About the Academy

The World’s Best Vineyards Academy is the mechanism used to create The World’s Best Vineyards list.

The Academy comprises nearly 500 leading wine aficionados, sommeliers, and luxury travel correspondents from across the globe. Each has been selected for their expert opinion of the international wine and wine tourism scene.

To create the Academy, and give it a fair representation of the global wine scene, we divide the world into geographical regions. Each region has an acknowledged expert as its Academy Chair. Each Academy Chair is responsible for recruiting 36 wine and travel experts. They vote for 7 vineyards in preferential order.

There is no pre-determined checklist of criteria, except that the vineyard must be open to the general public. Each vote is a nomination for a vineyard experience that they deem to be the best in the world. The experience will take in all things connected with the visit – the tour, tasting, ambiance, wine, food, staff, view, value for money, reputation, accessibility. It’s everything that makes a vineyard visit a valuable and rewarding experience for visitors, and makes guests want to return or recommend a visit to their friends.

Meet our regional Academy Chairs

  • Nicolas Angelina

    Nicolas Angelina

    Academy Chair Middle East & North Africa

    Nicolas is a consultant who started his career in hospitality in Paris. In the UK, Nicolas developed his wine tasting skills and became a wine judge for competitions such as the International Wine Challenge, eventually becoming the IWC ambassador for Macedonia and Lebanon. Nicolas also advises wineries on entering different markets and introduces them to relevant importers. As well as helping with wine blends, he also travels to the Caribbean to help blend cigars!

  • Dr Winifred Bowman

    Dr Winifred Bowman

    Academy Chair South Africa

    Winnie is a qualified physiotherapist, biomedical scientist, has a PhD in education (didactics) and is a Cape Wine Master. In fact, she is a former chairperson of the Institute of Cape Wine Masters and a member of its education committee. Winnie is also Chairperson of the UK-based Circle of Wine Writers and a member of the Association of Wine Educators. She has been judging wine and spirits competitions around the world for more than 12 years and conducts wine and brandy tastings for corporate and private clients.

  • Guillermo Crespo

    Guillermo Crespo

    Academy Chair Chile

    Guillermo is an international wine broker and consultant based in Chile’s Central Valley. He founded The Contact Global Consulting company and has supplied wines from different denominations of origin to clients in China, UK and USA. He has been an associate judge at the International Wine Challenge and their ambassador in Chile since 2010.

  • Burçak Desombre

    Burçak Desombre

    Academy Chair France

    Burçak is the first certified sommelier in Turkey and holds an advanced WSET certificate. She is the founder of Vinipedia Wine Consultancy. In 2011, she started up Vinipedia to share her love of wine and help people discover this historical and magical universe. For more than 15 years she has been sharing her passion for wine with wine lovers and professionals. During her career she has trained more than 3000 individuals and professionals and has organized tours in more than 30 wine regions in a dozen countries.

  • Lotte Karolina Gabrovits

    Lotte Karolina Gabrovits

    Academy Chair Germany, Benelux & Nordic

    Lotte is a judge at several global wine competitions, an educator and consultant as well as ‘grouplead’ in the buying department for Lidl Germany. She gained a BSc and double degree MSc in horticulture with a focus on viticulture and oenology at the TU Munich and a second MA in international wine marketing in Austria, at Eisenstadt. Since then, Lotte has travelled the globe, exploring wine regions from the classics like Burgundy and Champagne, to rising stars such as Santorini and lesser-known winegrowing regions such as Lebanon and Zimbabwe!

  • Pal Gabrovits

    Pal Gabrovits

    Academy Chair Austria, Hungary & Switzerland

    Born and raised in Hungary, Pál began his journey as a wine-loving software engineer. Having been immersed in the wine world, he has traveled extensively, exploring wine regions, wines and flavors across the world. Now based in Germany, his career contributes to the success of a software division within a world-leading retail group. However, Pál's passion extends beyond technology. His love for wine prompted him to pursue a Master's degree in International Wine Marketing in Austria. Here, he specialized in e-commerce for the wine industry, melding his professional expertise with his personal interest. He has also had the enriching experience of working and living in Switzerland, adding another layer to his understanding of global wine cultures. His wide knowledge and discerning palate have earned him a place as a judge in international wine competitions. Pál combines his tech expertise with a passion for wine. His professional background, wine studies, and personal enthusiasm offer a unique perspective into the world of wine."
  • Rob Geddes

    Rob Geddes

    Academy Chair China

    Rob is a professional wine reviewer, author, judge and consultant with more than 30 years’ experience in the Australian and international wine industries. Admitted to the Institute of Masters of Wine in 1992, Rob is the author of several wine books including Australian Wine Vintages (editions 26 to 33) and A Good Nose & Great Legs – the art of wine from the vine to the table. A farmer’s son, Rob was brought up in South Australia’s Clare Valley and worked for nearly a decade in marketing with Rosemount Estate. In 2017, Rob established his own company and wine studio in Shanghai.

  • Chiara Giorleo

    Chiara Giorleo

    Academy Chair Italy

    Chiara Giorleo DipWSET is a bilingual wine blogger (www.chiaragiorleo.com/en), freelance wine journalist with publications in Italy, USA and Russia and judge for the International Wine Challenge. Chiara is also a panel member of Italian national wine guides, wine educator and translator in the wine&food field, as well as working in the wine tourism sector as consultant and wine leader for Italian and international tour operators. Previously she has worked in the wine marketing and communication sector for the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Toronto (Canada) and for Mastroberardino winery (Italy).

  • David Hsiao

    David Hsiao

    Academy Chair India & Southeast Asia

    David is a Taiwan-born Kiwi, who is also the first Bureau Français – Business France (Taiwan) gastronomy ambassador, as well as the first wine promotion representative of New Zealand Trade & Enterprises (Taiwan). The former head sommelier of Michelin-starred restaurant La Cocotte by Fabien Vergé, he is a certified sommelier, experienced international wine judge, and holds a WSET Advanced certificate. David also has three masters degrees – in biotechnology, biochemistry and international business.

  • Aileen Lee

    Aileen Lee

    Academy Vice-Chair China

    Aileen is a well-regarded wine journalist, marketing consultant and event organiser in China. She is the co-founder of VinosVivo Wine Media and contributing writer at China Wine News. She’s been writing about international wines and spirits, organising and co-organising wine and spirit events (masterclasses, roadshows, forums and webinars), and building business connections amongst world wine and spirit producers since 2011. An international wine and spirits judge and a member at FIJEV (International Federation of Wine and Spirits Journalists & Writers) and HKSA (Hong Kong Sommelier Association), Aileen also holds Weinakademiker and DipWSET qualifications.
  • Tatiana Mann

    Tatiana Mann

    Academy Chair Central Asia & Eastern Europe

    Tanya is an International wine judge and consultant. Originally from Eastern Europe, she learnt her craft in London. She is a qualified Sommelier, who has multiple degrees in both Chemical Technology and Psychology. Currently, she is working towards her Master of Wine qualification. Her career started as the owner of a boutique hotel, and two restaurants, in the suburbs of London. She is now the Managing Director of one of a Michelin Star restaurants. She is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers group, a Sherry Educator, International wine judge, and has started and developed a number of International wine competitions.

  • Ester Bachs

    Ester Bachs

    Academy Chair Spain

    Ester Bachs is a distinguished PR and Communication Director for Spain at Vinventions, an important multinational renowned for its cutting-edge Wine Closure Solutions. She holds the WSET Advanced certificate, further elevating her expertise with a master's degree in Business Communication and Advertising Management.

    Renowned for her impeccable taste and impeccable style, Ester collaborates with the most discerning brands in the wine sector, bringing new wines to the market and representing them with unparalleled finesse as a brand ambassador. Lots of speeches in big events of the industry, consultancies B2B, media collaborations, promoting wines with the art of a true connoisseur are part of Ester's everyday joblife.

  • Peter McCombie MW

    Peter McCombie MW

    Academy Chair New Zealand

    Peter McCombie is a Master of Wine. Having started out in his native New Zealand as a sommelier and worked in sales in the UK, his long experience in the wine industry gives him a unique perspective that encompasses the buyer and the seller, the consumer and the professional. He consults on and selects wines for a range of companies and sectors. Peter also judges wines and wine competitions around the world but always comes back to the world’s most rigorous wine competition, the International Wine Challenge, for which he is one of the co-chairs.

  • Jon McDaniel

    Jon McDaniel

    Academy Chair USA & Canada

    Jon is the founder and CEO of Second City Soil, a Chicago-based wine consultancy with the mission of growing Chicago’s wine culture through winery and restaurant marketing and education partnerships. Recognised as one of the top wine professionals in the USA, Jon works with different wineries, international organizations and trade festivals on marketing, education and sales advice. Jon is also an adjunct professor of hospitality management at Roosevelt University in Chicago and the owner and winemaker of Amos Cellars, a California-based wine brand.

  • Pedro Nelson Dias

    Pedro Nelson Dias

    Academy Chair Portugal

    Based in Porto, Portugal, Pedro holds a joint degree in viticulture and oenology from the University of Porto & School of Agronomy in Lisbon. He also achieved a master’s degree in wine tourism from the Universities of Bordeaux & Rovira i Virgili (Spain) and a communications degree from Perth College in Scotland. He works for a Dutch food and wine company and is a consultant for Portugal Wine Experience – a wine school. Pedro, who loves to share his knowledge about wine and viniculture, is also a well-versed tour guide of Northern Portugal and Spain and speaks Portuguese, Spanish and English.

  • María Laura Ortiz

    María Laura Ortiz

    Academy Chair Argentina

    Laura is a well-known sommelier and wine writer in Argentina and an international wine judge. She is a founder of Winifera, a company specialising in wine consulting, PR and marketing. Laura is also the co-founder of Club de Mujeres del Vino (Wine Women Club), a non-profit organisation for professional women in the Argentine wine industry. A former vice-president of the Argentine Sommelier Association and committee member at Association de la Sommellerie Internationale, Laura is a qualified sommelier and producer of Tim Atkin’s Argentine and Chilean reports and the Descorchados Argentina wine guide.

  • Richard Owens

    Richard Owens

    Academy Chair Australia

    Richard’s life with wine started quite late – at the age of 30 – when one cold night, sitting in a farmhouse kitchen with the log fire in the background, one of his father’s friends started pouring him a glass of vintage Penfolds 707. “Don’t waste it on me, I don’t like wine” was Richard’s effort to stick to what he knew – beer – until his father’s friend replied: “That’s because you drink sh*t wine. Try this… it’ll change your life.” And it did. Richard went on to start his own software company, WithWine.com, which enables wineries to run “more profitable, customer centric and data driven businesses”.

  • Daniella Romano

    Daniella Romano

    Academy Chair Latin America

    Daniella has been a sommelière, journalist, wine educator and TV host for nearly 20 years. She works in the wine market as a consultant in Brazil and other countries. A law graduate, she discovered her true vocation in wine and dedicated herself to studying it in different schools around the world to specialise in sensory analysis. Founder and director of Aromas do Vinho, which produces aroma kits for the development and study of olfactory memory in tasting. Aware that wine should be a more accessible drink, she started in 2010 the project ‘Ver o vinho’ to teach and professionalise blind people about wine, developing and adapting the teaching materials. Daniella also created the first virtual wine guide in Brazil, ‘Selo 7 Sommeliers’, organises fairs and events such as Wine Day and Champagne Day, and is a consultant for the Invino Wine Travel Summit.
  • Magandeep Singh

    Magandeep Singh

    Academy Vice-Chair India & Southeast Asia

    Magan is India’s first French-certified sommelier. He is also a TV show host, author and lifestyle columnist. With his team at Wi-Not, the largest educational institute for beverages in the subcontinent, Magan has helped to bring a drinking culture to the world’s largest democracy, India. Magan is also the founder of the Society of Sommeliers and the Indian Sommelier Championship. When not judging, tasting or educating, Magan likes to write about his travels and conquests, and has also authored two books on beverages – ‘Wine Wisdom’ and ‘The Indian Spirit’.

  • Irina Sofranova

    Irina Sofranova

    Academy Chair Greece, Turkey, Cyprus & the Balkans

    Irina is a consultant for international companies, wineries, and institutions in the fields of wine marketing, PR, strategic communications, training, and coaching. Irina is also a wine taster, organiser of seminars, corporate workshops and team-building events as well as thematic wine trips to selected Balkan countries. After living abroad for more than 15 years, working for large corporations and NGOs as a strategic communication consultant, Irina returned to her Bulgarian roots in 2015. “My mission is to spread the word about Balkan wines,” she says.

  • Tim Unwin

    Tim Unwin

    Academy Chair UK & Ireland

    Tim Unwin is Emeritus Professor of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, and has a special interest in ‘the geography of wine’. In the wine world, he is probably best known for his book ‘Wine and the Vine’, first published in 1991. He continues to write and speak about wine, and has also served as academic adviser and external examiner to the Institute of Masters of Wine, as co-founding editor of the Journal of Wine Research, as a reviewer of the extension services of the Australian Wine Research Institute, and most recently as chair of the Wine Committee of the Athenaeum Club in London.

  • Akihiko Yamamoto

    Akihiko Yamamoto

    Academy Chair Japan

    Akihiko Yamamoto, Journalist. CEO of Wine Report which is one of the most influential wine media in Japan. An author of 8 wine books and a judge for wine competitions. He used to work for The Yomiuri Newspaper which is the biggest newspaper in Japan ad staff writer.