Meininger Awards Excellence in wine & spirit 2024

door | 11 mrt 2024 | Internationaal

Group photo f.l.t.r.: Santi, Francesca & Alessio Planeta, Andrea Meininger-Apfel, Rudolf Knickenberg, Bettina Bürklin-von Guradze, Gérard Bertrand, Javier R. de Galarreta, Christoph Bickel & Kirsi Puntila (Anora Group), Frank Apfel. (Foto: CHRISTOPH GROTHGAR photography)

Outstanding Achievement Award goes to Bettina Bürklin-von Guradze

On the eve of the opening of ProWein in Düsseldorf, the 18th Meininger Awards – Excellence in Wine & Spirit were presented at a formal gala event at Hotel Kö59. This year’s awardees are Rudolf Knickenberg (Schlumberger Vertriebsgesellschaft), Bettina Bürklin-von Guradze, the Planeta family, Gérard Bertrand, Javier R. de Galarreta (ARAEX) and Anora Group.

Before an audience of around 500 invited guests, six prominent representatives of the international wine and spirit industry were presented with the 18th Meininger Awards Excellence in Wine & Spirit. The host of the evening was Meininger Verlag.

The awardees at a glance:

  • Outstanding Achievement Award: Bettina Bürklin-von Guradze, Weingut Dr. Bürklin-Wolf
  • Wine Family of the Year: Planeta, Sicily
  • National Wine Entrepreneur of the Year: Rudolf Knickenberg, Schlumberger
  • International Wine Entrepreneur of the Year: Gérard Bertrand
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Javier R. de Galarreta, ARAEX
  • Spirit Company of the Year: Anora Group

Outstanding Achievement Award – Bettina Bürklin-von Guradze

Bettina Bürklin-von Guradze is a major wine pioneer. Thanks to her determination and clear entrepreneurial vision, biodynamic winegrowing is now socially respectable in Germany. Back in 2001, she switched over the legendary winery Dr. Bürklin-Wolf to biodynamic practices, long before many of her winegrowing colleagues. Today, the company in the Palatinate is a healthy, stable ecosystem. Bettina Bürklin-von Guradze is and has been a trailblazer, with an uncompromising commitment to quality and volume control. Her Rieslings are counted among the best in the world.

Wine Family of the Year – Planeta, Sicily

The Planeta family have been farming in Sicily for 17 generations. Today, this business-savvy family manages 400 hectares, almost all of it wine, across six vineyards in practically all top terroirs in Sicily. Internationally, the Planeta family are figureheads of the island’s winemakers. “In less than four decades, Francesca, Alessio and Santi’s first-class yet accessible wines have turned Planeta into a household name that is recognised around the world,” said presenter Sascha Speicher, editor-in-chief of Meiningers Sommelier.

National Wine Entrepreneur of the Year – Rudolf Knickenberg

Rudolf Knickenberg learned the ropes by rising from the ground up. He commenced his career as a waiter and was soon promoted to head sommelier at a top restaurant. At the young age of 29 he became Managing Director of the import company Domaine & Château, a subsidiary of the Deinhard sparkling wine company. For 20 years now Rudolf Knickenberg has been Managing Director of the Schlumberger trading company based in Meckenheim near Bonn. With Knickenberg at the helm, Schlumberger today represents the very best of the fine wines market, serving top-tier hospitality businesses and specialist traders. “The philosophy of focussing on the seller – whether they’re a specialist retailer or sommelier – as multiplier instead of the supermarket shelf has been instrumental to the company’s success,” said Alexandra Wrann, editor-in-chief of Weinwirtschaft in her laudatory address.

International Wine Entrepreneur of the Year – Gérard Bertrand

“Ambassador of the Languedoc“ is how Gérard Bertrand is often referred to. When, aged just 22, Bertrand had to give up his career as a pro rugby player to take over the winery of his father, who died young, he decided to lend the French wine-growing region of Languedoc-Roussillon international renown. In 1992, he founded Gérard Bertrand, a premier-league French wine company which today employs more than 300 staff and sells 25 million bottles a year. Early on, the winery embraced biodynamic winegrowing, putting Gérard Bertrand in yet another premier league: with 930 hectares, the company is the largest producer of biodynamic wines in the world.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Javier R. de Galarreta

The lawyer Javier R. de Galarreta owned a small Basque wine company when back in 1993 he partnered with nine winemakers from the Rioja region of Alavesa to establish ARAEX. His aim was to forge partnerships to become stronger, create top-quality wines, and promote their export. This association of independent wineries quickly grew into a company that is unique to the Spanish wine industry. Today, ARAEX markets wine that is grown on around 4,000 hectares of top-class vineyards across 14 Spanish wine regions. The company is regarded as a standard-bearer of the entire Spanish wine industry.

Spirit Company of the Year – Anora Group

Anora, a leading wine and spirit brand house in the Nordics, is a global industry forerunner that aims to create growth through sustainability. The highlight of its range so far is Koskenkorva Vodka, which is produced in line with the principles of the circular economy. It is a single-estate vodka made from regeneratively farmed, climate-active barley that is grown in a way that removes more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits. The state-of-the-art distillation process uses the entire barley corn as well as its husk. “We need visionary businesses such as Anora, which bring together responsibility and market success and employ cutting-edge research and state-of-the-art technology in order to address the challenges of our time,” said Barbara Becker, editor-in-chief of the cult gastro journal Fizzz, during the awards ceremony.

About the Meininger Award

The Meininger Award was first presented 18 years ago at the day before ProWein trade fair in Düsseldorf. It is given in recognition of outstanding achievements by representatives of the German and international wine scene. Previous award-winners include Gina Gallo, Miguel A. Torres, Fritz Keller, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Angelo Gaia and Margrit Biever-Mondavi. The initiator is Meininger Verlag, which focuses on the wine and beverage industry.


The publishing company Meininger Verlag was established in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in 1903. One of Germany’s oldest specialist publishing companies, it is now being run in the fourth generation of the family by Andrea Meininger-Apfel and Christoph Meininger. In particular, the company specialises in the wine and beverage sector, with its wine portfolio making it the European market leader. Alongside its well-known trade journals, the company also organises trade fairs, industry events and conventions. Meininger has successfully made a name for itself internationally with the Grand International Wine Award MUNDUS VINI. Furthermore, the media company also stages numerous wine competitions, such as the Best of Riesling, Meiningers Deutscher Sektpreis and Meininger’s Rotweinpreis.