Global wine and spirits experts descend on Cape Town to swirl, sniff and spit for six days!


What sets aside the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards from all the other drinks competitions in southern Africa is the fact that the judging panels are made up of international wine and spirits experts from up to 22 countries. Since its inception 22 years ago, this has been cited as the primary reason for its growth and popularity among wine and spirits producers – both in South Africa and abroad.

“Producers understand the importance of having their wines and spirits exposed to international experts as they are marketing their products to the world,” says Lorraine Immelman, founder and CEO of the Michelangelo competition. “By presenting their wines and spirits to judges from a diversity of countries, producers can get an insight as to how their respective drinks are seen on the international stage. This has been Michelangelo’s calling card since inception and I believe it to be one of the primary motivations for our tremendous growth.”

This year Lorraine and her team have once again compiled a sound list of the wine and spirits world’s whos-who to judge the 2018 competition, including a number of highly respected wine personalities from  North and South America, Asia and Europe.

Let’s take a look at some of the 29 experts in this year’s line-up:

  • Elizabeth Palmer from Toronto, Canada, is considered one of the world’s experts on Champagne. She is an award-winning author, educator and wine judge who was recently named one of the world’s Top Global Wine Influencers for 2018 by Social Vignerons. Last year Liz achieved the ultimate accolade from France’s Champagne authorities by being made a Dame Chevalier de Coteaux de Champagne.
Liz Palmer from Canada e1531225591244 Global wine and spirits experts descend on Cape Town to swirl, sniff and spit for six days!

Elizabeth Palmer from Canada

Her first book, The Ultimate Guide to Champagne, received the National Award for the best French Wine Book at the Gourmand World Awards 2017.

Liz has had the pleasure of interviewing and tasting with some of the industry’s leading winemakers, professors and personalities. Her articles have appeared in national and international magazines and if there is an important wine competition in the world, she has judged it!

  • Luboš Bárta is one of the leading wine experts in the Czech Republic and is a renowned journalist, teacher, wine educator, lawyer, photographer and wine judge. As editor-in-chief of the Czech Sommelier Magazine / Revue for Hotel and Restaurant since 2002, he is a leading authority on wine and spirits. Lubos is also a recipient of the Vindemia Acta 2012 prize awarded by The Czech Grape and Wine Producers Union for lasting contributions to promoting wine from the Czech Republic.
Lubos Barta from the Czech Republic. e1531225501159 Global wine and spirits experts descend on Cape Town to swirl, sniff and spit for six days!

Lubos Barta from the Czech Republic.

In 2017 he was inducted into the Czech Wines Hall of Fame as well as being a lifetime honorary member of the American Wine Society honoris causa and Ambassador of Central European Wines to the US.

As an educator, Luboš is chancellor of the Business Institute EDU Prague, the leading Czech MBA school where he heads up MBA courses for public relations and marketing, wine business communication and hospitality management. He also lectures in Slovakia, Slovenia, United States, Israel, China, Spain, Italy and Moldova, among others.

He is the author of several books on wine and has acted as judge and panel chairman at various wine competitions around the world including Vinalies Internationales (OIV), Paris, France, Vinitaly (OIV), Verona, Italy, the Great American International Wine Competition, New York, USA and the Asian Wine Trophy (OIV), Daejeon, South Korea and  Concours Mondial de Bruxelles.

  • Roberto Lepori calls Rome home, but he is a perennial traveller to the wine regions of the world to judge wine competitions and write on the worlds of food and wine. He is an international journalist on these subjects, sommelier, wine and spirits educator, drinks judge and wine and food communication specialist.  Roberto is passionate about Philosophy and Ancient History as well as Greek and Latin literature.
Italian wine judge Roberto Lepori e1531225661623 Global wine and spirits experts descend on Cape Town to swirl, sniff and spit for six days!

Italian wine judge Roberto Lepori

Roberto graduated cum laude in law from Rome University and qualified as Master Wine Sommelier from the Italian Sommelier Association of Rome. 

As a journalist under the Italian Order of Journalists of Rome (OdG) Roberto is involved in a number food and wine programmes for Italian Network television and he writes on many magazine on the theme of tourism, wine and food.

In addition, Roberto teaches food and wine pairings and conducts seminars on sparkling wines, white wines, classic red wines and, in particular, on “wines from extreme lands” made by what he calls “heroic” producers.

Earlier this year Roberto was invited to judge at the BeoWine in Belgrade and the Southern Russia Competition Krasnodar. In the next months, Roberto will participate as a relator and judge at the Hvar Wine Festival – Croatia, RO-WINE Bucharest – Romania, Città del Vino “Selezione del Sindaco” Canelli – Italy, “Wine from Extreme Lands” San Francisco – California, Gastro AlaTurka Budva and Istanbul – Turkey, Italian Wine Expo in Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam, Astana – Kazakhstan, Toronto – Canada, Panama – Republic of Panama, Sichuan – Chengdu China, Baku – Azerbaijan.

If you ask Roberto which is the best wine he knows, he will answer: “what I still have to taste”…

And what would any international wine and spirits competition be without some French expertise and flair?

  • Beatrice da Ros from Paris is one of the longest-standing judges on the Michelangelo panel, having been there at the very first competition in 1997! This Grande Dame of the international wine world is a former President of the World Federation of Major International Wine and Spirits competitions (VINOFED) and creator of the international wine competitions organized by “EURL Œnologues de France” (Vinalies Internationales (Paris).

Beatrice holds a degree in Oenology from the University of Montpellier, one of the world’s leading wine universities. During the past 25 years, she held positions on the selection boards for many major international wine competitions in countries around the world: Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

With China being the second largest wine market in the world, it is also home to a  number of leading international wine and spirits experts – one of them being Xiaohan (Austin) Zhang, one of Asia’s most dynamic wine professionals. Not only is he involved at the top end of the Chinese wine market but also in the investment and auction arena for fine wine.

Chinese judge Austin Zhang 1 e1531225863569 Global wine and spirits experts descend on Cape Town to swirl, sniff and spit for six days!

Austin Zhang

“Wine is an attitude,” says Xiaohan, “and  my passion is to pass this attitude to anyone who enjoys life.”

He currently works for Zachys, an online wine and spirits retailer in Hong Kong and is a former employee of the famous Christie’s Auction House, arguably the world’s leading fine wine auctioneers.

Xiaohan is a sought-after educator on wine and lectures, among others, at the China Agriculture University. He has judged at – among others – the Asian Wine Trophy and RVF China Awards and is currently a candidate to read for Master of Wine, the world’s leading wine certification.

With the world coming to judge the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards entries in Stellenbosch in August, the world-class standards of the results are most certain to be as interesting and of as high a standard as the judges!