Emerging Talent in Wine Hospitality 2024 shortlist

Wine news

Tue 13 Feb 2024

By Mila Gorchakova

We are excited to announce the shortlist for our Emerging Talent in Wine Hospitality 2024. This award recognises individuals who demonstrate dedication and passion within their role in the hospitality industry, bringing consumers a unique experience or redefining the way customers interact with wine.

This year, we received over 20 entries from talented sommeliers from across the world. "It was the most difficult year in terms of selecting a shortlist since the launch of this award in 2022", shared our judges.

Our strong judging panel comprised of renowned sommeliers and hospitality experts – Vice President of the UK’s Academy of Food and Wine Service Nina Basset, IWSC Judge and Master Sommelier Matteo Montone, our 2021 Emerging Talent in Hospitality winner and IWSC Judge Luke Harbor, 2023 Emerging Talent in Wine Hospitality winner Agnieszka Swiecka, as well as Digital Editor of Club Oenologique Will Morris.

When discussing the judging criteria, our experts highlighted: “These people are already hugely successful – and we looked at whether they are also team players and whether they give back to the community, how they are going to mentor and help their team grow professionally.”

The shortlist for the IWSC Emerging Talent in Wine Hospitality 2024 is:


Ciaran Bagchus

Head Sommelier at Pied à Terre, Ciaran’s journey into wine was not a straight path. After studying at a Seminary and considering potential service in the Catholic Church as a priest, he got drawn into food and wine, inspired by the way these two things bring people together. As Ciaran explains it, “Irish people have a natural gift towards hospitality. It is within us to welcome people and share memories with them”.

Starting as a Chef de Rang at Pied à Terre, he moved on to being a Head Waiter, and, after completing his WSET studies, progressed to become the Head Sommelier a year ago – after only 15 months in the industry. During just less than a year in this position, Ciaran introduced additional wine flights to the menu which led to the restaurant’s wine list winning several prestigious awards. Our judges appreciated Ciaran’s loyalty to the business, crediting the owners of the restaurant for his career progression: “When you take the job, you have the responsibility to the business and you grow together; it’s important to celebrate the successes together. I liked Ciaran’s focus on his professional development, but also on elevating the restaurant wine offering,” said one of the judges.


Beatrice Bessi

Head Sommelier and Wine Buyer at Chiltern Firehouse, London, Beatrice is an admirable candidate, said our judges, adding: “She is very dedicated and has been working very hard, running a successful 5-star hotel”. Beatrice started learning drinks as a bartender in 1999 and fell in love with hospitality – “an amazing blend of art, culture and power to turn a regular moment into an unforgettable memory”, as she describes it. From junior sommelier roles in Italy and then in London, Beatrice built an impressive career, taking charge of the Chiltern Firehouse wine offering in 2019. During her tenure, the restaurant’s wine list won multiple awards and has been recognised as one of the best wine lists in the UK.

Beatrice is now working towards her Master Sommelier certification, having passed the first part of her exam last year. The judges appreciated the breadth of Beatrice’s professional goals: her plans include supporting sustainable programs and initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion in the industry, as well as continuously educating her team, and contributing to the professional development of junior staff members. “Beatrice has been somewhat overlooked by the wider professional community, but she has been doing tremendous work and really deserves recognition,” said our judges.


Sinead McCarthy

“Sinead is a great voice in hospitality. Her application is very genuine and enthusiastic,” said our judges, who were impressed with Sinead’s approach to awareness around alcohol. “She’d like to bring more awareness to her team, supporting career development but also a healthy relationship with alcohol,” the judges noted.

Currently a Wine Manager at Hawksmoor, Dublin, Sinead started her career in hospitality in 2018. Over the last five years, she achieved her WSET Diploma Level 4 qualification, completed her studies at the Court of Master Sommeliers, worked for a wine importer and moved back to hospitality, taking part in the restaurant opening for Hawksmoor. “Going from a 40-seater restaurant in the suburbs with a 50 SKU wine list to a 200-seater restaurant in the city centre with a 200 SKU wine list was a huge challenge but I loved the whole experience,” Sinead shares. “I get a sense of a wider picture from her,” said one of judges. “She thinks about the industry; and her approach to wine education is quite cool – she’d like to get more involved with grassroots organisations like Wine Spirit Women.” The judges also appreciated that Sinead is planning to use her travel bursary to travel to Eastern Georgia and advocate Georgian wines in Ireland.


Dion Wai

Dion started his career in New Zealand, working as a bartender. He then progressed to become a restaurant manager before deciding to study wine and become a sommelier. In 2016, Dion won New Zealand Sommelier of the Year award, and a couple of years later he took a bold step moving to the UK and starting a career abroad. Since 2019, Dion has worked at some of the most respected institutions of the UK food and wine scene, including Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, 67 Pall Mall and Hide Above.  Last year, he took on the role of the Wine & Bar Manager at Mauro Colagreco, Raffles London at The OWO. Among Dion’s latest achievements – opening 2 brand-new restaurants and coming third at the UK Sommelier of the Year 2023.

“Dion is very humble, but he is so knowledgeable. He is also one of the few candidates that are all about sharing their knowledge with the team and growing together with the team,” said our judges. Among his goals for next year, Dion would like to further build, mentor and develop the young team of sommeliers who are all pursuing CMS and WSET qualifications. The panel appreciated Dion’s enthusiasm to push the discussion on creating a healthy work environment in hospitality, working towards a better work and life balance. “He has done amazing things and his passion for wine and for his work really comes across in his application,” said the judges.

Congratulations to the shortlisted applicants. The winner of the IWSC Emerging Talent in Wine Hospitality 2024 award will be announced on 20 February.