The announcement was made last night (January 18) at the WSET awards night at the Guildhall in London.
Powell opened his first wine school in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 2000. Eight years later he sold his first franchise for another school in Birmingham, the concept being ‘wine tasting for everyone’. There are now 23 schools providing WSET courses, levels one to three across the country. In the year 2014/15, the network posted +40% growth.
WSET chief executive Ian Harris praised Powell’s commitment and dynamism in starting up the Local Wine School network and drive it forward.
The judges were unanimous in selecting Powell as the winner. His written submission was the strongest and it was enhanced and strengthened by his video and his live representation via Skype.
The other seven contenders for the award were: Enotria (UK), Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines (UK), Peter Morris (UK-Northern Ireland), Académie du Vin (Switzerland), WineWise (Belgium), Fine Vintage (Canada) and Constellation Brands (US).
The judges were: wine consultant Richard Bampfield MW, Laura Jewell head of Wine Australia in the UK, Matt Knight from sponsors Riedel and Drinks International’s editor, Christian Davis.
More than 500 WSET Diploma graduates, industry leaders, scholarship winners and their guests gathered at Guildhall, in the City of London, to celebrate the achievements of the Wine WSET candidates for the past academic year 2014/15.
Hosted by WSET honorary president Gerard Basset MW and WSET chief executive Ian Harris, 47 awards and prizes were presented to top performing WSET candidates. 124 of the year’s 316 Diploma graduates were also in attendance for the annual graduate procession.
Graduates and award winners came from the UK, the Netherlands, Greece, Russia, the US, Canada, Hong Kong, China and Japan.
Also in attendance to mark the occasion were industry heavyweights and long-standing WSET supporters, including, Jancis Robinson MW, Laura Jewell MW, Tony Laithwaite, and Michael Degan and Marius Berlemann fromProWein.
Award and graduation highlights:
- Vintners’ Cup – Jingwei Sun. Awarded to the student who achieved the highest aggregate mark across all units of the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits.
- WSET Educator of the Year – Chris Powell (see above).
- WSET Lifetime Achievement Award – Richard Paterson, master blender at Whyte & Mackay
- The inaugural IWC Sake Level Three Award – Adam Bekhor of WineWire. Awarded to the top student passing the WSET Level 3 Award in Sake.
- At 73 years of age, Sotiris Kollias from Greece became one of the oldest individuals to gain the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines and Spirits.
- 47 scholarship winners and 124 Diploma graduates were in attendance.
2014/15 academic year numbers:
- 61,452 candidates sat WSET exams
- 316 individuals gained their WSET Level 4 Diploma.