The Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards has a reputation for judging panels being dominated by wine and spirits experts from around the world. A few selected local adjudicators join the selection process each year. All are South African-based leaders in their fields and international wine and spirits personalities in their own right.
Not only do they add a bit of South African flair to the judicious taste-buds, but also acts as fonts of insight and wisdom on the local industry for our international judges to tap into.
Every year one South African judge is selected to sit on each jury, and to this end six local wine and spirits professionals once more join the 2019 team. They are Dr Winnie Bowman, Germain Lehodey, newcomer Sandy Harper and Miguel Chan, joined again by Tinashe Nyamudoka and Gregory Mutambe.
Winnie Bowman is a well-known wine writer, judge and educator who is as knowledgeable on spirits as she is on wine. A Cape Wine Master, she is also a biomedical scientist with a PhD in Education. This, despite spending nearly every day of the year in and around the local and international wine industries as writer and judge at the International Wine & Spirits Challenge in London or the Concourse Mondial in Brussels.
As chair of the spirits panel, Winnie has been a regular at the Michelangelo Wine & Spirits Awards since 2015. Winnie excels as an ambassador for South African brandy, something she is most passionate about.
Adding to her international status as a wine expert is her position as head of the Commanderie de Bordeaux in South Africa, the local chapter of this prestigious organisation based in St Emilion and committed to promoting the culture and prestige of Bordeaux’s wines.
Germain Lehodey, another Michelangelo regular, began his career in France as sommelier of the world-famous Tour D’Argent in Paris, one of the finest and most reputable restaurants in the world. 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!
Miguel Chan is one of the most important wine personalities on the southern African hotel scene. As Group Sommelier for the Tsogo Sun Hotels group, which is one of Michelangelo’s headline sponsors, Miguel is responsible for selecting the wines in Tsogo Sun Hotels’ portfolio of 13 casinos, more than 300 restaurants and bars and some 250 conference and banqueting facilities, located across six provinces in South Africa, as well as over 100 hotels in South Africa, Africa, the Seychelles and the Middle East.
Hailing from Mauritius, Miguel’s palate has been honed by years of experience in the hospitality industry and judging on many wine competitions including the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Trophy Competition. He is one of a few persons working in South Africa to have been certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers in London and is recognised as a trailblazer and consistent pioneer in the hospitality and wine industries. His all-round knowledge of the technical aspects of wine, new wine styles and the tastes of the modern consumer make him an invaluable complement to the Michelangelo judging panel.
Sandy Harper will be judging her first Michelangelo International Wine & Spirits Awards this year, and along with Winnie is one of two Cape Wine Masters on panel-duty. (Christine Rudman, our technical director, is the third.)
Sandy also holds a Master’s Degree in Home Economics with majors in Food Science and Air Transport Economics from Stellenbosch University. Obsessed with wine since her days as a student, Sandy today manages the Old Mutual Executive Wine Club which she started in 2001. This is one of the most exclusive wine clubs in the country, each month bringing together some of South Africa‘s leading wine producers and the members of the Old Mutual Wine Club in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
This position is quite apt as the subject of Sandy‘s Cape Wine Master’s thesis was the phenomenon of Wine Clubs. During her studies at the Cape Wine Academy she won the La Motte Award for Excellence in Viticulture. In 2013 she received the ‘Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne’ and in 2014 she was inducted into the ‘Grand Conceil du Vin de Bordeaux’.
Her judging experience includes the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London and her further commitment to the love of wine is underscored by her stints as lecturer at the Cape Wine Academy.
Born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe, Tinashe Nyamudoka moved to Cape Town in early 2008 with no clue about wine nor its styles and colour. Today he is one of the country’s most prominent sommeliers, fronting drinks offerings at the world-renowned Test Kitchen Restaurant in Cape Town.
To further his knowledge after setting out on a wine career, Tinashe enrolled with the Cape Wine Academy in 2010 where he successfully completed his South African Wine and Certificate Wine courses and in 2013 his Wines of the World and Wine & Food courses.
The Cape Legends Inter Hotel Challenge, launched in 2013, which seeks to promote growth in the hospitality industry, was again the right event in Tinashe’s promising career and he was the chosen candidate from the One & Only Hotel, where he was working at the time. And Tinashe walked off with the winning Wine Steward title in 2013.
“It is a competition that allowed me to showcase what I had learned throughout the years, it was more of a confidence booster which in the end saw me being the winner of the Wine Steward category. Ever since I won, it has been a life changing experience, recognition and exposure has been coming. Promotion or opportunities may or may not come but the experience and achievement in the competition is priceless,” he says.
As a wine judge, Tinashe is a member of Team Zimbabwe which participated in the World Blind Wine Tasting Championships in 2017 and again in 2018.
Also hailing from Zimbabwe, Gregory Mutambe first came into contact with the world of wine while he was working as a cellar-hand in his home country. This is also how he “fell in love with wine and never looked back”. Although he admits to the fact that he loves numbers and could have become an accountant like his dad; he chose to follow his heart and that’s why he’s now a Qualified Cape Sommelier!
Gregory is currently a sommelier at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa. He studied Garagiste winemaking and wine evaluation with the University of Stellenbosch and was also part of the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, Wine Judging Academy.
Gregory believes that 'a love for fine wine and food' are all it takes to be a great sommelier! “Being a somm is not merely a profession but a lifestyle so you need to live, eat, drink, and study wine.”
Gregory believes that the augmentation of the sommelier coterie in the South Africa has been great for wine producers as well as for consumers. “There’s better wine awareness across races and cultures in our rainbow nation.”
Gregory has a wealth of judging experience. “I have been on a lot of top judging panels, plus as a somm, I am exposed to a plethora of wines.”