Meet our Master of Wine and London Wine Competition Judges

Meet the Exceptional Panel of Judges at the London Wine Competitions—a group distinguished by their status as Masters of Wine, each carrying a wealth of profound knowledge and expertise in the world of wines.

Get ready to meet some true wine experts! We're excited to introduce the fantastic panel of judges at the London Wine Competition, and guess what? They're all Masters of Wine (MW)!

In this blog, we'll take you on a journey to get to know these amazing judges a bit better. From Claire Blackler MW to Tim Triptree MW, each one has a unique story and brings a ton of knowledge to the table. Learn about their backgrounds, experiences, and the amazing things they're doing in the world of wine. It's like a backstage pass to the people shaping the future of the industry.

So, grab a glass, kick back, and let's dive into the world of these Masters of Wine.

Claire Blackler MW, Master of Wine, Wine & Spirits Educator and Consultant

Claire Blackler is an exceptionally driven and devoted ambassador for the wine and spirits industry, bringing a wealth of professionalism to her role. Her profound and expansive knowledge of wine originated from a genuine passion for the subject and flourished through dedicated pursuit, notably culminating in her attainment of the prestigious Master of Wine (MW) designation in August 2021. With a remarkable 15 years of industry experience across diverse and challenging positions, Claire has established herself as a seasoned expert.

Originally equipped with BSc and MSc degrees in Chemistry and a background as an Analytical Chemist at GlaxoSmithKline, Claire transitioned to the wine sector by founding a prominent wine training company. Serving as the Managing Director, she not only fostered a deep understanding of business management but also showcased exceptional communication skills and a steadfast commitment to customer service. Under her leadership, the school has thrived as a respected provider of WSET courses in Scotland, consistently achieving commendable turnover and profits.

Claire's enthusiasm for her role as a wine ambassador is evident in her proactive engagement with diverse audiences. Beyond judging in esteemed wine competitions, she actively contributes to the industry by writing about wine and collaborates with clients, offering event organization, marketing support, wine list development, and guidance on private cellars. Claire Blackler's bio exemplifies her as a dynamic and knowledgeable presence in the world of wine.

Mike Best MW, Master of Wine

Mike Best achieved the prestigious title of Master of Wine in 2020, showcasing exceptional proficiency by successfully passing both theory and tasting components on the first attempt. His in-depth research paper focused on cellar door tourism in Great Britain's wineries, highlighting his dedication to exploring diverse facets of the industry.

Currently serving as a Wine Product Manager (Buyer) at Boutinot Wines, Mike oversees a diverse portfolio encompassing Spain, Portugal, Lebanon, England, North America, Hungary, and Greece. Boutinot, known for its outstanding range sourced from global suppliers, proudly represents wines spanning from Malbec to Mtsvane, and Jumilla to Japan. The company's significant presence in the Rhone, Franschhoek, Nelson, and East Sussex underscores its commitment to producing and showcasing exceptional wines worldwide.

Mike's extensive career in the drinks industry reflects his passion for the product, people, and business. With a background spanning retail, restaurants, supermarket buying teams, wine agencies, wine education, and winemaking in Australia, he brings a wealth of diverse experiences to his role. Notably, Mike was honored as the IWC Associate Judge of the Year in 2015, and he currently serves as a senior judge at IWC, alongside participating in other esteemed competitions such as SWA, IWSC, and Decanter, both nationally and internationally in Spain, Turkey, and Greece.

Committed to education, Mike is a WSET educator, primarily teaching Diploma courses at the WSET school in London. Actively involved in the MW program, he assumes responsibilities for the Stage 1 residential course at Rust from 2024. Additionally, Mike contributes his expertise to the education committee, admissions committee, and conducts personalized bootcamps for MW students, further solidifying his role as a leader and influencer in the world of wine.

Beans Boughton MW, Master of Wine and Buyer at Alliance Wine

Beans Boughton brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the world of wine, with a career spanning over 19 years. As an Independent Consultant with BeansMeansWines Ltd., Beans demonstrated a keen insight into the industry. His role as Senior Fine Wine Category Manager at Maritime and Mercantile International showcased his prowess in managing high-quality wine selections.

In the capacity of Purchasing Manager at Amathus Drinks PLC, Beans further honed his skills, contributing to the strategic procurement of beverages. His versatility is evident in his role as a Buyer (Wines and Spirits) and Senior Manager at Planet Of The Grapes, where he played a pivotal role in wine sales for the city.

Beans's expertise extends beyond his corporate roles, as he holds the prestigious title of Master of Wine, a testament to his deep understanding and knowledge of the world of wine. His role as a Judge at the London Wine Competition underlines his commitment to evaluating and recognizing excellence in the industry. Currently serving as a Buyer at Alliance Wine, Beans continues to shape the landscape of the wine market with his seasoned judgment and extensive experience.

Susan Hulme MW, Master of Wine

Susan Hulme MW is a distinguished Italian wine specialist with extensive experience as a wine writer and editor. Her insightful contributions can be found in reputable publications such as The Wine Independent, Decanter, and Club Oenolgique. With a remarkable 15-year tenure as a Panel Chair for the International Wine Challenge (IWC), Susan has solidified her position as a respected wine judge.

Beyond her roles in wine evaluation, Susan is actively engaged in wine consultancy, offering her expertise to various aspects of the industry. Her comprehensive wine training spans all levels, encompassing Masterclasses tailored for trade and press, public events, and specialized sessions on wine and food pairing. As a certified educator, Susan imparts her knowledge at WSET levels 1-4 and extends her guidance to Master of Wine students.

Susan achieved the prestigious title of Master of Wine in 2005, a testament to her deep understanding and passion for the world of wine. Notably, she has been honored as the winner of the Madame Bollinger Tasting Medal, further highlighting her exceptional palate and contribution to the wine community. With a multifaceted and accomplished career, Susan Hulme stands as a prominent figure in the realm of wine expertise and education.

William Lowe MW, Master of Wine, Co-founder & Master Distiller at The Cambridge Distillery

William Lowe, the Co-founder and Master Distiller of Cambridge Distillery, is a distinguished professional in the drinks industry with over 20 years of experience. Recognized three consecutive times for producing the most innovative spirits globally, William has made significant contributions to the field.

His role in shaping the spirits landscape extends beyond accolades, as he has been named in the BA 100 Modern Britons, highlighting his influence on contemporary British culture. Additionally, William's forward-thinking approach has earned him a place in the IWSC Future 50, a recognition of his visionary impact on the future of the industry.

As the Co-founder and Master Distiller of Cambridge Distillery, William Lowe MW embodies a unique blend of expertise in both distillation and wine, showcasing a commitment to innovation and tradition in the world of beverages.

Sara Muirhead MW, Master of Wine and Wine Consultant

With a rich history spanning twenty-nine years in the wine trade, Sara Muirhead has immersed herself in the world's prominent wine-producing regions. Her journey led her to attain the esteemed Master of Wine qualification in 2008, with a dissertation focused on the then-emerging topic of English Sparkling wines.

Sara's career commenced at Wine magazine, and later, at Arblaster & Clarke Wine Tours, she orchestrated and accompanied wine tours to some of the globe's premier estates. Transitioning into wine PR and marketing at Liberty Wines, she ascended to the role of marketing manager, fostering a particular passion for Italian wines. Sara's diverse career includes ventures into wine judging, as well as leadership in wine schools and tasting classes.

Since 2006, Sara has served as a freelance consultant to wine importers, with a primary emphasis on wine PR and marketing. Currently, her central focus lies in the meticulous organization and management of wine tastings and events, showcasing her ongoing dedication to the promotion and appreciation of exceptional wines.

Alvaro Ribalta MW, Master of Wine - Founder of Massal Selection

Born and bred in Barcelona, Alvaro Ribalta made his way to London in 2006 after completing his Undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. Following roles in prestigious restaurants and wine bars in the capital, he pursued further education, earning an MSc in Quality Engineering Management from South Bank University in London in 2012.

In 2014, Alvaro achieved the WSET Diploma with Merit, securing the Lustau and Derouet Jameson Scholarships. Fast forward to 2021, he proudly became the fifth Spanish Master of Wine, leading him to return to Spain to advance his professional journey. Notably, Alvaro is the esteemed winner of the 2022 Madame Bollinger Medal, recognizing his exceptional tasting abilities demonstrated in the MW Practical Exam.

Presently, Alvaro Ribalta holds the role of founder and director of Massal Selection, further establishing his footprint in the wine industry. While continuing his part-time role as the Spanish buyer for Indigo Wine, he eagerly anticipates expanding his expertise across various sectors of the industry, both domestically and internationally.

David Round MW, Head of Wine at PIX, Director at Big Fish Little Fish

David Round, with a career spanning back to 1991 in the wine trade, has garnered extensive experience and expertise. He has contributed his skills to esteemed entities such as Fortnum and Mason, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Direct Wines (now Laithwaites), Bancroft Wines, and Jascots. Achieving the prestigious title of Master of Wine in 1999, David boasts two decades of wine buying experience across retail, mail order, and on-trade sectors. His roles have extended to encompass marketing and PR responsibilities, even reaching board level.

Currently, David directs his own wine buying consultancy, Round About Wine, where he continues to apply his wealth of industry knowledge. Beyond his consultancy, he serves as an international wine judge, evaluating wines on a global scale. Additionally, David takes on the role of director at the international music events company Big Fish Little Fish, showcasing his diverse interests and contributions to both the wine and entertainment industries.

Demetri Walters MW, Master of Wine, Wine Consultant, Educator & Presenter

Demetri Walters MW stands as an independent wine consultant, educator, and presenter with a rich background spanning nearly two decades. His early career unfolded within the prestigious Berry Bros. & Rudd, where he held key positions in both retail and trade for almost 20 years.

With extensive experience in selling wine, providing product training, and running wine schools, Demetri's expertise extends to hosting professional, corporate, and private wine tasting events worldwide. He is a familiar face on television, hosting wine shows and documentaries, and has earned acclaim as a seasoned international wine judge.

In 2013, Demetri achieved the distinguished title of Master of Wine, and his thesis brought him back to his initial passion for Cypriot wine. As a consultant voice for various wine regions, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, Demetri shares his wealth of knowledge. He is a regular speaker on sweet and fortified wines, emphasizing his commitment to broadening the understanding and appreciation of diverse wine styles.

Tim Triptree MW, International Director, Wine at Christie's

Tim Triptree MW holds the position of International Director of Wine & Spirits at Christie’s, where his primary responsibilities encompass the strategic planning, curation, and execution of wine and spirits auctions on a global scale. Graduating with an MBA Distinction in Wine Business Management, Tim joined Christie’s Wine & Spirits Department in 2005 and has since become a pivotal figure in the world of wine.

Having completed the WSET Diploma with Distinction in 2008, Tim earned recognition through the Sherry Institute and Constellation Scholarships. His dedication to the field culminated in achieving the prestigious title of Master of Wine in 2018, accompanied by receiving the esteemed Noval Award for the best MW Research Paper. Tim's research paper delved into trends in the use of reserve wines in Brut NV Champagne.

Tim's commitment to the wine industry extends beyond his role at Christie's, as he serves as a wine and spirits ambassador for the auction house globally. He advises on collections, hosts wine events and master-classes, and contributes to the prestigious reputation of Christie's in the wine world.

Tim Triptree MW has been an integral part of various esteemed judging panels, including the International Wine & Spirit Competition since 2011, Decanter World Wine Awards since 2017, Bacchus in Madrid since 2018, and the London Wine Competition since 2019. Recognized for his contributions, Tim is a Chevalier of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne and a graduate of the Champagne Academy, solidifying his status as a respected authority in the world of wine.

Here you go, the Masters' list, thoughtfully curated to provide value to you and these exceptional wine experts. Initiate conversations with them, delving into their wine experiences, discussing their journey, and discovering the ways in which they've thrived in the challenging wine industry.


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