WineGB Rising Star Awards & The Vintners’ UK Wine Apprentice Award 2024
The inaugural WineGB Rising Stars Awards and announcement of The Vintners’ UK Wine Apprentice Award 2024 took place on 31 January at Vintners’ Hall. Their purpose is to celebrate and recognise the next generation of talent in the UK wine industry. These are the people who demonstrate excellence and innovation in all that they do.
We are delighted to announce this year’s winners in our Rising Stars Awards below. In some of the categories the judges awarded merit to some of the other nominees who they felt deserved special recognition. Please also see the winner of The Vintners’ UK Wine Apprentice Award.
WineGB Rising Star Award Winners
Sales & Marketing
Oscar Willis – Yotes Court Vineyard
Oscar joined Yotes Court in April 2021 straight after university when the vineyard was only just starting to launch their wines. Oscar got stuck in working with the owner, a branding agency and a web developer to launch the website, social media, create the brand identity and develop the marketing assets and packaging. He now manages all those aspects of the business himself in addition to creating weekly email newsletter communications, maintaining a library of photos, creating additional marketing assets and doing the majority of photography and videography for social media.
Oscar is the first point of contact for anyone contacting Yotes Court. He fully immerses himself in all aspects of the operation which also includes tours and tastings and other events – even helping with packing up the wines and stock control. In just under 3 years, he has gone from enthusiastic graduate to a mature marketing professional with a great understanding of, and passion for, English wine.
Phoebe French – WineGB
Phoebe is WineGB’s Membership Engagement Manager. She is a hugely popular and important member of the WineGB team, playing a significant part in communications to WineGB membership. Drawing on her experience in journalism at the Drinks Business, the twice-yearly Grape Press is entirely masterminded by Phoebe. Its exceptionally high quality content provides a lasting resource for members and followers of the industry. Regular communications through WineGB Weekly newsletters, forum notices, webinars and attending many regional activities in person are also efficiently undertaken so that members, patrons and partners are always informed and updated. This is one of the most important benefits of being part of the WineGB community. She is an outstanding ambassador of WineGB and the English and Welsh wine industry.
Sophie Mounsey – Velfrey Vineyard
Sophie only recently joined Velfrey Vineyard full time (2023). She very quickly recognised the importance of wine tourism to the business and now works with organisations such as Visit Pembrokeshire, Visit Wales, IntroBiz and companies that arrange group events and visits.
Sophie hosts the vineyard’s events and tours which includes visitors of all nationalities and accessibility needs. She has built up a wonderful rapport with all the local food suppliers, most of whom are also small family businesses. Outside of tours, Sophie fronts Velfrey’s cellar door shop, greeting customers with ease and knowledge of all the wines and the local area. Her newly acquired knowledge of the sector is outstanding and impressive. She also has the most sophisticated palate.
Ben Brown – Agrii
Ben is Agronomist and Viticulture Specialist at Agrii, providers of agronomy services to the industry. A trained fruit agronomist, over time he has developed his knowledge of viticulture by working closely with growers and studying in Bordeaux.
He works across the country with a wide range of vineyards large and small, organic and conventional. He has become a leading voice in UK viticulture providing a unique perspective that he has developed over 7 years working in the industry. He contributes significantly to the wine industry through dissemination of his knowledge to students at Plumpton College, training the next generation of agronomists, partaking in panel discussions and contributing at vineyard working groups.
Tom Follows – Chapel Down
Tom pursued his passion for winemaking whilst first working at Chapel Down as tour guide, helping in the cellar until he moved into the position of cellar hand when the opportunity became available. Since then he has become invaluable to the winemaking team. He successfully led a record-breaking night shift, processing over 3000 tonnes of high quality Kent and Sussex Grapes in 2023.
Tom’s palate is trusted by the team to be a part of dosage and blending trials and on several occasions his opinions have been enough to alter stylistic decisions during the winemaking process. His winemaking instincts and abilities across all styles are already well-respected, and his winemaking peers believe that he will become one of England’s future prominent winemakers.
Den’e Van Wyk – Simpsons’ Wine Estate
Den’e joined Simpsons’ Wine estate in 2022 as Assistant Winemaker. Originally from South Africa, Den’e studied Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University and worked at renowned wine estates in that region. She also worked a vintage in Bordeaux, before coming to the UK. Den’e quickly proved herself to be creative, detail-oriented and methodical in the winery, with an excellent palate and clear understanding of the diverse range of clones grown in the vineyard and the styles of wine created at Simpsons. Now joint Winemaker, Den’e has relished the leadership role going forward and the team look forward to guiding that development even further.
Jean Langedyk – Bolney Wine Estate
After completing a BSc in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, with a Distinction in Advanced Microbial Genetics, Technological Innovation and Biochemical Enzymology, Jean came to a realisation that his true passion lay in winemaking. This pursuit took him to complete 6 harvest seasons around the world before finding his calling in England. In July 2022, Jean uprooted his entire life in South Africa and came to Bolney Wine Estate, brought in as Junior Winemaker. Today he works alongside and motivates his fellow Junior winemakers, whilst working very closely with the Assistant winemaker and Head winemaker, playing a pivotal role in the decision making involved in the creation of the wines for Bolney.
Sustainability – Viticulture
Rob Poyser – Vinescapes
As a viticulturist, Rob is part of the team at UK viticultural and winemaking consultants Vinescapes, Rob is known for his patience and willingness to spend as much time as necessary to understand the unique needs of each client, providing tailored solutions that exceed expectations.
Rob has a passion for sustainability and the aptitude to cut through green washing and focus on what counts. In an era where environmental responsibility is crucial, Rob’s conscientious efforts to integrate sustainable practices into his work showcase his commitment to the long-term well-being of the industry and the planet.
A skilled pruner, Rob also trains the Vinescapes labour teams to the highest standards with respect and leading by example. Every single vineyard he manages gave him gold start reviews in 2023.
Rob is a natural ambassador for new vineyard technology and is always looking for ways to improve efficiency and try new techniques, machinery and innovative solutions and ideas to contribute to the advancement of the industry. His peers and team say he consistently goes above and beyond in his role, embodying a passion for his work that is truly commendable.
Sustainability – Winemaking
Jack Mankin – Ridgeview
Jack joined Ridgeview at the beginning of 2019 as a cellar hand, having worked in wineries is the US before returning to England to further his passion for winemaking. With Ridgeview’s support, Jack has developed his knowledge and skills, dedicated to producing the best wine possible. Jack was recently promoted to the role of Winemaker, making him the first non-family member to hold this position at Ridgeview.
Jack is a keen and key contributor to Ridgeview’s continued drive for sustainability through its B Corp accreditations and as founding members of Sustainable Wines of Great Britain. He created a database to track the business’s carbon emissions, for which Ridgeview were specifically commended by B Lab (B Corp’s accrediting body) and in other sustainability-driven awards. This database enables the business to record facts and figures to verify credentials and helps set targets to continuously improve.
A dedicated team member and leader, Jack has made a large contribution to not only the quality of Ridgeview’s wines but also their sustainability credentials within the business.
The Vintners’ UK Wine Apprentice Award
Breaky Bottom Vineyard
Louisa has been working with Peter Hall at Breaky Bottom, one of England’s oldest vineyards, since 2018. She is the person enabling owners Peter and Christina Hall to continue Breaky Bottom into its sixth decade. Louisa has had no formal education in viticulture or winemaking, but she is passionate about working with the vines and the wines. She is involved in all aspects of the business – working in the vineyard and in the winery, to labelling/packaging and deliveries..
It is obvious that Peter relies heavily on Louisa as he is now less able to do the manual work in the vineyard and winery and is assured that he has a careful and reliable pair of hands by his side. Louisa is keen to further her knowledge, insight and experience which, with the support of The Vintners’ UK Wine Apprentice Award she will be able to achieve through her studies and training at Plumpton College.