The Outstanding Alumni Award is an annual accolade that recognises a WSET Diploma graduate who is notably contributing to the industry. It is presented in partnership with

Nominees were chosen by the WSET International Alumni Advisory Board and Jancis Robinson OBE MW. WSET Diploma graduates from across the world were then able to vote for the winner. 2016 marked the first year that this award was bestowed, the inaugural recipient was Isabelle Legeron.

2017 Winner

Sarah Jane Evans MW, DipWSET

Evans is an award-winning writer and Co-Chair of the Decanter World Wine Awards who achieved her WSET Diploma in 1998. Beginning her career in book publishing, she spent a decade as Associate Editor of BBC Good Food magazine. During that time she was President of the Guild of Food Writers and completed the WSET Diploma, winning the Freixenet Scholarship. She became an MW in 2006 and won the Robert Mondavi Winery Award for the best results in the theory papers. She was Chairman of the IMW (2014-16). Spain and Sherry remain special interests; she’s a member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino, has received a number of awards in Spain, and is finishing a book on the Wines of Rioja and Northern Spain.

2017 Nominees

Michael Hill Smith MW, DipWSET

Hill Smith is an international wine judge, producer, consultant and writer who completed the WSET Diploma in 1985. In 1988, he became the first Australian MW and won the Madame Bollinger Tasting Medal. In 2008, he was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to the Australian Wine Industry. He is Co-Managing Director of Adelaide Hills pioneers Shaw + Smith and Tolpuddle Vineyard in Tasmania and is a wine consultant for Singapore Airlines, alongside Oz Clark and Jeannie Cho Lee. He has featured in Decanter’s International Power List three times, is Vice Chair of Decanter Asia Wine Awards and Co-Chair of Decanter World Wine Awards.

Jeannie Cho Lee MW, DipWSET
Hong Kong

Lee is an award-winning author, TV host, wine judge and educator who achieved her WSET Diploma in 1999. She is a professor at Hong Kong PolyU where she helped launch the MSc International Wine Management program and is a Visiting Professor at the Chinese and International Culinary Institutes. Lee co-hosts a weekly wine program ‘In Vino Veritas’ on Hong Kong’s leading English-language TV broadcaster and is the former CEO of lifestyle publication, ‘Le Pan’. She is wine columnist for Robb Report China, Forbes and Kris Flyer and also consults for Singapore Airlines. Lee also authored two pioneering books exploring Asian wine descriptors and food pairings. Achieving her MW in 2008, she holds a Cordon Bleu Certificat de Cuisine, is a trained Sake Sommelier and both a WSET and SWE Certified Educator.

James Tidwell MS, DipWSET

Tidwell is Co-Founder of TEXSOM, North America’s premiere professional beverage education event and Co-Owner and Producer of TEXSOM International Wine Awards, one of the USA’s most recognised wine competitions. In addition to his WSET Diploma, which he achieved in 2003, Tidwell also passed the Certified Wine Educator exam on first attempt, earning the highest score out of hundreds of candidates, and was later elected to the Society of Wine Educators Board of Directors. In 2009, he also passed the Master Sommelier examination. Alongside his work with TEXSOM, Tidwell is Master Sommelier at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Previous Winners

2016 Isabelle Legeron MW, DipWSET

Other Awards


View the year’s outstanding students across levels 2 to 4.

Vintners’ Cup

The graduate achieving the highest aggregate mark across all units of the WSET Diploma.

WSET Educator of the Year

Recognising the outstanding contribution of an individual or company within our network of Approved Programme Providers.