An embarrassment of prizes

Jancis Robinson, Ferran Centelles and Steven Spurrier at 2020 WSET graduation ceremony

Two recent gongs – great news in both cases but a tad embarrassing.

On Tuesday evening in the Guildhall the annual WSET awards ceremony was held. As usual it was heart-warming to see so many people in other, presumably much more lucrative, fields being tempted to follow their love of wine instead. 

I had the honour of presenting the annual Outstanding Alumni Award, which is sponsored by, to a notable alumnus of this leading force in global wine education. It has previously been won by natural wine queen Isabelle Legeron MW and Spanish wine specialist and ex-chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine Sarah Jane Evans MW. I have absolutely nothing to do with the selection of the shortlist or final winner of this award but I still felt rather embarrassed that this year the award went to our very own Spanish specialist, the incomparable Ferran Centelles, wine man of Ferran Adriá, chef of elBulli and animus of the Fondación elBulli, of which Ferran C is wine director. He was a very popular choice, as one could tell from the applause in the historic Guildhall, but still it felt a little insidery. In the photo above, Ferran is receiving his prize from me and Steven Spurrier, who this year completed his three-year stint as honorary president of the WSET. Next year the position will be held by the just-retired Paul Symington of Portugal.

Below is a picture I took of Paul introducing himself in the Guildhall, watched by Ian Harris, indefatigable CEO of the WSET, on the stage and a front row that included Laura Jewell MW of Wine Australia, Steven Spurrier and, further along the row, past honorary president Hugh Johnson.

WSET awards ceremony 2020 in the Guildhall

Now, talking of Hugh, there was another embarrassment the previous evening, at the André Simon food and drink book awards at the Goring Hotel, also in London. Dan Jago was this year's drinks book assessor and, not least because my husband Nick Lander is chairman of the awards, I had nagged Dan beforehand to explain that it would be extremely embarrassing if the latest, 8th edition of The World Atlas of Wine were to be singled out for special mention. I repeated this to David Gleave MW, who is a trustee of the awards.

So what happened? I was completely ignored and the André Simon award for best drinks book went to the Atlas. Below, Hugh and I are presented with the award by Dan Jago (who has moved from being CEO of Berry Bros & Rudd to gunmakers Purdey), and are seen with our spouses just afterwards. Below that, two women who played a crucial role in producing the Atlas, map supremo Julia and managing editor Gill Pitts, flank me.

Dan Jago, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson at the 2020 Andre Simon Book Awards
Left to right: Nick Lander, Judy Johnson, Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson at the Andre Simon book awards 2020
Julia Harding MW, Jancis Robinson MW and Gil Pitts celebrating win at Andre Simon Awards 2020 for the World Atlas of Wine, 8th edn

The full André Simon awards are listed here.