought him 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. His career 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, before accepting his current position.
In 2002 Boela was awarded the 2002 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year Award. In his unceasing quest for growth and 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 with the vine and the wine has resulted in a great many accolades.

Boela has been a member of the illustrious Cape Winemakers Guild since 2009. In 2020 he graduated from the Institute of Cape Wine Masters with a dissertation on Understanding Brettanomyces for Improved Management in the Cellar.

We look forward to welcoming Boela to the Michelangelo judging panel for the second time this year.

Lizette Tolken

South Africa

Lizette Tolken CWM works as Human Resource Manager at Boekenhoutskloof Winery in Stellenbosch. She joins the Michelangelo judging panel this year for the second time.
Lizette started her career in the world of wine in 2005 when she enrolled for the Preliminary course at the Cape Wine Academy. She subsequently completed her diploma and finally her thesis on Cabernet Franc in 2012.

Lizette is an admitted attorney, notary and conveyancer of the High Court of South Africa and practised law for 20 years. She also practises as a debt counsellor and acts as Commissioner of the Small Claims Court in Stellenbosch. She also lectures and marks assignments for the Cape Wine Academy.

Over the years, Lizette has refined her palette by completing the Van Ryn Advanced Brandy Course as well as the Master Court of Sommelier Introductory course in Austria.

Heidi Duminy

South Africa

Heidi Duminy CWM this year joins Michelangelo where she will be chairing the MCC and sparkling wine panel.

In 2020 Heidi was appointed principal of the Cape Wine Academy. She is a wine marketing and communications specialist recognised for her particular expertise in Cap Classique and Champagne. Her passion for wine is infectious and she shares her knowledge and experience by writing, teaching and presenting wine lectures and tasting experiences as head of South Africa’s most established and recognised wine school.

Heidi was previously Group Marketing Manager for Meridian Wine Merchants, Global Communications Manager for DGB, Brand Manager for Veuve Clicquot and Krug and Trade Marketing Manager of the LVMH portfolio of Champagnes and spirits in South Africa.

Heidi is an experienced judge for Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, is the panel chair for the Amorim Cap Classique Challenge, has judged for Diners Club Winemaker of the Year 2020 and has assessed sparkling wine for the Veritas Awards since 2010.

Janno Briers-Louw

South Africa

Janno Briers-Louw CWM started his journey in the wine industry in 2003 when he completed the Cape Wine Academy Certificate course. During the following three years he worked as a farm hand in South Africa and gained some valuable experience working in the Rosenblum wine cellar in California.

Janno obtained his BA Agriculture (Cellar Management) in 2007 from the University of Stellenbosch, which was followed by gaining first hand experience in winemaking at Spice Route and Perdeberg Wines.

In 2010 Janno was appointed winemaker at Eenzaamheid Wines and managing director/winemaker two years later. He completed the requirements for the title of Cape Wine Master in 2016 when he was also the recipient of the La Motte Award for Viticulture Excellence.

Since 2016 Janno has been judging on the panels of numerous local wine competitions, including Veritas, The Young Wine Show and the Shiraz Challenge.

Johann Fourie

South Africa

Johann Fourie is chief winemaker at Benguela Cove Wine Estate in Walker Bay, South Africa and Mannings Heath Golf Club & Wine Estate situated in Horsham, West Sussex, England where the focus is the production of patrician sparkling wine.

He was introduced to the world of wine as a student during his studies at Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch. Johann’s winemaking talent has been awarded numerous times, including the South African Wine Index (SAWi) award for Winemaker of the Year in 2012, the South African Young Wine Show Genl Smuts Wine of the Year Trophy and the Pietman Hugo Trophy for Most Succesfull Winery on Show in 2015.

In 2015 Johann was also named Diners Club Winemaker of the Year.

Johann holds a diploma in Oenology and Cellar Technology at Elsenburg Agricultural College and a degree in Agriculture from CPUT. He also obtained a certificate in Wine Business Management from the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business and completed a course in Wine Business Management and Leadership Development at the University of Adelaide in Melbourne, Australia.

Johann has also served on the panel of the International Wine Challenge (IWC) as well as Veritas, South African Young Wine Show, and the ABSA Pinotage Top 10.

Sandy Harper

South Africa

Sandy Harper CWM holds a Master’s Degree in Home Economics with majors in Food Science and Air Transport Economics from Stellenbosch University.

Sandy’s business career was in corporate advertising, after which she embarked on her own business, Mills Creative. Sandy manages the Old Mutual Executive Wine Club which she started in 2001. In 2003 she was a recipient of the La Motte Award for Excellence in Viticulture and ten years later (2013) she received the ‘Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne’. The next year Sandy was inducted into the ‘Grand Conceil du Vin de Bordeaux’.

Sandy has been judging for Michelangelo since 2019 and is a judge for the (IWSC) International Wine and Spirits Competition both locally and in London. She lectures at the Cape Wine Academy and is one of three travelling judges for the National Distell Inter Hotel Challenge since 2015.

Germain Lehodey

South Africa

Germain Lehodey, another Michelangelo regular, began his career in France as sommelier of the world-famous Tour D’Argent in Paris. Here he oversaw the three-star Michelin establishment’s wine cellar comprising 500 000 bottles. After a stint at the Le Richemond Hotel in Geneva, Germain moved to South Africa where he was food and beverage manager at the Arcadia Hotel in Pretoria, immediately making his mark on the local wine scene with his French flair, knowledge, experience and attention to detail.

During his career he has worked in retail, educated students at the Wits Hotel School in Johannesburg and overseen the beverage division of Mosaic, one of the finest restaurants and wine cellars in South Africa. Currently Germain is sommelier for DGB, a leading wine and spirits company where he is involved with training, curating wine lists and conducting wine tastings locally and in the French Islands in the Indian Ocean.

Germain’s depth of knowledge, extraordinary palate and assertive manner of making his views known have made him a popular part of the Michelangelo judging process over the past few years. If you don’t see him, you’ll hear him!

Nina-Mari Bruwer

South Africa

Nina-Mari Bruwer CMW is ambitious and dynamic, which shows in the fact that she graduated In 2014 as one of the Cape Wine Academy’s youngest ever graduates. Nina-Mari was awarded the Van Ryn’s Brandy award for the highest marks achieved for her CWM dissertation, which carries the title Perceptions in Wine.

After studying Viticulture & Oenology at Stellenbosch University, she joined Boekenhoutskloof as assistant winemaker and also worked a harvest in France. In 2008 she moved to Robertson where she joined Mont Blois Wine Estate.

In 2017 Nina-Mari assisted in relaunching the Mont Blois Wine Estate brand after a dormant bottling period of 26 years. She helped to expand the range to nine single-vineyard, site specific artisanal wines. Nina-Mari was instrumental in reviving and elevating the reputation of the farm as one of the top wine farms in South Africa.

In 2021 she founded a consultancy company offering wine education, tastings, team building and wine lists as well as bespoke cellar curation for private clients.

Nina-Mari judges on various South African wine competition panels including Veritas, the SA Muskadel Awards and SAA Wine Listing Awards, and we welcome her to the 2021 Michelangelo panel!