The Balkans International
Wine Competition
Sofia 17 - 20 May 2018
The Balkans International
Wine Competition
Sofia 17 - 20 May 2018

// Judges 2018

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Konstantinos Lazarakis MW

BIWC Chairman, Greece
Konstantinos Lazarakis MW

After studying jazz guitar and mechanical engineering on the National & Technical University of Athens, I became Sommelier of Jajazzo Restaurant in Athens - the first restaurant in Greece to hire a full time sommelier and the first to be awarded a Michelin star.
Now I work as an Imports Manager and Wine Buyer in AIOLOS ltd and the Managing Director of Wine and Spirits Professional Consultants that run WSET courses in Greece.
In the last two years I have been involved in wine writing and wine journalism and I now write for four Greek publications as well as having 'Wines of Greece' published as a part of the Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library in Sept. 2005. In addition, I consult for wine producers, hotels and restaurants.

Jo Ahearne MW

Australia & Croatia

Jo Ahearne MW first worked in the wine trade in the early 1990s at Oddbins in Central London and after two years went to Australia to work a vintage for Charles Melton, with his Nine Popes and Rose of Virginia wines in the Barossa Valley.

Following this she enrolled on a winemaking degree at Charles Sturt University in Australia, whilst also working at Pipers Brook, Bailey's of Glenrowan, Leasingham and Tintara wineries. On graduation, Ahearne worked as a flying winemaker in Spain and France, returned to the winemaking team at Charles Melton and spent four years making the global brand Jacob’s Creek.

In 2004, Ahearne moved back to the UK to blend wines for high end supermarket, Marks & Spencer, before a stint as wine and spirits buyer for the iconic luxury retailer Harrods. She now works as a winemaking consultant in France, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Macedonia while making her own wine in Hvar Croatia. She passed her Master of Wine qualification in 2008.

Isa Bal MS

United Kingdom & Turkey
Isa Bal MS  has been in the wine business for last 17 years. Isa Bal won "The Best Sommelier in Europe" award in 2008 in Sofia, Bulgaria.  His focus largely has been in the in trade field focusing on fine dining.
Travels extensively to the lesser known wine regions of the world and takes pleasure from new discoveries. Isa has been the Group Head Sommelier of the Fat Duck restaurant - 3 Micheline stars restaurant for the past 12 years.
Since January 2018  Isa Bal is running his own consultancy business focusing on restaurants, wineries and distribution channels.

Igor Luković

Igor Luković

Igor Luković is a wine critic, writer and journalist from Serbia, who has worked with wine and wine culture since 2003. He is Editor in chief in “Vino & Fino” magazine,  and associate of many other media dealing with wine and food culture.

At the same time, he is President of  the Sommelier Association of Vojvodina and CEO of the Serbian Sommelier Association. Actively is engaged in wine education, trainings, consulting and event managing, and as a  judge on the wine tastings. He works and lives between Belgrade and Novi Sad.

His beginnings in the wine business areas owner and Editor of “Gurman” and “Gastro Svet” magazines, and subsequently became General Manager of the company “Vinodrom”, engaged in importing and distributing wine.

Hing Cheng

Hong Kong

Horia Hasnas

Horia Hasnas

Journalist starting with 1993, he has worked in a variety of roles, mainly in newspapers but also in television, as a reporter, editor, columnist and commentator. His journey through the wine world started in a natural manner: as wine lover and collector. His love for written stories and also for fine wines led him to the decision of starting a wine blog named “Vindinpresa” but the decisive step was made in January 2011 when he got his break as a wine writer - editor of “Vinul.Ro” magazine, which is the main publication in Romania dedicated to wine, wine producers and wine-savvy readers. Playing the editorial role by pairing suggestions and culinary trends, showcasing wine as an indispensable companion at the table, probing interviews and critical reviews he gain an extensive expertise by regularly participating in wine-tasting, national and international wine fairs and festivals and being member of wine-juries.

Elias Macovela


Dimitar Nikolov


Evangelos Beris, Ph.D.


Dr. Evangelos Beris holds a Ph.D. in Viticulture, M.Sc. in Biology and WSET Advanced. Since 2014, he is teaching as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Oenology & Beverage Technology of Athens University of Applied Sciences (TEI of Athens), both at the Under-graduate course (B.Sc., in Oenology & Beverage Technology) and the Post-graduate programme (M.Sc., in Wine and Beer Science).

He is the Director of the study programme: “Viticulture & Oenology” at IEK Praxis in Athens. Moreover, he has been working for several years as a Seminar Instructor and a Consultant of Viticulture, Wine Production and Wine Tourism. He has recently been consulting and collaborating with Estate Argyros (Santorini - Greece).

Ivana Simjanovska

Ivana Simjanovska

Ivana has been part of the wine trade since 2007, beginning as one of the co-founders and members of the board of the first Macedonian Wine Club, organizing wine tasting events and promoting wine culture in Macedonia, followed by co-authoring and publishing of the first Macedonian Wine Guide 2011 along with Dave Vlam and the second edition of MWG 2014 with Paul Caputo.

Today, Ivana is an international wine writer, critic and wine judge, having participated at some of the most prestigious wine competitions in Europe. She has also lectured on specialised subjects promoting Macedonian wines at numerous wine festivals and fairs throughout Europe.

Along with contributing to several magazines and wine publications she is also editor-in-chief of, Macedonia's first online wine magazine, is a #winelover ambassador and works as Wine Tourism Specialist at Macedonia Experience. Ivana maintains a personal blog and as of 2013 has been pursuing her Masters Degree in Enology at the Insitute of Agriculture in Skopje.

Peder Larsen


Martin Smid

Czech republic
Martin Smid

Martin Smid  graduated at the Special high school of Technology in the field of beer, wine and spirit production (the Czech Republic). I finished WSET on the level  “Diploma in wines and spirits” and  gained the “Weinakademiker“ titul at Weinakademie Österreich.

Martin is  a holder of International taster certificate (ISO) and an experienced wine-taster.

MArtin took part in competitions in the Czech Republic as well as International competitions, e.g., Vinalies, Paris (France), VinAgora, Budapest (Hungary), Concours des Grands Vins Blancs du Monde, Strasbourg(France), Le Mondial des Pinots, Sierre (Switzerland), AWC, Vienna (Austria), Le Concours International de Lyon, Lyon, (France), Le Concours International des Cabernet, Paris, (France) etc.

Blagoy Kusmanski

United Kingdom & Bulgaria

Blagoy Kuzmanski is originally from Bulgaria but currently living and working in London. Being part of the sommelier team in one of the best wine establishments - 67 Pall Mall - he is exposed to the largest wine list in UK with more than 5000 labels and 700 wines by the glass.

Blagoy is currently studying WSET Diploma as well as preparing himself for the Master Sommelier Diploma. 

Klearhos Kanellakis

United Kingdom & Greece
Klearhos Kanellakis has been working as a Sommelier for the last 10 years. He worked as a Sommelier in Greece for 5 years. He was the head Sommelier  for the 5 star  hotel Aquila Elounda village in Crete. His carrear as a Sommelier continue in a funky gourmet 2 Michelin star restaurant in Athens, Greece. Klearhos worked as a Assistand Head Sommelier for Botrinis restaurant 1 Michelin Star,  in the best Greek restaurant Etrusco  in Corfu as Head Sommelier . 
For the last 2 years he moved to the UK  and works as Sommelier for 67 Pall Mall private members wine club since its  opening day. Pall Mall  has the biggest wine list in the UK (5000 bins), the biggest by the glass list in the world (700 bins) and he is a part of a 15-sommelier talented team under the guidance of head of wine Ronan Sayburn MS.