Judges and Scientific Committee 2021

All the wines participating to 5StarWines will be tasted by a panel of highly qualified, international experts, having been selected among Masters of Wine, Master Sommelier’s, WSET Diploma holders, VIA experts and ambassadors, oenologists and journalists.
The different geographical backgrounds, the variety of professional profiles of the judges and the blind tasting process guarantee objectivity to the selection.

5StarWines 2020 CCO Stevie Kim

CCO 5StarWines and Managing Director @ Vinitaly International

Stevie Kim was born in Korea and raised in the United States. Today she lives in Verona. At first, she attended the New York University – Leonard N. Stern School of Business, earning a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). After settling in Italy, she obtained an MBA at Bocconi University, School of Economics and Management. Later, she achieved a postgraduate specialization in Wealth Management at the University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School. As Managing Director of Vinitaly International, Stevie has launched and now coordinates a series of new initiatives connected to the Vinitaly brand. She is always seeking innovative ways to communicate and celebrate “Italian wine”, with a strong creative emphasis on social media and educational platforms. In 2017, Stevie launched Italian Wine Podcast, the first podcast in English dedicated exclusively to Italian wine and its personalities; and Italian Wine Unplugged Grape by Grape, a new reference book unpacking the hundreds of Italian native grapes in a visually compelling layout. She regularly travels around the world to spread the gospel of Italian wine, with particular attention to USA, Russia, and China.



Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Master of Wine

Pedro Ballesteros Torres is a Master of Wine. He got his Agrofood Engineer Degree and his Master Degree in Viticulture & Oenology at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. He also got the WSET Diploma, the Weinakademiker certificate, and he followed various other wine specialisation studies. He is columnist at Planeta Vino, Selectus Wineselmundovino.com (Spain), Libre BelgiqueDe MorgenDernière Heure (Belgium), writes regularly for Decanter (UK), and writes occasionally for magazines in Switzerland, Italy, France and USA. He was a co-Chair at Decanter World Wine Awards (UK), and a Chair and Senior judge at many international wine competitions. He was in the Governing Council of the Institute of Masters of Wine, of the Spanish Taster Union, of the International Federation of Wine Journalists, and in the Advisory Board of the Basque Culinary Centre. Expert at OIV for Spain, he has given several hundred lectures and tutored tastings all over the world in Spanish, English, French and Italian.


Robert Joseph

Editorial consultant for Meininger’s Wine Business International

Robert is a wine business consultant and an editorial consultant for Meininger’s Wine Business International, which he helped to launch in 2006. In 1983, after living in Burgundy for five years, he launched the Wine International magazine; set up the International Wine Challenge; became wine writer for the Sunday Telegraph and wrote The Wine Lists, the first of his 25 books. He has chaired and launched over 50 wine competitions in Asia, Europe and the UK. Robert has been in Who’s Who since 2013, and the awards he has received include the Jacob’s Creek ‘Golden Vine’; ‘the Best Wine Guide in the World’; the Glenfiddich (twice); The Wine Guild of the United Kingdom Premier; the Marques de Caceres. He regularly appears on television and radio and has lectured at the Wine & Spirits Educational Trust, Burgundy and Sonoma Wine Business Schools. Joseph is one of the trio behind Hugh Kevin & Robert Wines whose le Grand Noir range now sell over 3.8m bottles per year in over 60 countries. His website is winethinker.com.


Bernard Burtschy

Columnist at Le Figaro

Bernard Burtschy is a wine columnist for Le Figaro (a French newspaper and Internet site) and for several magazines in the French press (including Paris-Match, Vigneron, Amateur de Vins et Spiritueux) as well as outside his native France (such as Wands in Japan, Feinschmecker in Germany). He is also President of the French Wine Press and Permanent Member of the Grand Jury Européen, the European wine tasting group. His family has always produced wine, both red and white. Bernard has always been fascinated by wine; he started by taking tasting courses at the Académie du Vin in Paris in 1977, then quickly became a tasting teacher and, from the early 1980s, a main contributor to the Revue du Vin de France, then to Gault & Millau. He also wrote about a number of vintages for the Eponymous Wine guides. Outside the world of wine, Bernard Burtschy is a professor of statistics at the École Supérieure des Télécommunications in Paris.


Daniele Cernilli

Editor at Doctor Wine and Founder of Gambero Rosso

Daniele Cernilli is the Director of the online magazine Doctor Wine. After a Master’s Degree in Philosophy, he taught this discipline along with history and literature for a period but eventually he decided to move his career towards his passion, great food and wine. Daniele is a regular contributor to Italian newspapers, and trade and consumer publications; he has also written a number of technical books on wine and wine tasting. In 1986, he co-founded Gambero Rosso magazine which (together with Slow Food) began to publish an Italian Wine Guide annually; he oversaw this for more than 24 editions. Daniele often gives interviews to various Italian media outlets as a wine expert, and teaches professional courses at the “Città del Gusto” (Taste City). He got several awards for his contribution to food and wine culture, including the Gold Plaque from the “Associazione Enotecnici” and in 1999, Decanter listed Cernilli among the 50 most influential people in the wine world (2007-2008-2009).


Gabriele Gorelli MW

Master of Wine, brand ambassador, strategic consultant

Born in 1984, Gabriele Gorelli MW is one of Italy’s most esteemed wine experts.
Born and raised in Montalcino, Tuscany, in February 2021, he became the first Italian Master of Wine. His passion for wine was born thanks to his paternal grandfather, the smallest producer of Brunello di Montalcino.
After linguistic studies, he gained a long experience in the visual communication of wine. In 2015 he co-founded KH Wines, which deals with strategic product and communication consultancy for high-level brands. Gabriele speaks English, and French and has a basic knowledge of German.
Avid traveller, trail runner and Ashtanga Yoga practitioner.
Today Gabriele is Brand Ambassador of OENO Group for Italy, Worldwide Faculty Ambassador for Fondazione Banfi and Brand Ambassador for Vinventions.


Monty Waldin

Journalist at Decanter and author of 13 books on natural wines

Monty Waldin became the first wine writer to specialize in organic and biodynamic wines. He has worked in vineyards and wineries in both hemispheres, and was the subject of Chateau Monty, the first TV series to follow the making of a biodynamic wine from pruning to bottling for Britain’s Channel Four in 2008. He has written extensively about wine. His books include Biodynamic Wines, which was published in 2004 by Mitchell Beazley as part of its Classic Wine Library series. Monty Waldin’s Wines of South Africa won the 2004 “James Beard Foundation” award for best wine and spirits book. He also wrote the first comprehensive guide in Britain to organic and biodynamic wine, The Friends of the Earth Organic Wine Guide, which features more than 2,000 wines. He has been a regular contributor to The Ecologist, and writes the entries on organic, biodynamic and natural wine for the Oxford Companion to Wine (ed. Jancis Robinson MW OBE).



Henry Davar IWE

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Wine Educator

Henry Davar was born in Moscow and was raised in Queens, New York. After a five-year career in finance in New York City, Henry enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Education, and studied with the American Sommelier Association. He worked as Sommelier, Wine and Beverage Director, Business Development Manager, and Wine Educator. In April 2011, he went on sabbatical, traveling in Italy and working harvest at Vietti in Barolo. In April 2017, Henry became (at that time) the only candidate to be achieve the Expert level in Vinitaly International Academy’s Italian Wine Ambassador course on the first attempt. He joined the VIA Faculty where he helped develop the expanded VIA course curriculum which premiered in Hong Kong in November 2018 and continues to assist in its ongoing development and implementation.


Francesco Marchio IWE

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Managing Director of VinoVeritas Asia Limited

Francesco has over 10 years of experience in the wine sector. In Italy he worked as a sommelier, and as a manager in a wine shop and in a luxury hotel. In 2009 he moved to the UK: he worked as a sommelier at the 2 Michelin star French Restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, then as a Sales Manager in Oxfordshire. In 2012 he relocated to Hong Kong as Business Development Manager at VinoVeritas Asia Limited, becoming Managing Director in 2018. He holds the WSET Diploma and he is the first and only VIA Italian Wine Expert in Hong Kong. He participated in Vinitaly’s selection 5StarWines as a Judge, and he was awarded “Best Italian Wine Ambassador in China” by D.E.S.A., Deutschland Sommelier Association, during Pro Wein Hong Kong 2019.


JC Viens IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Deputy Wine Editor of Grande Passione

Jean-Charles (alias JC) Viens is a Certified WSET Educator, Vinitaly Academy Ambassador and the Franciacorta Ambassador in Greater China. He is also the CEO of Grande Passione Ltd, a marketing and events firm based in Hong Kong. JC is genuinely passionate about the human stories behind each label. Based in Hong Kong for 25 years, he has experienced the fascinating growth the region has sustained, first as an entrepreneur in the export sector and now as an expert in Wine Communications. He also focuses his activities on Marketing Strategies and Public Relation campaigns for Italian wines in Hong Kong and China. He recently received the honour of Cavaliere della Stella d’Italia for the work he has done on behalf of Italian wines in Hong Kong in the last ten years.


Jinglin Zhang IWE

VIA Italian Wine Expert

Jinglin Zhang, based in London and Beijing is the director of Grape Paradise, a boutique importer focusing on innovative family size producers in Italy. She found passion for raising region such as Sicily, Emilia Romagna and North Piedmont. She is Italian Wine Expert certified by VIA and currently a MW student. 


Vincenzo Donatiello

Head Sommielier, Piazza Duomo – Three Michelin Star Restaurant

Vincenzo Donatiello is Manager and Head Sommelier at Ristorante Piazza Duomo at Alba, a Michelin 3-star restaurant. Lucano, Sommelier, class of 1985, he grows professionally between Apulia, where he has attended the Istituto Alberghiero di Vieste, and Romagna, with his first experiences throughout the Adriatic coast. He has been the student of important sommeliers like Gianfranco Bolognesi, Best Sommelier in Italy in 1974, and Roberto Gardini, Best Sommelier in Italy in 1993. Nowadays he is the Restaurant Manager and Head Sommelier of Ristorante Piazza Duomo in Alba, a Michelin 3-star and sixteenth in the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. He was awarded Best Junior Sommelier in Italy in 2004 and Best Sommelier in Romagna in 2010, Person of the Year 2013 for Italia a Tavola Magazine, Maître of the Year by the Guida Alberghi e Ristoranti del Touring Club 2016 and Maître of the Year in 2018 by the Guida ai Ristoranti d’Italia de L’Espresso.


Paul Caputo IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, editor-in-chief of Vinorandum

Paul Caputo is a UK based wine writer, judge, critic and entrepreneur. He is a certified Italian Wine Ambassador of the VinItaly International Academy, and writes regularly for various publications. He previously ran an online wine merchant and successful pop up wine bar, located on Chester’s historic rows. He works mainly in the wine space where he combines his passion for travel, technology, sustainability, and marketing. He is now working on Vinorandum, a wine business startup. Vinorandum is a wine search engine and media platform bringing stories and opinion from the world of wine. In 2020 he won a Millesima Award for his writing.


Hayley Black IWE

Fine Wine Specialist at Winebow Imports

Hayley believes that a passion for wine paired with a desire to learn creates a never-ending journey. After a decade of working in restaurants, she dove into the world of wine sales and distribution. Along the way, she found time to earn the highest level of qualification available through the WSET, in addition to the highest level of certification with the Vinitaly Wine Academy. Hayley understands what it means to pursue the pinnacle of quality in the wine industry. Her ability to inspire, educate and connect people through wine has been and continues to be the driving force behind her career.


Niklas Bergqvist IWE

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Head Sommelier and Wine Educator Vinkällaren Grappe and Restaurangakademien

Niklas Bergqvist started out in the kitchens of various restaurants in Stockholm, Sweden. A deep interest in wine drove him to take a sommelier course to understand the concepts of matching wine and food.After a serious skiing accident that left him unable to walk due to a badly broken leg, he used his rehabilitation time focusing on the WSET Diploma; he finished the programme as the best Continental European student in 2012. Since then he has been working with wine full time as head sommelier in a private wine club for wine collectors. Bergqvist is also a WSET educator and Italian Wine Expert through the Vinitaly International Academy.


Catherine Stratton IWA

Educator, Owner of C.S. Selections LLC and Sales Manager for Strade Bianche Wines

Catherine Stratton Wenger was raised in her family’s restaurant business, in Los Angeles. A first trip to Italy in 2001 led to her moving there at age 19 to pursue a degree in Art Restoration in Florence. She achieved a Certificate in Wine Education and Management from UCLA; she is also an Italian Wine Specialist from the North American Sommelier Association and a certified Yoga Instructor. In 2016 she founded Vino and Vinyasa Tours, a boutique travel company focused solely on Italy with winery visits and personal yoga instruction. In 2018, she founded CS Selections a wine brokerage working with several small importers in Southern California. In 2019 she finished second in her course at the Vinitaly International Academy in Los Angeles, becoming Italian Wine Ambassador. Currently she lives in Portland, Oregon, where she works as Sales Manager for Strade Bianche wines, a direct importer of Italian wine, and she manages the Oregon and Southern California markets for Charles Neal Selections, a French importer. Moreover, she co-founded the brand Due Terre Wines – producing certified organic wines from indigenous grapes in Sicily. On May 11 she will graduate with an Executive MBA – beyond the standard business coursework she has specialized in supply chains & operations, startup entrepreneurship, and strategic thinking.



Melissa M. Sutherland IWA

Senior Sales Advisor at Panebianco Wines

Melissa has devoted 11 years to the selling, promotion, and study of Italian wine. She has unique insight into the business due to her experience, from opening NYC’s first dual wine bar/wine shop, to rebranding NYC’s legendary Italian Wine Merchants; as well as becoming a buyer & marketer at one of NYC’s oldest and largest wine retailers. She was recruited by The Winebow Group as National Import Brand Manager, focusing on the premier Italian wines of Leonardo LoCascio Selections and most recently, she concluded two years of strategic advising for winery clients in Italy. In the fall of 2018, Melissa returned to NYC full-time, signing on with the importer/distributor Panebianco Wines as Senior Sales Advisor, representing some of the smaller wineries of Italy. Melissa’s work has been featured in many national publications and sites, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Civiltà del Bere, and Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. Melissa is also the author of the forthcoming book, Bianchista Forever: Drinking and Appreciating Italy’s White Wines.


Yannick Benjamin

Co-Founder of Beaupierre Wines & Spirits, Contento Restaurant and Wine on Wheels

Benjamin, a New York City-based sommelier, is the cofounder of Contento in East Harlem, which opened in 2021. He is also a co-founder and director of development for Wine on Wheels, an organization that helps recently disabled people. In 2003, a car accident left Benjamin paralyzed, but he pursued his dreams to attend college and become a sommelier. Having worked in his early years at Le Cirque, Jean-Georges, Felidia and Atelier at the Ritz Carlton, Benjamin went back to wine service at Le Dû’s Wines for more than seven years and became an accomplished athlete. Benjamin and partners opened Contento with the ethos and tagline “accessible for all”. It is a stunning example of quality hospitality designed with a broadly inclusive approach.

Yannick has been recognized among Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 under 40 and was named Person of the Year by New Mobility Magazine in 2017. He was the resident sommelier on the hit radio show “On The Town with Michael Riedel” on AM 970 The Answer, and has made multiple appearances on ABC, NBC, and CBS. In 2015, Yannick starred in “Uncorked,” a documentary series featuring sommeliers on Esquire TV. Jancis Robinson of the Financial Times calls Benjamin “the new star of New York’s gastronomic firmament”, and The Wine Spectator talks about Benjamin revealing a “kinder, gentler side of the profession”. The story of Yannick’s journey and the success of Wheeling Forward have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Village Voice, Wine Spectator, Financial Times, and Forbes. He was recognized by the Wine Enthusiast Wine Star Awards as Sommelier/ Wine Director of The Year for 2021.


Tushar Borah

Sommelier at Jumeirah Group of Hotels

Sommelier at Burj Al Arab, the world most luxurious Hotel, Jumeirah Group in Dubai. Taking care part of the beverage program for the hotel and service operation of the award winning fine dining restaurant ‘Al Mahara’ by Michelin Star Chef Nathan Outlaw from London. Prior to Dubai, I have worked with different wine markets in Hong Kong, Maldives, India under hotel chain of Shangri-La, Kempinski, Sheraton etc. My current wine list has over 1000 reference from around the globe and received Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellent consecutively for the last 3 years. I am currently pursuing diploma courses from WSET and Court of Master Sommelier.


Hugh L. Preece IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Operating Partner at Salt Creek Grille

Hugh L. Preece IWA is a Restaurant Executive and Director with over 30 years of successful experience providing fiscal, strategic, and operations leadership in uniquely challenging situations. He is Founder of Native Grapes, LLC, Italian Wine Ambassador – Vinitaly International Academy, Italian Wine Scholar – Wine Scholar Guild, Certified Educator through VIA Educator Program, Sommelier, and 5StarWines & Wine Without Walls judge. He is also author to “Counting Castles in Abruzzo”. He is featured on WPST 94.3 Radio, ABC NY, ESPN Television, NY Daily News, Buck’s Life Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Univision.com, and US News and World Report.


Luiz André Batistello IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador,  Sommelier at Wine Tours Paris

Luiz Batistello is a 39 year old former Lawyer from Brazil. His professional conversion in the wine industry started in 2007. He holds a WSET Diploma, IWA – VIA, currently a judge for 6 wine contests in France and two in the UK, IWC and IWSC, marker for WSET level 3 in 4 languages. In the past, he has worked as a Sommelier in restaurants and hotels in the UK, Spain and Italy. I’ve worked as head Sommelier for one of the biggest wine importers in Brazil for 2 years, and as Brand Ambassadors for important Italian wine producers. In 2014 I moved to France, where I now run a Wine Tour Company specialized in Burgundy and Champagne, also running wine tastings of French and Italian Wines.



Tara-Maria Jabbour IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassadors, Export Manager at Agriment Italia

Lebanese sommelier Tara-Maria started her career in 2011 with her master’s degree in Marketing and Management of Wine Industry from the University of Florence and her certification as a sommelier from the Associazione Italiana Sommelier. Inspired to bring her experience back home to Lebanon, Tara launched her first wine training program, L’Angolo di Vino, and worked with several Lebanese wineries on establishing their market name and presence. Tara’s cultural curiosity and ambition led her to Dubai in 2015, where she joined the team of Michelin Star chef Heinz Beck at the Waldorf Astoria as Head Sommelier, and then as Beverage Manager for the Renaissance Hotel. In 2019, after she became an Italian Wine Ambassador (VIA) she decided to move back to Italy, to promote Italian wine around the world.


Jingjing Sui IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Commercial director

Jingjing Sui is a Marketing and Sales Professional. She was born in China, but she moved to Italy when she was a teenager. She first graduated in Language and Literature, in Rome. Then, by chance, she discovered the world of wine and she took a detour in oenology and viticulture studies. She got her Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Milan in 2018. She is living in Bordeaux, where she got a Master in Wine and Sprits and the WSET Diploma. She has been working for Bi-Sin Trading Co., Ltd in Beijing as senior buyer since 2019. Bi-Sin imports and distributes wines and spirits from Europe to the Chinese market, mainly from Italy. In Rome she started her own company, focusing on the organization of private and corporate events, wine tastings and wine tourism.


Luzia Schrampf IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Wine Writer for Der Standard et. al. and Wine Educator

Luzia Schrampf is an Austrian journalist and wine educator for Wine Academy Austria (Rust). She passed the Diploma WSET in 2003. Since December 2015 she is Italian Wine Ambassador of Vinitaly International Academy, Verona. Her articles appear in wine publications in Austria and Germany, but also internationally in „Civiltà del Bere“ or „Decanter“.  From 2007 to 2015 she was wine columnist for the Austrian quality daily „Der Standard“. She is author of several books, her latest „111 österreichischer Weine, die man getrunken haben muss“ (emons Verlag, Cologne) co-written with Austrian wine writer Daniela Dejnega, was published in October 2019.  She was technical consultant for a TV programme on Austrian wine (2012) and she also reports on Austria for Jancis Robinson’s World Atlas of Wine, 7th & 8th edition.


André Ribeirinho

Co-Founder, CEO and Digital Strategist of Adegga and WineSpots

André Ribeirinho wears many hats, he is an award-winning food, wine and travel entrepreneur, a Portuguese wine expert and a Certified Port Educator. As a wine writer André contributes to Decanter Magazine and the Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book. Often known as a Digital Strategist, André is also known as a marketing specialist, a businessman, an ambassador, an evangelist, an influencer, a traveler, a contributor and a (Port) Knight. Furthermore, he is a wine judge at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Co-founder and CEO at Adegga, Reiberinho is also the head pilot at innovative projects like WineSpots, SmartWineGlass, Portugal Wine Week and Fine Portugal.


Alexandra Alexandrova IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Deputy Managing Director at Gourmet Alliance Group

Alexandra Alexandrova works in Moscow in the restaurant business. She began her career as a sommelier, and now she is the Deputy Managing Director at Gourmet Alliance Group, being responsible for the wine selection of the restaurant chain. She holds a WSET Diploma and a Weinakademiker title, and in 2018 she became a VIA Italian Wine Ambassador. The title of her Thesis on The Austrian Wine academy  was The Slow Revolution of Soave. Latterly as a Stage 2 student of the Institute of Masters of Wines, she spends several months every year travelling to various wine regions around the world to further her wine knowledge.


David Furka IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Freelance Wine Consultant and Wine Journalist

David Furka is an Hungarian freelance wine consultant and wine journalist. He has arrived to the wine world from the construction industry, and he worked for more than thirteen years as project manager and department head. He managed various high value investments, as well as teams and employees. He is holding MA in Economics, and BSc in Engineering. The initial enthusiasm towards wines turned to serious professional engagement. He acquired the WSET Diploma, the Weinakademiker title, and became a VIA Italian Wine Ambassador in 2018. Now he writes articles about wine, wine events, and main wine attractions. He works as a judge in wine competitions, and consults with restaurants and supermarkets about wine acquisitions, reliable vendors or suppliers, prices and contracts, and wine lists.

Valeria Tenison IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, wine educator, wine blogger and journalist

Russian-born, Valeria has lived and worked in eight countries of Europe and Asia. She started her career in wine in 2009, having obtained a sommelier diploma in Saint-Petersburg, later adding to that a ASI Gold certificate, a WSET Diploma and a VIA Italian Wine Ambassador title. She was the winner of the 2018 Best Female Sommelier of Russia and a runner-up in Ruinart Sommelier Challenge France 2019. Based now in Bordeaux, she writes for several wine magazines in Russia and France, judges wine competitions and organizes wine tastings, educational activities and tours for private clients.


Anna Baranova IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Wine Educator at Millesime School

Anna Baranova is from St. Petersburg, Russia. She graduated as a Human Resources Manager from the Higher School of Business Administration; this is when she realised her love of wine, she especially identified with the phrase “in vino veritas”. She dove into the wine business in 2005, working as both a sommelier and a wine-seller in different companies within St. Petersburg. In 2018 Baranova finished her studies at the Weinakademie Österreich earning her WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits. Now she is a Weinakademiker (wine academic) and WSET Diploma holder. Baranova also attended and completed the Vinitaly International Academy, Italian Wine Ambassador course twice, in 2017 and in 2018. Her website can be viewed at www.winecode.ru. Currently she is lecturing at wine schools’ “Millesime” and “Marine Express”. She is also the chief-sommelier at “Caffe Italia”, an authentic Italian restaurant in St. Petersburg.


Laura Donadoni IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Founder of La Com Wine Agency, journalist and wine educator

Laura Donadoni is an Italian wine writer, published author and journalist based in California, where she founded years ago “The Italian Wine Girl” blog and online community (today counting more than 60.000 followers) and La Com Wine Agency, a strategic P.R. and Communications firm focused on the wine industry. She is a contributor for the Slow Wine Guide America, a columnist for SommJournal and Tasting Panel Magazines, the only Italian woman member of the International Circle of Wine Writers and of the Los Angeles Wine Writers Association and the Director of the Wine Education Program at the Pacific National Food and Beverage Museum in L.A. She is a certified wine educator, a professional wine judge in national and international competitions such as the historic San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, she is a Vinitaly International Ambassador, a certified Sommelier with merit with the North American Sommelier Association and the World Sommelier Association, a WSET advanced sommelier. In her book “Come il vino ti cambia la vita” meaning “How wine can change your life” (published by Il Cairo), she includes her story and the stories of inspiration, courage, and rebirth of six Italian wine producers. Her first book was awarded with the Premio Bruno Lunelli for the wine literature. The book was translated into English and published in the USA by Prima Living publisher. After the success of the first edition, Laura has worked on a second, ambitious project: “Custodi del vino”, the stories of a resilient and rebirthing Italy, published by Slow Food Editore, one of the top seller wine books on Amazon and at bookshops in 2021.


Elise Vandenberg IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Fine Wine Specialist at Vin Sauvage

Elise Vandenberg is an Italian Wine Ambassador and Certified Sommelier based in Reno, Nevada, USA. Elise enjoys wine from around the world but is particularly passionate about wines made from native Italian grapes. Elise works in fine wine distribution with Vin Sauvage. She writes about Italian wine at elisevino.wordpress.com.


Christopher Barnes

Founder and Publisher at Grape Collective

Christopher Barnes is currently Editor and Publisher of Grape Collective an online wine magazine that combines high quality wine journalism with a seamless eCommerce experience. Grape Collective has produced over 300 video interviews on location with winemakers around the world and features writing by some of wine journalism’s top stars including former Wall Street Journal wine critic Dorothy J. Gaiter. Prior to starting Grape Collective Barnes was President of The Observer Media Group, publisher of The New York Observer. Barnes was co-founder and Publisher of amNewYork newspaper, New York’s largest free daily newspaper which was eventually sold to the Tribune Company. Amongst other media start-ups he was also involved in the co-founding of the Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral Press weekly newspaper and The London Monthly magazine. He has an MBA from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.


Nikolay Chashchinov IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Director at Millesime Wine School

Nikolay Chashchinov is a professional wine educator and representative of the wine trade industry, who has been in the wine business for 16 years. Nikolay Chashchinov worked as a sommelier in a 5* hotel from 2005 to 2006, thereafter, he won the Saint Petersburg Sommelier Contest for two consecutive years; 2006 and 2007. In 2007 Chashchinov also began working in wine imports, all the while, together with some friends, he opened a sommelier wine school in 2010. Already a WSET Diploma holder, he also tackled and successfully completed the Vinitaly International Academy Italian Wine Ambassador Course in 2015 in addition to becoming a Weinakademiker in 2018.


Vladislav Markin IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador


Stefan Metzner IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Owner at Seminare & Beratung

Stefan Metzner was born and raised in Munich and started his working carreer in hospitality where he soon became fascinated of the wines of the world. The first decade of his career in wine, Stefan Metzner worked as a Sommelier. He then went to work in the trade, import, retail and wholesale for 10 years and now he is focused on education, running a WSET wine school in Munich. He’s doing masterclasses and consults for restaurants in wine business and staff training. He holds a WSET Diploma and is a “Certified WSET Educator“. With the Vinitaly International Academy he became an Italian Wine Ambassador in 2015 and managed to become a Certified Italian Wine Educator in 2019.


Alice Wong IWA

Co-Founder/Wine Coach of Vinetude Asia

After obtaining her Master’s Degree in Business Administration in New York, Alice relocated to Hong Kong in 2013, gradually establishing her career in wine, and eventually started her company Vinetude Asia in 2017. Her involvement in the wine industry is multifold, including wine education, consultation, communication, event management, and judging. To fulfill her passion in Italian wines, she undertook the prestigious Vinitaly International Academy Italian Wine Ambassador Program and became the first batch of graduates of the enhanced version in 2018. Currently, Alice is the Deputy Master of the Cavalieri del Tartufo e dei Vini di Alba – Hong Kong Delegation, and the Chair of the Food & Beverage Committee of The American Club Hong Kong. To honor her contribution in promoting Italian wines, Alice was the winner of the 2020 “Hong Kong Living Influencer” Award.


Jermaine Stone

Founder of Cru Luv
Cru Luv Wine’s Founder, Jermaine Stone, was raised worlds away from wine country with plans to become a rapper. By age 19, he had already made appearances on XM Radio and BET. A temporary job at Zachys Wine Auctions quickly turned him into a lover of fine wine. In his nine years there, he became an auctioneer and member of Zachys senior leadership before becoming one of the founding directors of Wally’s Wine Auctions in 2013 in partnership with Los Angeles’ top wine merchant. He now runs Cru Luv Wine, a New York-based firm dedicated to blending the best elements of wine and hip hop culture.


Kirk Peterson IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Freelance Journalist and Wine Consultant at Whetstone LLC

Kirk Peterson is an experienced wine and food professional, wine educator, and award-winning writer and Symposium for Professional Wine Writers fellowship recipient who enjoys a life and career dedicated to food, wine, and hospitality. Peterson is often seen and heard on Las Vegas’ ABC-affiliate daytime television talk show, FOX5 Las Vegas, KNPR Nevada Public Radio in addition to being a regular contributor to The Tasting Panel, Vegas Seven, and David Magazine.



Tomislav Tuđen

Executive Director of Miva & Mohor Trgovina
Tomislav Tuđen comes from Zagreb, he works as the executive director of Miva & Mohor Trgovina, the leading wine distributor company in Croatia. Always keen to improve his education, he is currently attending WSET Diploma classes. In the wine business for the last 18 years, his goal is to promote and present Croatian wines to the world. Since 2016 he has been officially designated as Riedel’s ambassador.


Angelo Sabbadin

Sommelier at Ferrowine

Angelo Sabbadin was born and raised in Padua. After years of working in well-known restaurants in the city, in 2006 he started working at the three-starred restaurant Le Calandre (Rubano) as a sommelier and purchasing manager. This experience, which lasted 7 years, allowed Angelo to taste the excellence of food and wine. In 2010 he was in charge of renewing Le Calandre’s wine list, and organised it based on grape variety rather than region as well as presenting it on iPad rather than paper.  In 2011 he was awarded Sommelier of the Year for the Guida de l’Espresso. Since 2012, he has been on the jury of the Decanter World Wine Award, a competition organised by Decanter magazine involving 220 judges from 20 different countries. For 4 years Angelo collaborated with the Ian d’Agata/Comparini Wine Guide and for the last 4 years he has been part of the Guida de l’Espresso Vini as regional delegate for Veneto and Friuli. In 2019, he was a judge at WOW, an Italian wine competition organised by Civiltà del Bere magazine. Currently, Angelo is a professional ASPI sommelier and works at Ferrowine (Castelfranco Veneto) as a sommelier and selector. For Angelo, wine is an articulate and complex subject, a passion, a captivating element. Before telling about wine, according to him, it is necessary to listen to it and understand it, in order to convey emotions.


Giuseppe Rosati

Owner and CEO of G&Partners

Born 1969 ( a bad vintage!) in Italy. Grown in a family restaurant in Gubbio (Umbria). In 1997 open a his own restaurant and after 5 years was one of the top wine list in Italy. In 2010 moved to NYC invited by Lidia Bastianich to manage the wine list of her flagship restaurant Felidia. In 2015 began Vinitaly International Ambassador, same year began his current role with Falesco- Famiglia Cotarella as Brand Ambassador. Owner of G&Partners a NYC based company for market strategy and brand positioning. Spent 6 months in Italy traveling in a vineyard and 6 months in USA traveling the country. 80 domestic flights a year between hotels, restaurants, sales office and Starbucks. Wine columnist for Lidia’s magazine and Accademia del Tartufo. Keep Calm and Drink Italian.


Pietro Russo

Winemaker at Donnafugata

Born in 1985 in Marsala from a family long dedicated to winemaking, Pietro Russo graduated in Viticulture and Winemaking from Conegliano Veneto and holds a Master’s Degree from Bordeaux. His career includes working periods spent in Bordeaux and Languedoc, Andalusia, New Zealand, and Piedmont, where he has developed a long hands-on experience in winemaking and an insatiable passion for wine.

Since 2010 Pietro has been working for Donnafugata, where he has the opportunity to produce wines from the most compelling appellations across Sicily, such as Etna, Pantelleria, Vittoria, and Contessa Entellina. In 2020, together with Gabriele Gorelli MW and Andrea Lonardi, Pietro revised the Italian chapter for the New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. He participates annually in several international wine competitions as a judge.

Pietro is also a candidate in the Master of Wine program, having passed the tasting part of the exam in 2019, and currently studying to achieve the famous two letters.


Ciro Pirone IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Director of Italian Wines at Horizon Beverage Company

Ciro Pirone, Director of Italian Wines for Horizon Beverage Company, is a graduate of the Istituto Alberghiero (Hotel and Restaurant Management school) of Salerno, Italy and an Italian Wine Ambassador by the Vinitaly International Academy. Traveling and working in Italy, England and the US, Ciro developed an incredible passion for wine, food and culture. After all, growing up in Italy, wine was always a very important part of his family’s lifestyle and traditions. In 1999, Ciro moved to the US permanently. He landed in Boston, where he continued his wine studies at Boston University, the International Sommelier Guild, the London – based Wine & Spirits Educational Trust (WSET), as well as he completed and passed with Honors the Italian Wine Specialist Certification by the North American Sommelier Association (part of the worldwide recognized Italian Sommelier Association). In June 2017 (and again in 2019) he completed the Vinitaly International Academy certification course and received the Italian Wine Ambassador title. In 2019 he also passed with Honors the Italian Wine Scholar program by the Wine Scholar Guild. In 2007, Ciro accepted the position of Italian Wine Specialist at Horizon Beverage. After successful growth at HBC, Ciro accepted on a new challenge as the US Brand Manager for the Arnaldo Caprai Winery of Montefalco (Umbria), the top producer of worldwide recognized Sagrantino di Montefalco. In June 2011, Ciro returned to Horizon Beverage with a new position of Director of Italian Wines in support of their expanding presence in the New England marketplace. Ciro is happy to share his passion for Italian wine and culture in the effort to give the American wine consumer a better understanding and appreciation for Italian wine!


Dongmyung Hong IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, CEO of Vinovino co., ltd

Hong Dongmyung runs Vinovino, a company that imports only Italian wines to South Korea. This company was established in 2002 as a family business. Now, Hong is the CEO and works with over 50 producers from Italy. After graduating from the Korea National University of Arts, he immediately joined the family business. Hong has also owned an Italian restaurant, and so discovered early on that he can communicate with wine people. Hong has garnered certifications such as the WSET advanced and VIA Italian Wine Ambassador. After many years of dedication to the wine industry, a desire to express his experience and teaching about Italian wine developed and He joined a wine school to share his knowledge with other professionals.


Artem Lebedev IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, President of Kazakhstan sommelier association

Artem Lebedev is the President of the Kazakhstan Sommelier Association. International wine specialist, ASI certified and DipWSET. Ambassador of Italian wines Vinitaly International Academy. CEO of the Kazakhstani project WINEHUB. Judge of international wine and sommelier competitions.


Gianluca Queiroli IWA

Owner of Wine Empire

After being an international tax consultant for almost 20 years, Gianluca made a career switch and joined the wine industry 5 years ago. Originally from Italy, he is now based in the Boston area where he owns and runs Wine Empire, a fine wine retailer. Gianluca holds a law degree, a Master in Accounting & International Tax, and speaks fluently three languages. He also dedicated himself to many aspects of the wine world: tasting events, writing, wine education. He became an Italian Wine Ambassador & Educator (through Vinitaly International Academy) in 2019 and is a certified French Wine Scholar, American Wine Expert, Bordeaux & Burgundy Specialist, Sherry Wine Specialist, holds the WSET Diploma & currently a MW candidate. In 2021, he launched in the U.S. the Italian Wine Maestro Certification.


Ekaterina Osadchaia IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Wine Educator, Wine Writer presso Vinojoy

Ekaterina has been working in the wine field for more than 18 years. For 16 years she had been working for a wine-importing company, where she improved her knowledge of logistics, marketing, and brand-management. For more than 12 years she was involved in wine-training. Now she is a freelance wine expert, she organises wine tastings and events, holds on-line and off-line courses, consults and she writes articles for Simple Wine News magazine.


Joe Bastianich

Restaurateur, author, triathlete, television personality and musician.

Born in 1968 in Queens NY, Joe Bastianich is an Italian-American entrepreneur, television personality, author and musician. Counted among the most successful restaurateurs internationally, a great wine lover and producer in the family cellar, Cantina Bastianich, in Colli Orientali del Friuli; author of successful books, as well as one of the best known and most appreciated faces on Italian and American TV. He has participated in major television programs including MasterChef, Top Gear Italia and Italia’s Got Talent. In Italy he published Restaurant Man. Life, wine and food of a judge of MasterChef (Rizzoli, 2012), Giuseppino. From New York to Italy: story of my homecoming (Utet, 2014) and I’ll give it to America. Italy-New York 50 round trip recipes (Rizzoli, 2015). In 2019 his first album, Aka Joe, was released by Universal Music.


Robert Vernick

Wine Blogger at Wine Terroir

Wine Blogger and Podcaster. After earning the WSET Diploma, I started writing about wine on social media. Currently nearly 50K followers with weekly impressions over 150K+. XChateau wine business podcast has over 50 episodes focused on the business of wine.


Erin DeMara IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, District Manager at 1821 Fine Wine & Spirits

Erin DeMara is a twenty-nine-year professional of the wine and restaurant industries. Currently in his seventh year with 1821 Fine Wine and Spirits, an Italian-focused importer, he manages the portfolio of 100+ wines and spirits within Florida, USA. Erin is a Certified Wine Educator by the Society of Wine Educators and an Italian Wine Ambassador and Educator by VinItaly International Academy – the only wine professional in America to hold both titles. He is also a Certified Spirits Specialist, a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers, and an awarded member of the Guild of Sommeliers.


Sebastian Wöll IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Wine buyer per Feinkost Käfer

Sebastian Wöll moved back to his hometown, Munich, in 2019 after accumulating various years of experience in the international wine trade. He now manages the wine portfolio of one of Munich’s finest wine retailers, Feinkost Käfer. Founded in 1930, the eponymous brand runs several delicatessen shops, restaurants and catering activities. Besides his passion for the wine business, Sebastian has attended several wine education programs. After graduating from Master International Vintage, he earned his Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma and also became an Italian Wine Ambassador through Vinitaly International Academy (VIA). Sebastian has even judged wine competitions and he is an educator himself, as he holds both WSET and Italian Wine Educator certificates. Beyond wine, Sebastian has an affinity for foreign languages and he speaks German, English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Mandarin.


Sara Da Val Franco IWA

VIA Italian Wines Ambassador, Manager and Director of the wine store “Vinothek Vinario e Kfm. by Sara & Dario”

Sara Da Val Franco born in 1969 in Valle di Cadore (BL), she lives in Germany in Verden where since 2010 she has been the manager and director of the wine store “Vinothek Vinario e Kfm. by Sara & Dario”, specialising in Italian wines. She has an excellent familiarity with German and Italian culture in addition to a deep insight of German market developed through her networking with colleagues, wineries, and agents. In 2010 she achieved the professional graduation diploma of AIS Sommelier. Her passion for the lesser-known Italian native grapes has driven her to become, in 2015, Italian Wine Ambassador. In 2016 she graduated Weinakademiker from Weinakademie Rust and in the same year she achieved her WSET Diploma. In 2017 she obtained the French Wine Scholar at Bordeaux Wine Campus. She has a passion for communication, and she loves to share her wine knowledge in wine tastings. Moreover, behind her love for wine she has a great interesting for foreign languages and she speaks German, Italian, English, French, and Spanish.



Massimiliano Apollonio

Amministratore di Apollonio Casa Vinicola S.r.l.

Massimiliano Apollonio is the chief technical guide of the Apollonio company.  After studying oenology he expanded his professional experience with internships at major Italian, French and Spanish companies. He is in charge of the quality of the wine and all the production operations: the cultivation of the vine, the grape harvest, the vinification and the bottling take place under his supervision, thanks to a level of ability and experience that allow him to to create innovative and superior quality wines. A former delegate of ONAV, former President of Assoenologi for Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria for two terms, today Massimiliano is a member of the Presidential Committee and of the National Council of Assoenologi, as well as an aggregate member of the Georgofili Academy and the Italian Academy of Vine and of wine. Massimiliano is also among the promoters of the chair of Oenology and Viticulture recently established at the University of Salento. He is also a juror in numerous international wine competitions, including the 5StarWines, the Mundus Vini and the Michelangelo Award and current President of the Puglia Wine Tourism Movement.


Alberto Marchisio

Oenologist and General Director of Cantine Vitevis s.c.a.

Alberto Marchisio has Piedmontese origins but has been in the Veneto region for years. His studies have made him an oenologist, even though his background includes managerial roles. In 2002 he became technical director of Cantine Terre del Barolo and then he moved to the Verona area to work at Cantine Giacomo Montresor. In 2012 he joined Colli Vicentini as general manager and after a few years he founds Vitevis, a company that is the result of the merger of Colli Vicentini, Cantina di Gambellara, Valleogra and, in 2019, Cantina di Castelnuovo del Garda.


Vincenza Folgheretti

Winemaker and Wine consultant

Sicilian by birth, Tuscan by adoption, she graduated from the University of Pisa in Viticulture and Oenology and furthered her scientific knowledge by obtaining two master’s degrees, one on “High Quality Management in the Wine Production Chain” and one on “Financial Statements and Company Administration”. Before embarking on his career as a Consultant Oenologist, she worked for important companies in the sector, both in Italy and abroad, reaching as far as New Zealand. She has acquired a wealth of experience and knowledge that she now puts at the service of companies. Today she has numerous collaborations, from Friuli to Sicily, passing through Tuscany.


Piergiorgio Cane

Owner of Az. Agr. Marcalberto

He started his career in 1972 in the cellar crushing Moscato grapes at the Martini e Rossi plant. From 1973 to 1976 he worked in the oenology office at the Cinzano plant for the collection of moscato grapes. From 1977 to 1978 he carried out technical distillation activities at the Icardi Distillery in Santo Stefano Belbo. From 1979 to 1997 he was oenologist at the Santero 958 winery, contributing to the growth in these years from an initial production of 2 million bottles to 20 million. From 1997 to 2008 he worked as technical director at F.lli Gancia, a producer of both still and sparkling wines. From 2008 to 2014 he was wine consultant at the Abrau-Durso winery, the oldest winery in Russia, founded in 1870 by Alexander II Romanov, a great wine lover (Louis Roederer created the famous Cristal in his honour). During the same period, he was a consultant for Gancia, known for its wine history. From 2014 to 2018 he was Technical Director of the new Gancia purchased by Roustam Tariko, the current owner. Today, in addition to continuing his consulting activities, he takes care of his winery “Marcalberto” together with his sons Marco and Alberto. Founded in 1993, they produce Metodo Classico sparkling wine.


Sandro Cavicchioli


Sandro Cavicchioli is the technical director of Cavicchioli Winery, Italian Wine Group, San Prospero, Modena. In 1990 he founded the Azienda Agricola Castelfaglia in Calino di Cazzago San Martino in Franciacorta, where he is currently the technical director, as well as the owner. Since 2004 he has been the technical director and owner of the Francesco Bellei company in Bomporto (Modena) which produces exclusively wines made with the classic method and the traditional bottle fermentation method. For six years he was a member of the Appeal Commission of the Designations of Origin of Northern Italy, at the Ministry of Agriculture. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium for the Protection of Lambrusco and the Board of Directors of the Consorzio Marchio Storico dei Lambruschi Modenesi.


Vito Giovinco

Wine consultant

Vito Giovinco was born in 1967 in Sambuca, Sicily. He developed his passion for wine in the family’s company. In 1988 he obtained his specialisation in viticulture and oenology. He acquired his training and professional growth at numerous Italian wine companies, mainly in the Centre-South. He is currently the Director and Technical Consultant of several wineries operating in Southern Italy. Since the 1990s, he has been experimenting with wines and sparkling wines linked to wine production in the territory of Etna, which has led to exciting results. He always works with passion and enthusiasm! Since 2018 he has been the main contact person of Sicily for Farnese Vini Group. Moreover since 2019 he has held the role of National Councilor of Assoenologi.


Roberto di Meo

Co-owner of Azienda Agricola Di Meo

President of Assoenologi Campania, member of the Board of Assoenologi and the Presidential Committee, wine consultant. In 1986 he and his brothers founded the Di Meo winery in Salza Irpina, in the production area of Fiano di Avellino, where he is both winemaker and commercial director. Since the early 2000s he has undertaken an experimental project on the refinement of Irpinia white grape varieties, the Riserve della Linea Tempo. For almost twenty years, along with his brother Generoso, he has been the Ambassador of “Art and Wine” in Campania, also thanks to the “Di Meo Calendar”, a unique editorial work of its kind.


Walter Sovran

Director of Panizzi Soc. Agr. Srl

Walter Sovran was born on 24th April 1962 in Toronto to an Italian family and he moved to Friuli when he was 5 years old. After graduating as a wine technician from the G.B. Cerletti Institute in Conegliano Veneto in 1982, he became an oenologist by virtue of Law 129/91. He gained his first work experience (from July 1982 to May 1988) in two production facilities in the province of Pordenone. From May 1988 to February 2009, he was technical director at Fattoria il Palagio di Castel San Gimignano (SI) – a company belonging to the Zonin group. From March 2009 to March 2011, he was director of the Consorzio della Denominazione San Gimignano, of which he had previously been a member of the Board of Directors (1997-2009) and Vice-President (2003-2009).Since March 2011 he has been general manager of Soc. Agr. Panizzi di San Gimignano. Since 1992, he has also been a member of the tasting commissions for Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino wines.


Andrea Pala


Andrea Pala was born in Sardinia. His degree in viticulture and enology from the University of Pisa immediately allowed him to work in the world of Sardinian oenology, boasting a prestigious experience in a company that symbolizes the Alta Gallura. During these years, he developed a deep insight into the subject; in 2014 he set out on the path as an external consultant, providing valuable opportunities for professional growth, allowing him to deepen his interactions with people, philosophies, thoughts and territories of the whole peninsula.  He has also been developing various projects and bringing to light some “abandoned” native vines. From 2017 he committed to a career exclusively as a consultant, with several collaborations, not only regional but national, which allow him to interact and engage with the major professionals in the sector, not only technical but also commercial. Each project annually obtains national and international awards at the most important world competitions. Through Bernabei Liquori, where he deals with oenological consultancy and wine selection, he establishes collaborative relationships with many companies throughout Italy. In 2018 he began working on the ambitious project of the Guido company. F. Fendi.


Emanuela Gianfreda

Oeanologist at Antica Masseria Jorche

Emanuela Gianfreda, oeanologist and sommelier, was born in 1988 in Salento, in a small village near Manduria, the heart of the renowned Primitivo DOC, into a family of wine growers and producers. She graduated from San Michele all’Adige (Trento) with a degree in Viticulture and Oenology and went on to complete a Master’s degree in “Italian Wines and World Markets” at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, as well as the AIS course to become a sommelier. Her work experience began in Italy (first in Valdobbiadene and then Bolgheri), followed by France (Bordeaux) and then Australia (Goulburn Valley), with the aim of acquiring practical winemaking skills to take back to her home country where she has now been running the family winery, Antica Masseria Jorche, with her sister Dalila, for almost 10 years.


Gabriele Valota


Gabriele Valota is an oenologist, with a degree in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Milan. He began his professional career by collaborating with the Consortium for the Protection of Franciacorta, the University of Milan and various prestigious wineries on a project aimed at contrasting the effects of climate change, focused on the recovery of the native grape Erbamat from the Brescia region. For several years he has been a member of the Technical Taster of DOC and DOCG wines of the Lombardy Region and participates as a member of the jury in various national and international wine competitions. He is a professor of ONAV and viticulture at the Symposium Academy. Since 2019 he is the Coordinator of Young Assoenologi Lombardy Liguria Section and National Secretary of Young Assoenologi. He works as an oenologist consultant throughout Italy and Switzerland, primarily with sparkling wine made in the classic method, organic viticulture and varieties resistant to fungal diseases (PIWI).


Luca Meldolesi

Oenologist at Vinicola Filippi

Luca Meldolesi was born in Ravenna. After completing his studies in Environmental Sciences with flying colors in 1999, he undertook further studies in Oenology and Viticulture, moved by a passion for wine and fascinated by its culture. Graduating with full marks in 2002, he also completed the AIS course as a sommelier. He is an oenologist who has always been focused on environmental issues, with experience in various sectors of the wine industry, and regions from Romagna to Friuli and from Puglia to New Zealand.



Jodie Hellman

Regional Sales Manager – Western Region at The Sorting Table, LLC

Jodie started her career in wine on the hospitality end of things. In Las Vegas, she began as a Floor Captain and worked her way up to Sommelier. She formed part of some of the top teams in the restaurant community, working with world renowned chefs such as Tom Collichio, Bobby Flay, Paul Bartolotta, Charlie Palmer and Daniel Boulud. Looking to broaden her knowledge base in the world of wine, she moved to the distribution side. Jodie began to sell wine and spirits to/from the local buyers, as well as participated in educational events for consumers. She eventually found herself working for an importer, learning about another fascinating side of the business; you can still find her there today, covering 9 states in the western part of the USA.


Patti Robison

Sales Representative at Lyra Wine

Patti started her career in wine from the restaurant side of the industry, starting as a cellar master and working her way up to Beverage Manager for a number of great chefs and restaurateurs such as Danny Meyer, Charlie Palmer, Walter Manzke and Evan Funke. She chose to focus on Italian wine and soon after took steps to take Vinitaly International Academy’s Italian Wine Ambassador Course. She made the decision to move into the sales side of the wine industry; working for an Italian importer-distributor on the East side of Los Angeles. Patti loves to travel and soak up Italian culture, she particularly enjoys the museums and art history. 


Cecilia Alarcón Salinas

Cecilia Alarcón Salinas is a Chilean geographer, with experience of projects for small and medium-sized enterprises in the Chilean wine sector. Her passion for the wine world and travelling led her to move to Italy in 1999, where she continued her studies in International Economy at the Tor Vergata University, and also graduated as Sommelier (AIS) in 2004. Cecilia works in Wine Tourism and is an enthusiastic leader and organizer of wine & food study tours for professionals & wine lovers, mainly in Italy and Chile. As juror in international wine contests, including Les Mondial des Vins Blancs (Strasbourg), VINARIUM (Bucharest), International Wine City Challenge (Italy), and designated Chilean Wine Ambassador, she bridges the wine sectors in Chile and Europe. Cecilia is also member of the International Network Associations for Women and Wine, Le Donne del Vino in Italy & Mujeres del Vino in Chile (MUV).


Jochen Erler

Freelance Wine Writer

Jochen Erler was born in Dresden, Germany. He spent 12 years in Academia and 20 years in the international civil service (UN, OECD in Paris, ECMWF in UK). Since 1989 he has been a freelance writer on wine and spirts, collaborating with Harpers, Spirits Int’l, Weinwirtschaft. He is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, of FIJEV and of Tiroler Sommelierverin. For 15 years he has been a foreign correspondent for the Austrian wine journal Weinbau. Since 2010 he has been a speaker at the annual International Wine Conference, and since 2014 a wine lecturer on cruise ships. From 1991 to 2013 he was a permanent member of the jury for wine & spirits at the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in England, for 15 years he participated as a jury member at the Austrian Wine Challenge (AWC) and for more than 25 years he has intermittently been a jury member in other contests.


Annie Replogle

Marketing Manager presso Massanois

Annie Replogle’s love of wine began a decade ago upon taking a wine course during her study abroad in Florence, Italy — an opportunity that allowed her to travel to vineyards across Tuscany learning about wine and the art of deductive tasting. Years later, she decided to pursue this passion even further—a move that led her to work in Tuscany, Italy; Australia’s Barossa Valley; Marlborough, New Zealand; La Rioja, Spain; as well as Sonoma, Los Angeles and New York City. She has experience in marketing and selling wine, conducting wine events and tastings, and helping wineries build brand awareness and increase sales. Annie holds a WSET Level 3 certification, and given her strong passion for Italian food and wine, will be taking the Vinitaly International Academy Italian Wine Expert exam this upcoming June.


Luca Pizzighella

Brand Manager di Signorvino

Luca Pizzighella has been working at Calzedonia Spa since 2003, covering commercial management roles in various brands of the group. Since the inception of the Signorvino wineshop in 2012, he has pursued it with passion, contributing to its development in the territory and as sales manager. Trained as an Ais Sommelier, WSET certified and passionate about the world of food, from 2017 he has held the role of Brand Manager.


Cynthia L P Chaplin

Director of Kiss My Glass, Italian Wines in English

My love of wine started in college in Connecticut and led me to Europe. Three decades immersed in an incredible diversity of grapes, regions and styles, studying WSET in the UK and the FIS certification course in Rome, cemented my career choice in the wine sector. As a professor of Italian wine and culture I get great satisfaction teaching young international university students, while my work with embassies, corporations and NGOs gives me a kaleidoscope of clients from around the globe. Membership in Le Donne del Vino and judging internationally introduced me to amazing producers and formed lasting writing and translating collaborations. The VIA Italian Wine Ambassador Program gave me the chance to reignite my studies and dig deeper into the endlessly fascinating Italian wine landscape. I feel very fortunate to love what I teach, love what I study, love where I live, love what I drink.


Marzia Gallo

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Senior Wine Specialist and Sales Executive at Davigna Wines INC

Born and raised in Sicily, I fell in love with wine almost 10 years ago. Ever since, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all around the world, meeting amazing people and learning about their incredible stories. I have lived in Bordeaux where I took an MBA in wine marketing management, and in Canada and then 1 year in Los Angeles. I’m a proud member of Le Donne del Vino and was recently pinned as VIA Italian Wine Ambassador.


Sławomir Komiński IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Owner & General Manager of MineWine.pl

Sławek Komiński is a wine lover, with a special passion for Italian wine, and he is determined to convert his dedication to wine and business into a success. A formidable communicator, he has excellent interpersonal skills and an entrepreneurial spirit. He is a wine expert with a deep knowledge of the wine business, including warehousing, logistics, customer service and marketing. He has gained various work experience with cross-functional teams, acquiring a dynamic and result-oriented management style, with a problem-solving attitude. He is always looking to optimize processes and identify opportunities for growth. Sławek has an in-depth knowledge of digital media and online marketing tools, as well as advanced business negotiation skills and a natural aptitude that helps him establish and maintain long-term relationships with business partners. For 12 years, Sławek Komiński has been the founder, owner, and general manager of MineWine.pl, which operates in the Polish wine retail market.


Marta Ręgowska

Wine Educator and Wine Purchase Manager

Wine educator by choice and profession. WSET Diploma level 4 certified and teacher of the WSET courses at all levels. Lecturer of Wine Savoir Vivre for MBA and DBA students. Master of Geography. Manages various wine courses, wine events, wine tastings. Judge at wine competitions. Winery worker during a few month internship in Barbaresco. Experienced Wine & Food buyer. Aware of wine and food trends. Mentor for various wine & food concepts. At the moment developing a new project – “Wineway Let’s celebrate wine” which is focusing on spreading in Poland the proper wine service with the right wine ware.


William Lin

Principal at Oeno & Olio

I started my fascination with Italian culture when I attended a sensory evaluation of olive oil course in Pienza in the Fall of 2016. Since then, I’ve studied Italian at the Istituto Italiano Scuola in San Francisco, attended Vinitaly every year (except 2020), studied the wines of Northern Italy Wine at the San Francisco Wine School, and overall, traveled to Italy over 10 times. My journey continues with the study of native Italian olives and grapes.


Daniel Henderson

Owner of Angevin Wines

Daniel Henderson is a full-time consultant and educator in France. He has been a consultant to wineries in the Loire valley since 2014, participating in and advising on all aspects of production from vine-to-bottle-to-market. As part-owner and producer at a winery producing Chenin blanc and Cabernet Franc-based wines, he has translated his winemaking and selling experiences to help other wineries improve their results. He is a WSET Diploma graduate (WSET school, london), and has taught WSET courses (levels 1-3) since 2012. He is currently owner and head instructor at The Wine School, Paris as well as in the Oenology department of the Ecole Supérieur d’Agricultures in Angers, France : http://www.vintagemaster.com. He is a regular judge at various wine competitions in Paris as well as the Loire valley.


Guillermo Pontis

Sales Director of Via dell’Abbondanza Wine Import

Guillermo Pontis is originally from Mendoza, Argentina, where he graduated in Oenology and Viticulture. Over the years he gained experience as an oenologist in wineries in California, Italy, and Argentina, before deciding to settle down in Italy to develop his commercial and wine marketing skills. In addition he is the Founder of InterBlend.org, a project about viticultural innovation and the former Sales Manager (Europe) for Bodega Catena Zapata company. Nowadays, he is Sales Director of Via dell’Abbondanza, the reference company for the importat Argentinean and South American wines in Italy.


5StarWines 2019 edition
5StarWines 2018 edition
5StarWines 2017 edition