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Meet the Class of 2023

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

As summer arrives, we turn our attention to this years course, which starts on June 11th, 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!

Paul Walker, Chairman

Luma Monteiro

Luma Monteiro is a wine judge, buyer, and wine communicator.

Recently she won 2023 IWSC Emerging Talent Wine Communicator and was listed as top 100 most influential people in drinks by Drinks Retailing.

After ten years of working in a multinational mining company as a senior buyer, she moved to the UK in 2016 to work exclusively with wine. She has varied experiences in the wine


Currently, Luma is working as Marketing Manager and helping with buying at Davy’s Wine Merchants and has finished her studies for her WSET Diploma. She also runs @wineriaofficial, one of the UK’s most successful wine accounts on Instagram.

Her Judging experience includes Decanter, IWSC, CMB and Mundus Vini

Steffan Griffiths

I currently work as the Business Development Manager at Lay & Wheeler, a historic wine merchant dating back to 1854. My first role in the wine trade was at similarly established merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd, before several years as the Brand Ambassador for Nyetimber, so it’s fair to say traditional method sparkling wines have always been a passion of mine.

Throughout my career I have hosted countless tastings and events for people at all levels of wine knowledge – from wine trade professionals to amateurs thirsty for more knowledge (and usually more wine…). There’s little that excites me more than being in the room when someone discovers their new favourite wine, and so I’m always seeking to educate and entertain about our wonderful trade, as well as continue my own learning, and I’m currently a student on the Master of Wine programme.

With over a decade in the wine trade under my belt there are too many memorable Champagne moments to count, but I’ve been lucky enough to taste a number of wonderful examples from my birth vintage of 1990, including a recent bottle of Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill which was full of youthful exuberance. But maybe I’m biased…

Sam Lawton

I joined the Molson Coors Beverage company in 2016 in trade marketing, promoting our award-winning wine range. From here I have moved my way through the WSET courses up to level 3 and looking forward to starting the diploma in the future. I am currently the Premium Key Account Manager for the midlands, looking after all things high end or influential for the Molson Coors portfolio in the regional On-Trade.

My favourite champagne memory is from the night my partner Bethany and I got the keys to our first home, we sat on the floor of our new living room (not having sorted furniture out yet) eating fish & chips out of the paper and drinking Bollinger out of coffee mugs (we had no idea which box the glasses were in), there was something so perfect about that moment that I can’t help but smile when someone pops a cork.

Being one of the few wine specialists at a huge beer focused company, it is a real pleasure getting brewers and beer nerds to try wines they wouldn’t usually order and seeing their dawning realisation that they have been missing out all this time. I cannot wait to get over to Champagne and learn as much as I can from the real experts.

Rosie Williams

I am currently the Champagne & Sparkling Wine buyer at Sainsbury's and have been in this role for the past 2.5 years - it's definitely one of the best jobs out there and it has always been my dream to work in Champagne as it is a huge passion of mine.

My first memory of Champagne was a trip to Reims but I was only 6 so had to watch instead of joining in. I am looking forward to doing the latter at the Champagne Academy!

Paul Richards Head Buyer 67 Pall Mall. Part of the original opening team here in London and have been involved in the club’s development and evolution through the challenges of last few years. The Club is unique in it’s offering to wine lovers from across the globe offering more than 5000 wines and 800 by the glass. Champagne is a member favourite, and the offering is a broad church to suit the varying pallets and quenching their thirst.

There have been numerous memorable moments with Champagne in my professional and personal life. Professionally I would say one that stands out in recent time has to be standing in the cellars of Dom Perignon tasting a freshly disgorged bottle of 2004 P2 with Vincent Chaperon and one of his cellar team who disgorged the bottle a la volée. A very special visit.

Gosia Pajak

I have nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry. For the last 6 years I have been an assistant manager and sommelier at the champagne and oyster restaurant The Ship on the Shore in Edinburgh. Here we are proud to sell fresh Scottish seafood and it’s my job to tailor the wine and champagne menu to compliment this.

I grew up where vodka is the drink of the choice, not champagne! I was still a student in Warsaw when I served my first bottle of champagne, and it was then that I was treated to my first taste of the magical drink - Dom Perignon.

I achieved my WSET level 3 in 2019 and my next step will be to complete my level 4 Diploma.

When I’m not drinking champagne, you can find me either in the gym or cycling my bicycle on the promenade at the beach.

Ally Mawson

I am the Champagne and Sparkling Buyer for Waitrose, responsible for the range and commercial delivery of what is a vital category with a hefty over-trade. I have been with Waitrose for 8 years and prior to that lived and worked in Sydney, Australia, for Cellarmasters & Langtons. It was in my early career at Laithwaites working in the sales team that I first tasted Dom Perignon and it has since seen me through some special life moments: my wedding, house moves and the birth of my children. During covid I instilled 'Fizz Fridays' at home, it was definitely the highlight of my week during an otherwise bleak time. I judge for Decanter & IWC and have just been named 68/Top 100 most influential in Drinks Retailing. I adore Champagne, marvel at the wide stylistic differences that can be found, and just can't wait to learn more in June with a great bunch of like-minded fans!

Ashley Clarke

I have been in the industry for 13 years having ‘fallen’ into the trade by coincidence rather than design. My background education is in business & finance however, my passion for wine steadily outgrew this. I have worked for Amps Wine Merchants of Oundle for 8 years now. It has been an ‘Aladdins Cave’ of experience working for a family run operation; working my way up to Wine Buyer, WSET Educator, and completing my WSET Diploma in 2017.

I have always been interested in the rich history of Champagne, it is also one of my favourite styles of wine and undoubtedly the best sparkling wine in the world. A memorable moment I have with Champagne is moving into my first house and enjoying a bottle of 2002 Pommery Cuvee Louise. My most recent and treasured moment I have was when I made a toast to my wife on our wedding day in May 2023 with a glass of Louis Roederer Collection 241 served from Magnum.

Saying I’m excited for the course is an understatement and it’s an absolute privilege to be involved.

Matthew Whitten

I am currently Wine Development Manager at St Austell Brewery down in the South West of England. Working in a beautiful part of the country for a fantastic family run company, I get to taste wine with a wide range of customers, creating tailored wine lists, running customer events and winemaker dinners, whilst help develop our wine portfolio and internal training.

From starting my career at Majestic Wine in the City store in London, I’ve gladly taken on board my first manager’s mantra – ‘taste, taste, taste’! I have been doing so over the last 7 years of my career. Having then progressed into the world of wine PR, communications, and events, I enjoyed working on campaigns for Wines of Rioja, Cognac, and Adams, which opened up another huge part of the industry to explore.

Now going into this year’s Champagne Academy, I can’t wait to taste, learn, and meet some of the industry heroes!

If I had one Champagne highlight – it would be drinking a magnum of Bollinger on my wedding day this year, whilst on a boat in gale force winds and stormy seas…proudly didn’t spill a drop!

Philip Dunne

I’m currently the global group sommelier of the Doyle Collection hotel collection for Ireland, UK, and USA. Previously I was the head sommelier of both Ashford Castle and The Westbury. During my time in both, I was fortunate to win on two occasions the award of Best Sommelier in Ireland.

Based in Dublin, I am also the founder of Vinspire Wine and Spirit Academy – a school that offers WSET qualifications in both wine and spirits up to Level 3 to the on and off trade here.

My first visit to Champagne was back in 2015, and I’ve been so lucky to visit seven times since! Every time I go, I always learn something new and come back very inspired.

I’m very much looking forward to the experience of joining the upcoming Champagne Academy course this June.

Donald Edwards

Donald is Head Sommelier at La Trompette having previously held Head of Buying positions at Brunswick House and Temper Soho

Wine Buyer and Senior manager at Brunswick House, looking after a dynamic old world focused list with a heavy natural edge. From the start of 2018, I was heavily involved in the opening of St Leonards and the writing of a somewhat more classically focused list at what was one of the most talked about openings of the year before moving to a senior manager role at St Leonards, and working full time from the new site.

Erik Simonics

Until recently Erik was the Group Head Sommelier at The Birley Clubs, including the famous Annabel’s in Berkeley Square, Mayfair.

Erik is a passionate wine and hospitality specialist dedicated to providing top-notch service at all times. Additionally, he is a proactive team player who works well with employees at all levels to uphold the level of excellence and attention to detail. He developed a significant amount of business, management, and leadership skills while working in various high-end establishments and studying hospitality management, enabling him to work as an effective management team member who can effectively drive sales, meet financial goals, and improve a company's reputation.

Agnieszka Sledz

For the last 9 years Agnieszka has been Cellar Master at the World-renowned Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland.

Petrov Rostislav

After a number of roles in purchasing and sales for fine wine retailers, Petrov is currently Head of Investment at Cru Wine, London. He also judges at Decanter World Wine Awards.

Farrah Scanlan

Farrah Scanlan is Cashel Palace’s new Head Sommelier. Farrah has previously worked as sommelier at Adare Manor’s Oak Room and Chapter One Restaurant, Dublin.

Jevgeni Kadilin

My professional hospitality journey started at the Bubble Lounge in Hotel Du Vin Birmingham, where I spent seven years discovering my love for champagne and wine. I had a chance to run several wine dinners and work alongside a number of Greatest Sommeliers from around the world.

Later I had a desire to expand my knowledge in fine dining, which is how I came to work at The Oyster Club.

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