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Meet the Class of 2024

Updated: Jun 17

'As summer arrives, we turn our attention to this years course, which starts on June 9th, where we have 16 fantastic Candidates, from around the UK and Ireland, with a variety of backgrounds and roles and I cant wait to join them on this once in a lifetime experience!'

Nick Bromhead, Chairman

Sinead Germaine Smyth

Wine Consultant


Your Career So Far?

I'm a freelance consultant working with wine importers & distributors on consumer & trade events, staff training, creating wine lists. Chairperson of Wine Spirit Women curating our yearly program including masterclasses, tastings, educational sessions and networking opportunities.

Recently I arranged a Champagne masterclass for our members, and in my social wine tasting club. Additionally I secured two scholarships for our members to sit their WSET

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne?

"I have many special memories, some being yearly trips to West Cork with my Ma, visiting our favourite restaurants & taking a bottle of Champagne with us to enjoy before dinner, or during the first Covid lockdown, when everything felt never ending our weekly treat of Champagne & fries brought some excitement to a strange time.

My most recent memory was deciding to host the first Wine Spirit Women masterclass with a Champagne theme. We tasted 11 wines, exploring different blends & producers "

John Robert Crozier

Operations Manager - Heritage Portfolio

Your Career So Far?

I work with Heritage Portfolio based in Edinburgh. A catering company specialising in creating dining experience focusing on food and drink. My role is working at two of our iconic venues being Musselburgh and Perth Racecourse as the operations manager. Some of the venues I’m proud to work in are Royal Holyrood Palace, Signet Library & Royal Botanics Gardens, The Superbox at Hampden Park. During the summer I work at Royal Ascot with the Royal Enclosure where we operate 3 restaurants

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

Tasting session with Vranken Pommery of Cuvee Louise from 5 different vintages was very special. In 2023 I was honoured to go to the Champagne Pommery Domaine in Reims and be one of the first customers to try the new release of Pommery Brut 150th BdB to celebrate 150 years of the creation of brut champagne by Madame Pommery with Clement Piere the chef de cave himself.

Attending the Champagne Academy Scotland Dinner in 2022 in Scotland and trying Taittinger Comte 2007 was amazing and attending my first Alternative Tasting in London with the Champagne Academy in 2023.

Rachael Elizabeth Machin

Wine and Gifting Buyer - E H Booths

Your Career So Far?

I am the wine buyer for Booths Supermarkets. I have responsibility for the range selection, pricing, promotions and marketing for all wine products in Booths stores, and online. My areas include Champagne and Sparkling, Red, White and Rose wines, No and Low and Fortified wines.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne?

As a child I holidayed in Germany and travelled by car through France. On our way home we passed through Reims and visited the Moet and Chandon caves, which was a wonderful experience and one that I have never forgotten over 25 years later. I would value the opportunity to see the rest of the top Champagne houses and meet the current families running the brands.

Callum Michael McCann

Head Sommelier - Number One at The Balmoral

Your Career So Far?

Head Sommelier for Number One at The Balmoral, curating a bespoke cellar displaying our list of 350+ wines, with bottles from more than 16 countries, the finest vintages to current releases and serving 30+ wines by the glass (using Coravin and Verre de Vin).

Leading the wine service, maintaining and further developing the extensive wine and bar list. Providing an unparalleled experience for our guests and diners, and supporting the wider team.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

There are 3 moments which stand out, two of which are Grand Marques.

On the day that my wife and I had our first kiss, on hir birthday I had wanted to impress and as such purchased 4 bottles of Veuve Cliquot, which now had a special place for us.

And upon buying my house recently, I was gifted a bottle of Dom Perignon 1964, after speaking to the brand ambassador, he gifted a bottle of 2012 in case it was OOC, which it was. Though the '64 was still incredibly special even OOC.

Seoridh Ian Fraser

Beverage Director - Heron

Your Career So Far?

I am the Beverage Manager for a small 1 star restaurant in Edinburgh, where I maintain responsibility for all things beverage: cocktail design and the bar programme, staff training and development, purchasing, pairings and the management of the wine programme

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

This is hard. The one I find myself talking about most is Lanson Extra Age Brut with steak at a restaurant called The Champany Inn near my home town of Linlithgow. The combination of the maillard reaction on the steak and the caramelised character of autolysis writ so profoundly upon the wine was near perfect harmony, which served to lift the fine red fruit of the wine out of the back ground and put them very much in the middle of the palate. An ideal match to well cooked sirloin. Unforgettable.

Oliver Vesterman Espersen

Wine Director - 1 Hotel Mayfair

Your Career So Far?

I am currently employed as Wine Director for the newly opened 1 Hotel Mayfair. I had the incredible opportunity to build the wine program for the hotel and hire our wonderful sommelier team and now overlook the wine department for the F&B. The role is an incredible platform to highlight small producers and sustainable wine growers that connect with our brand ethos. The 1 Hotel wine list has a core focus in Champagne celebrating growers and house producers along side a rich selection from the US.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

One of my ultimate champagne experiences was a New Years industry party where I finish a new years eve shift at the Corinthia hotel and somehow we made our way to Sager & Wilde wine bar in Hackney and had the most incredible assortment of magnums, wines with age, growers, house champagnes and so many different styles all Sabered and consumed with great friends.

Vanessa Ann Pearson

Trading Manager BWS

Ocado Retail

Your Career So Far?

My current role is Trading Manager of Beers, Wines and Spirits category at Ocado Retail. Within this the Champagne department sits within my remit which I also previously bought during my first year at Ocado. I am responsible for the commercial performance and strategy of the area and the role that individual categories can have within this. I work closely with marketing, onsite merchandising and PR to promote the category to our customers

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

I feel very fortunate that I have been able to visit the region a number of times and in early 2020 was able to spend 3 months in Reims exploring the area. My stand out memory from my visits is the Vin Clair tasting at Bollinger where we were able to stand in the pre-phylloxera vineyard and also taste the vin clair wines, followed up with a dinner at Madame Bollinger house, my first tasting of RD 2012- all in all an unforgettable day!

Marius Valentin Plesa

Head Sommelier

The Waterside Inn

Your Career So Far?

Currently I’m the Head Sommelier of Waterside Inn I have been working for nearly 15 years in hospitality industry since I was in high school, something that was a summer job at the beginning has transformed into a fantastic career. The focus on wine trade have started 8 years ago when I meet my first wine mentor, Ovidiu Olteanu , he introduced me to this fascinated world and since then I worked in the best restaurants with the most fine wines and champagne possible.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

The most magical moment with a champagne is 7 years ago back in Romania, I was working as commis sommelier for one of the best restaurant with a very impressive wine list. That day we was celebrating becoming the first restaurant listed in Relais & Chateaux, the owner has decided to open a bottle of Dom Perignon Rose 1996, I found it being the most subtle champagne I ever drinking before with notes of dry rose petals and iodine touch.

Katherine Welby Fisher

Wine Buyer

Goedhuis Waddesdon

Your Career So Far?

I am a buyer at Goedhuis, a fine wine merchant that sells to private clients. I look after Champagne, Italy, Rhône, Germany, Loire and USA, as well as our portfolio of ‘drinking wines’. I pride myself on forming strong working relationships with our growers and suppliers, supporting them as much as they support us and sourcing delicious, commercially valuable wines that our clients will love. I also write the core content for campaigns and offers as well as for the website/social media.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

The first time I had Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne is my most magical moment & it is my desert island bottle. It was the 2004, which remains one of my favourite vintages, it is criminally underrated. I can still remember the almost unreal sense of purity, laciness & linearity in this BdB. It also was the first time I ever 'tasted terroir': the chalky, powdery minerals on the palate blew my mind! It remains my favourite Champagne and puts a smile on my face whenever I recall tasting it

Jan Van Heesvelde

Head Sommelier

The Ledbury

Your Career So Far?

I am the Head Sommelier for the Ledbury restaurant. We are a two Michelin starred in Notting Hill. My role allows me to be in charge of purchasing, maintenance of list, service and staff training. Our current selection is about 800 references with a strong focus on both grower as Grandes Marques champagne. Our wine program allows us to keep wines back, in order for them to age and have a greater potential. Which is really interesting especially with champagnes.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

There were and will be so many moments. One more recent was a bottle of 1979 Krug, which was served to us. It was just magical the bottle was in pristine condition, it still had some bubbles, with a great finish. The ones I sort of cherish the most are where our customers bring in NV Champagnes with bases from the 80-90s. They are absolutely amazing and it shows how great champagne is.

Natalja Senina

Head Sommelier

Chewton Glen Hotel

Your Career So Far?

At the moment, I am preparing to take the position of the Head Sommelier in the company and I am undergoing training and developing in the directions of both the inspirer and coach of the sommelier team, and how to successfully develop a business in the wine department.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

When I began to study about Champagne more deeply, I realised that every time it is a magical moment ,when I taste wine or visit the region or just read a historical book.

And the most magical moment for me is when I discovered that champagne can amaze me endlessly.

Rudina Arapi

Head Sommelier/Hilton WSET Educator - London Hilton On Park Lane

Your Career So Far?

I started studying wine back in Florence in 2007 with Italian Associations of Sommelier, the equivalent school as WSET.

After successfully passing the Exams I worked for 5 years as Sommelier in a Michelin stared Restaurant in Emilia-Romagna that had over 2200 references of wine. My passion for wine grew massively and never stopped.


In 2012 I moved to London and stated to work at Michelin Stared Restaurant Galvin At Windows as Sommelier then promoted to Assistant Head Sommelier and in 2016 Head Sommelier and Hilton WSET Wine Educator in 2021.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

There have been many magical moments Champagne, the list would be extensive. However one of the most unique was when a guest ordered a bottle of Krug vintage 1982 of his birth year and offered me a glass. I had never tried something with such complexity of flavours, length and elegance. Impressed with me forever.

Maria Boumpa

Head Sommelier / Wine Buyer - Da Terra Restaurant

Sevgi Tuzel-Conghaile

Wine Consultant /Educator - A WINE IDEA

Your Career So Far?

Sevgi, who is an Oenologist & Viticulturist, has dedicated her life to wine and has spent time as a winemaker, wine scholar, wine educator and wine consultant. Sevgi is the founder of A WINE IDEA which is a Dublin based wine-centric business that specialises in wine tasting events, brand collaborations and education. Sevgi is a certified Sherry Educator, certified Cava Educator, certified Spanish Wine Educator and also has qualifications in Champagne, Port, Rioja and California. Sevgi’s passion for wine began while she was studying Food Engineering in one of the wine-producing regions of her native Turkey. Following her graduation, she chased her dreams and started to work as a winemaker in her home country. Sevgi obtained her MSc in Oenology & Viticulture from the most prestigious universities in the world in the field of wine, Montpellier SupAgro and Bordeaux Sciences Agro in France and Hochschule Geisenheim University in Germany. She later joined the team in Heymann-Löwenstein in Mosel in Germany. She also teaches a wine appreciation course at Griffith College in Dublin. She was included on the 50 People to Watch by The Irish Times in 2023. Sevgi has recently been shortlisted by the IWSC for the Emerging Talent in Wine Communication 2024 award.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

One of my most memorable Champagne moments occurred during the 2023 harvest in Champagne, where I worked the full harvest. After long hours in the vineyard, we would return to the winery, and the best moment was hearing the sound of a bell, accompanied by a hearty shout of "Apéro!" We'd gather together to enjoy some Champagne, which always felt like a magical moment.

Thomas Joseph Husted

Hotel Manager - Dakota Hotels

Your Career So Far?

Worked in hospitality from the age of 16, started as a KP and chef in local al a carte restaurant and bistro pub.

Went to uni and studied international hospitality buisness management worked as a fishmonger and agency chef throughout uni.

Then 5 years at the Belfry Hotel and resort, started as breakfast supervisor progressed to Restaurant manager. Went to Holbeck ghyll in the lakes for a year as RM of 3 rosette Restaurant. Opened Dakota Manchetser in May 2019 as bar and grill manager and now Hotel Manager.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

First visit to Champagne to the cellars of Laurent Perrier was a superb experience, couldn't believe the scale of it

Louis Lees-Jones

Opening Manager - JW Lees

Your Career So Far?

At JW Lees, we are active in beer brewing, distribution, hospitality (hotels, restaurants and premium pubs), and as a wine & spirit merchant. My role as Openings Manager is a key part of our hospitality division where I'm responsible for launching refurbished and acquired sites into trading. Recruitment and training are central to this process. As such, I am proud to champion our beverage offering – especially when it comes to Champagne, imparting my passion to our team throughout the business.

What would you consider is your most magical moment or memory with Champagne ?

When the Covid pandemic broke out, I had just passed my probation as Reception Supervisor at The Four Seasons Kyoto. There was no chance to secure a hospitality job back home and no re-entry to Japan even if I went to visit. So when I finally returned in January 2021, it was after 16 consecutive months away. With this context, I hope the reader can appreciate the weight that this family reunion had – and the unparalleled bliss that we felt in sharing that first bottle of Champagne together.

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