Judges and Scientific Committee 2020

The wines participating in 5StarWines and Wine Without Walls will be tasted by a panel of highly qualified international experts, having been selected among Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, DipWSET, VIA experts and ambassadors, oenologists and journalists.
The objectivity of the selection is guaranteed by the international panel of judges, with their diverse professional backgrounds and by the blind tasting process.
The selection is carried out by the 5StarWines and Wine Without Walls scientific committee, officiated this year by Sarah Heller MW. The jury is organized into panels composed of 5 judges each and coordinated by a Panel Chairman. Every panel is demanded to taste a fixed number of wines during each session.


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 NYU – Leonard N. Stern School of Business. 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. Stevie is always seeking innovative ways

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to communicate and celebrate Italian wine – with a strong creative emphasis on social media, digital communication, and educational platforms. In 2017, Stevie produced the Italian Wine Podcast, the first podcast in English dedicated exclusively to Italian wine and its personalities; and Italian Wine Unplugged Grape by Grape, a 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.


Sarah Heller MW

Sarah Heller MW

Sarah Heller MW is a wine expert, visual artist and television host based in Hong Kong. At 31, she is Asia-Pacific’s youngest Master of Wine.  Sarah created Radix, a branded platform that endeavours to engage a new generation of wine lovers in Asia and beyond through projects.  Aside from all this, she is a partner and buyer for the Almásy Collection of wines; brand ambassador and design collaborator for Lucaris Crystal; she is a Vinitaly International Academy faculty member; the wine editor for Asia Tatler; chairman of WINE100, China’s largest wine competition; and a host of the television series Wine Masters. Independently, she is the creator of an art series called Visual Tasting Notes, as well as a series

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of educational videos that has reached nearly 5 million students. She is frequently invited to speak on topics such as the Asian wine market as well as wine marketing and E-commerce. In 2019, she was made a member of the judging committee of the IWSC.




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

Editor at Large, 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 his first book: The Wine Lists. He is the Chairman of the Wine Institute of Asia, and has chaired and launched wine competitions in several countries. Robert has been on the UK Who’s Who list 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 he is also regularly invited to lecture at the Wine & Spirits Educational Trust. Joseph is one of the trio behind Hugh Kevin & Robert Wines whose wines now sell over 2.5m bottles per year in 40 countries. His blog is The Joseph Report.


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).


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).


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.




Regine Lee MW

Master of Wine, National Account Manager at Liberty Wines

Regine Lee is currently working as Customer Services Head of Operations at Liberty Wines, a leading UK importer / distributor to the on and off-trade which specialises in Italian wine. She has had roles at Liberty Wines in trade marketing, education, and sales analytics, and at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in Asian market development. Regine is also a co-founder of Women in Wine London, a wine trade networking group with over 600 members which launches initiatives to develop women professionally and provide a forum for discussing key topics in the industry. She achieved her Master of Wine in 2018, and wrote her research paper on the commercial effectiveness of relationship building through customer trips.


Michaela Morris

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Wine Writer and WSET Educator

Michaela Morris is an international wine writer, educator, judge and speaker based in Vancouver, Canada. She contributes regularly to Decanter and Meininger’s Wine Business International, as well as Canadian publications Quench and Taste. She educates about Italian wine across Canada and abroad. Besides judging Canadian wine shows like the Lieutenant Governor Wine Awards and Judgement of British Columbia, she participates in international competitions such as the Decanter World Wine Awards, the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show and Wines of Portugal Challenge. She holds the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Diploma and is an Italian Wine Expert certified through Vinitaly International Academy (VIA).



Ned Goodwin MW

Master of Wine, Owner at Wine Diamonds Japan

Born in London, raised in Australia and educated in Tokyo and Paris. From 2001-2012, Ned was the Wine Director for Global Dining Japan in Tokyo; the ‘face of wine’ for All Nippon Airways as well as founder of Wine Diamonds, a specialist importer based in Tokyo. Before Japan (1998-2001), Ned was a sommelier at Veritas, the award-winning Michelin starred restaurant and recipient of the Wine Spectator Grand Award in Manhattan. As a sommelier, he also worked in Paris and Los Angeles. Ned is the Asia-Pacific ambassador for a Champagne house; Wine Committee member at Biondi-Santi; Chief Critic for the Halliday Guide; Consultant for Bettane & Desseauve. He hosted Vintage, a Japanese TV show on wine, as well as wine dinners for Hollywood stars and other VIPs, all the while making waves across major media channels. He was also a guest-lecturer on ‘Wine Marketing’ at Keio University in Tokyo.


Andy Howard MW

Master of Wine, Director at Vinetrades Ltd and Decanter Contributing Editor

Andrew Howard became a Master of Wine in 2011. He worked as a buyer for Marks & Spencer in the UK for many years. He left Marks & Spencer in 2013 an now he runs his own wine business, Vinetrades Ltd., which is involved in education, consulting, buying and investment in wine. Andy is a very active wine judge: he is a Regional Chair for the Decanter World Wine, and also judges at The International Wine Challenge and Bacchus. His major focus is now on journalism: he is a Contributing Editor to Decanter magazine as well as writes for Jancis Robinson.


Richard Kershaw MW

Master of Wine, Founder and Winemaker of Richard Kershaw Wines

Born and raised in the UK, Richard travelled extensively before settling in South Africa in 1999 to make wine full time. He established Richard Kershaw Wines in January 2012 to create clonally selected, site-specific, cool climate wines in the Elgin Valley, and now has a stable of award-winning, much in demand wines. One of only 10 Masters of Wine who actively make their own wines and South Africa’s only winemaking Master of Wine, Richard is much in demand when not in the vineyard or cellar. A wine judge for many prestigious competitions around the globe, he is also part of the educational panel for the Institute of Masters of Wine, lectures for the WSET in South Africa, and shares his knowledge with students and consumers via talks, tastings and blogs.


Charles Curtis MW

Master of Wine, Founder/CEO of WineAlpha

Charles Curtis is a specialist in fine and rare wine as well as the Founder of WineAlpha, a consultancy firm serving private, trade and institutional clients with an interest in the secondary market for rare wine. This unique consultancy provides advice on the buying, selling, storing, and shipping of fine wine, USPAP – compliant appraisals, and advice on varied topics of interest to wine collectors.


John Szabo MS

Master Sommelier e Partner/Principal Critic di WineAlign.com

Master Sommelier John Szabo was the first Canadian to add the “MS” after his name in 2004. Today, John is a partner and principal critic for WineAlign.com, Canada’s largest wine publication, and main buyer for the WineAlign Exchange wine club, as well as columnist at Modalina and MarQuee magazines. He contributes frequently to Wine & Spirits Magazine, and freelances for publications such as Meininger’s, Wine Enthusiast, and VinCe Magazine. On the consulting side, John builds wine programs across Canada, and is currently sourcing wines for Accor Hotels in Québec. He speaks regularly internationally and spends many weeks each year travelling in wine country worldwide to keep on top of this fascinating industry.


Brandon Tebbe MS

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Master Sommelier, owner and winemaker of KELT Wines

Brandon Tebbe is the Owner and Winemaker of KELT Wines in Willamette Valley, and also works as a Sommelier and Beverage Consultant for various restaurants. Brandon is a Master Sommelier, and is one of only fifteen people to have passed all three parts of this rigorous exam on his first attempt. He also holds the designations: Advanced Sake Professional, Certified Wine Educator, Certified Spirits Specialist, Certified Beer Server and ISG level 1 & 2. He is also currently studying in the Master of Wine program. Brandon has an extensive background in the hospitality industry, and has worked the floor as a Sommelier for the past twelve years. His 2018 vintage was his first as a winemaker.


JC Viens

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.


Isao Miyajima


After graduating from The University of Tokyo, Isao Miyajima worked in Rome for a Japanese newspaper from 1983 to 1989. During his stay in Rome, he began to taste wines seriously. After his return to Japan, he began to write about food and wine, collaborating with various specialty wine magazines in Japan as well (Winart, The Wine Kingdom, WANDS etc.). In Italy he worked for Espresso Italian Wine Guide and Gambero Rosso Italian Restaurant Guide and today he is responsible for the Japanese edition of Gambero Rosso Italian Wine Guide. He was awarded Best International Journalist prize by Grandi Cru d’Italia 2013. In 2014 he was awarded the Commendatore dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia by the Italian State President Giorgio Napolitano.


Henry Davar

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.


Stephen Brook

Decanter Contributing Editor

Stephen Brook is an award-winning wine journalist who has been writing about wine for 30 years, has published fifteen books on wine, and has been a Contributing Editor of Decanter magazine for twenty years. Graduated in English and Philosophy at the Trinity College in Cambridge, Stephen has worked for many years as a publisher’s editor, in both the United States and Britain. He became a freelance writer in 1982 and now he is a regular wine columnist for Fine Wine Magazine and Falstaff. Stephen Brook is also an active and experienced wine judge in competitions in England, France, Australia, California and Canada.


Francesco Marchio

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.



Emma Gao

General Manager and Winemaker of Silver Heights Vineyard Co., Ltd

Emma Gao is General Manager and chief winemaker of the Silver Heights Winery in Ningxia, China. In 1999, when Emma was doing logistics for a Korean export company in China, her father asked if she would like to study French and winemaking in France: she left China, she obtained the Diplôme National d’Oenologue from Bordeaux, and she had the oppotunity to intern at several historic Bordeaux wineries. After six years in France she got called from a Chinese company in Xinjiang looking for a winemaker. Three years later she decided she wanted to make quality wine and, with the help of her family, in 2007 she founded the Silver Heights Winery was founded in 2007. The winery was quickly acclaimed as one of the first boutique wineries in China. 


Gill Gordon Smith

VIA Italian Wine Expert, CEO and Owner at Fall from Grace

Gill Gordon-Smith is a Vinitaly International Academy Italian Wine Expert, a winemaker, wine merchant, writer, judge and educator based in Australia. Gill owns Fall from Grace, a specialist retail store and tasting bar that has a firm focus on Italian wines and direct imports from Italy. Passionate about Italian grapes and wine, she also produces Italian grape varieties in McLaren Vale. With Diplomas in Training Design and Development as well as Vocational Education and Training, she is a WSET Certified Educator and has worked with Qantas Airways developing the renowned Sommelier in the Sky program. She leads TAFE SA Wine & Spirit School and works with many industry clients developing educational programs for both professional and consumer markets. She is Wine Communicators Australia Educator and Wine Communicator of The Year for 2017.


Hayley Black

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Pacific NW Territory Manager,  LLS – Winebow Imports

Hayley believes a passion for wine paired with a desire to learn creates a never ending journey. After 10 years of working in restaurants she is now working in sales and distribution. She is responsible for guiding sales and education in all aspects of the upper end wine category for one of the largest family owned distribution companies in the Pacific Northwest. Her ability to inspire, educate and connect people through wine has been the driving force behind her career.


Veronika Denisova

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Deputy Director and Educator of Enotria Wine School

Veronika Denisova graduated from Timiryazev Moscow Agricultural Academy in 2000, she received a Diploma in Agronomy, Viticulture and Winemaking Basics. Veronika practiced as a winemaker’s assistant at Vinselekt Michlovský, in the Czech Republic, in 1999 and at La Biòca Winery, Piedmont in 2016. Since 2006, she’s been a Member of the Russian Association of Sommeliers (RAS). Veronika has also been working as a wine educator and a freelance journalist for the past 12 years.



Marcia J. Hamm

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Owner of Joy of Wine

Marcia J. Hamm is relatively new to the industry having started taking night classes in 2010, this is when she began building a real curiosity for wine. Since then, she has completed the WSET Diploma, becoming an Italian Wine Expert through the Vinitaly International Academy. A recent internship to South Africa allowed Marcia to experience all facets of a harvest, and she hopes to do more harvests in different parts of the world over the next few years. With her company Joy of Wine, she runs various educational tastings in the store at Hicks Fine Wines, at corporate events and in private residences. Marcia is thrilled to be a judge for 5StarWines and hopes to do more international judging in the future!


Corinne Keddie

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Canada 365daysofwine, DipWSET, Architect

Corinne Keddie is based in Calgary, Canada, and is an Area Representative for Opimian, the largest private wine club/wine buying cooperative in Canada. She is responsible for member engagement, education, wine promotion and events, including yearly wine tours. She regularly hosts tastings, seminars and educational sessions for both corporate and private clients, and writes about wine for various publications. She also judges at international wine competitions and spends several months every year travelling to various wine regions around the world to further her wine knowledge. Corinne has taken courses through the International Sommelier Guild, holds a WSET Diploma and is a certified Italian Wine Expert through Vinitaly International Academy (VIA). She is also a registered architect and has designed award winning architectural and interior design projects both locally and internationally. 


Sue Tolson IWE

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Managing Editor of WineSofa

Based in Budapest, Sue Tolson is a freelance writer, educator, translator and editor, specialising in wine (especially Italian and Hungarian), food and travel. She holds the WSET diploma as well as being a Wein Akademiker and Vinitaly Italian Wine Expert and is currently studying on the Master of Wine programme. She judges at various international wine competitions including IWC, Berlin Wine Trophy and 5StarWinee and is also a member of the prestigious Circle of Wine Writers and the Managing Editor of WineSofa – an online magazine focussing mainly on the wines and culture of Central and Eastern Europe. She is also author of The Italian Wine Job and Budapest Wine Snob blogs.


Anna Baranova

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.


Vanessa Green

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Director Crimson Wine, Wine Director at Apples and Pears Restaurant Group.

Vanessa is based in Australia working across Asia Pacific as Managing Director of Crimson Wine and the Apples + Pears Restaurant Group, and Acting CEO of Cliftons Venues. She works as a commercial wine buyer and importer, wine director for the restaurant and venues group, and judges at wines shows in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Vanessa is a VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, has professional accreditations from WSET and the Australian Wine Research Institute, and is a member of the Commanderie de Bordeaux and Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. Current projects she is working on include running wine and beverage education and appreciation programs for consumers and trade in Australia and New Zealand, sourcing and importing wines to Australia and developing wine and beverage lists across Asia Pacific.


Catherine Stratton


Catherine Stratton 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. He got 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. She founded two companies. Vino and Vinyasa Tours (2016) is a boutique travel company focused solely on Italy with winery visits and personal yoga instruction. CS Selections (2018) is 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.


Lin Liu MW

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Master of Wine, Managing Director of Wine Maniacs Company

Lin is a Chinese national originally from Hangzhou, and she is Managing Director of Wine Maniacs Company. Today she resides in Cahors, in the South West of France, at the Château de Chambert winery. She is a wine producer, a, wine educator, journalist, a taster and judge. Her previous work experience includes senior positions in business consultancy (Foreign Direct Investment in China), Scotch Whisky business and brand development. She holds an MBA from the UK, having received a full scholarship award, and thereafter, she won the Top Graduate Award from the Austrian Wine Academy (2014, WSET Diploma). Lin is now awaiting the results from the last stage of her MW Research Paper.


Julia Coney

Wine Journalist and Speaker

Julia Coney is a Washington, D.C. and Houston, Texas-based wine writer, wine educator, speaker, and consultant. Her wine writing includes stories on wine, winemakers, and the intersection of race, wine, and language. She holds a WSET Level II Certification in Wine and Spirits and is currently pursuing her Masters Level Champagne Certification with the Wine Scholars Guild. Her work has been featured in VinePairWine Enthusiast, The Tasting Panel, Plate MagazineForbes.comWineEnthusiast.com, Glamour, Essence, The Washington Post, and numerous other print and digital publications. She is a 2019 Fellow of the Professional Wine Writers Symposium at Meadowood Napa Valley. She has spoken at conferences such as wine2wineAssemblage Symposium, and Wonder Women of Wine. You can find her on all social media at @juliaconey, and at her website juliaconey.com.


Melissa Sutherland

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.


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. 


Gurvinder Bhatia

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Editor for Quench Magazine

Gurvinder is the wine Editor for Quench Magazine, Wine Columnist for Global Television, the Wine Director for Prestige Wines and Guru Restaurants and the President of Vinomania Consulting.  Gurvinder is certified as an Italian Wine Expert (IWE) and Italian Wine Educator by Vinitaly International Academy.  In addition to possessing a law degree (JD), Gurvinder also earned his Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA) with honours.  In 2015, Gurvinder was named as one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People by Alberta Venture Magazine.


Mark Cuff

Owner at The Living Vine Inc. Organic.Biodynamic.Natural Wines

Mark Cuff founded The Living Vine, a wine importer/agency based in Toronto (Canada), in 2006. This company represents only biodynamic, organic and natural wines, and started before cow horns were cool and organics became the new norm. The Living Vine’s mandate from the beginning was to introduce, educate and promote the sale of biodynamic, organic and natural wines. The Living Vine imports the largest selection of established biodynamic & organic estates. Over the last 14 years, Mark has seen the Canadian wine sector mature from a niche to a mainstream market and is looking forward to contributing his experience to Wine Without Walls, the section of 5StarWines dedicated to certified organic or biodynamic wine.


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.


Franco Bernabei

Oenologist at Enoproject Srl

Franco Bernabei, originally from Abano Terme, took his first steps into the world of wine alongside his father; importer/distributor of French and Italian wine, as well as hotelier and winemaker in the Euganean Hills. In 1978 Bernabei decided to freelance in the Chianti area within the region of Tuscany. He collaborated with various companies and made Sangiovese triumphant by interpreting the territory into the wine, helping to launch this vine to international stardom. In 1978 he began with the Fattoria di Selvapiana, from which a great Sangiovese, in purity, Bucerchiale, was born. In 1981, in collaboration with the Manetti family, through their winery Fontodi, Flaccianello della Pieve was launched on the market. Two years later, from the Fattoria di Felsina, Fontalloro was created.


Emiliano Falsini


Emiliano Falsini graduated in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Florence. Thereafter, he had two important post-graduate experiences abroad, first in California at the Robert Mondavi Winery, and then in New Zealand at the Villa Maria Estate. Fundamental for his professional growth was his connection with important professionals such as Attilio Pagli and Alberto Antonini and since 2000, he has been involved with their company the Matura Group. Since 2000 he has been working as an Oenologist Consultant specializing in projects concerning international and native grape varieties within the various Italian regions. He currently works as a consultant in Italy, dealing with new organizations, both start-ups and companies in need of a restyling of their products. He collaborates with organic, biodynamic and conventional companies located in the various regions and territories of Italy.


Irving So

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Instructor at Académie du Vin Tokyo

Irving So is a certified Italian Wine Expert (VIA), a DipWSET and a WSET Certified Educator teaching Level 2 and 3 courses based in Tokyo. He is also an Italian Wine Educator (VIA),  a Langhe Wines’ Ambassdor (Barolo & Barbaresco Academy), Valpolicella Wine Specialist (Consorzio Tutela Vini della Valpolicella), an Italian Wine Scholar (Highest Honor, Wine Scholar Guild), as well as a Wine MBA (Kedge) holder. He has conducted masterclasses for various Consortia including Valpolicella and Lugana, as well as several producer associations from Veneto. In addition to this, Irving works as a wine consultant, he helps Tokyo based wineries in exporting their wines.


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.


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.


Chris Scott

Podcast Host at the UK Wine Show

Chris Scott is an award-winning wine communicator and presenter with a lively and energetic style and down-to-earth approach to wine. He runs the wine tasting company ThirtyFifty and produces a weekly wine podcast, The UK Wine Show, which is consistently ranked in the top 10 iTunes Food & Drink Podcast chart. He has the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits which is the WSET’s flagship qualification. Chris now heads up a team of 20 wine experts across the UK, between them running over 500 corporate events, wine courses and private tastings per year. In 2015 and 2018 the company was awarded the International Wine Challenge Wine Educator of the Year.


Gabriele Gorelli

MW candidate, designer and sales and marketing consultant

Gabriele Gorelli was born in Montalcino in 1984. His grandfather used to be the smallest Brunello di Montalcino producer, accounting for a mere 0,46ha’s. That’s where he developed a real passion for wine. After completing his studies in Languages in 2004 he co-founded a wine-oriented advertising agency, Brookshaw&Gorelli. Over the years, he has had the opportunity to consult for many Italian wineries and Consortiums. In 2015, Gabriele started his studies at the ‘Institute of Masters of Wine’. He is now the sole Italian candidate at the final stage of the program.  During the same year, he co-founded KH Wines S.r.l., a company that helps European wineries in export markets. Nowadays, KH Wines holds a significant number of custom-made products designed from scratch, from the sensory profile end of the spectrum, to packaging, to storytelling.  Since 2019, he has been the ambassador for Italy at the ‘International Wine Challenge’ in London.


Yannick Benjamin

Proprietor of Contento Restaurant in NYC

Yannick is the Head Sommelier for the University Club as well as the owner of Contento Restaurant in NYC. In 2003, a car accident left Benjamin paralyzed below the waist: he quickly adapted, equipping his wheelchair with a table that allows him to continue to work as a sommelier. Yannick was among the “Top 40 under 40” wine lovers and was named “Person of the Year” by New Mobility Magazine in 2017. He was the resident sommelier on the successful radio show: On The Town, and has made numerous appearances on ABC, NBC and CBS. Yannick created Wine on Wheels, a major wine event that brings together hundreds of esteemed sommeliers who volunteer to pour wine for charity. Yannick is also a para-athlete and participates in marathons to raise money for Wheeling Forward. 


Jonas H Röjerman MW

Master of Wine and the Head of Product Quality at Systembolaget

Jonas H Röjerman is a Master of Wine and the Head of Product Quality for the Swedish retail monopoly, Systembolaget. During his 12 years at Systembolaget he initially held the position of Category Manager for Fine Wine selection. In 2010 he became the Product Quality Manager before becoming Head of Product Quality in 2014. Before joining Systembolaget, Jonas worked for 16 years in the food and wine sector in various positions, including 6 years as Head Sommelier at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. He also participated in several international competitions in the Sommelier circuit, earning two silver medals at the European Championship.


Paul Quaglini

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Sales Manager at ABC Fine Wine & Spirits

Paul Quaglini has over 35 years of experience in the wine business. His job is to travel the world in search of fine wines. The wine industry is constantly evolving and there are always new trends: Paul is always looking for new things to broaden people’s horizons. After graduating from the “Hotel and Restaurant” program at the University of Massachusetts, he worked at the Ritz Carlton in Boston and Palm Beach for over 10 years. He has spent the last 25 years working for ABC Fine Wine and Spirits based in Orlando, Florida. He has numerous certifications, including Court of Master Sommeliers Level 2, WSET Level 3 and – the one he is most proud of – VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, awarded in 2017.


Niklas Bergqvist

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.    


Matteo Bernabei

Oenologist at Enoproject Srl

He provides consultant activities for some wineries: Santa Maria alla Pieve Bertani and Villa Mosconi – Bertani, La Bioca, Malavasi, Lornano, Cherri e Ruffini, in addition he follows Enoproject in its activities of managing and coordinating all the other wineries professionals and associates. Enoproject consultancies not only offer assistance for what concerns oenology and viticulture, but also for what concerns marketing aspects and the development of a new productive chain. “ We believe that the strength of this consultant activity relies in the teamwork, that involves everybody, from the family to the analyst technicians of our staff, and that through its professionalism, it is able to spread love for the terroir and the vine.” Administrator of Società Riolite Vini Srl, society that selects and distributes italian wine in the world (Canada, USA, Europe, Russia and China).


Abi Duhr

Leading Luxembourg Wine Writer, Wine Producer and Journalist for VINO (Luxembourg Wine Magazine)



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.


Dmitry Merezhko

Publisher at Simple Wine News Magazine

Most of Dmitry’s career has been spent in regional and national general interest media. He is a professional journalist, editor and publisher. In 2012 Dmitry joined Simple Wine News (Russia’s largest media outlet on wine and spirits) He became their Deputy Editor in 2013 and has been working as the Publisher. In 2016, he graduated from the London Wine School (WSET Diploma), and in 2017, he took the Enotria Wine School’s Educator’s Course, thereafter, working as their WSET Nominated Educator. Dmitry developed the Wine quality assessment system GoMer with his colleague Irina Godunova, Ph.D. in Biology. His professional interests include: quality assessment, single vineyard wines, wine regions targeted at rosé wine production as a primary product.


Rodrigo Sepúlveda Schulz

Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Expon Capital

Rodrigo is a co-founder and Managing Partner at Expon Capital. After earning his Computer Science Engineering degree at EPITA in Paris in Systems – Networks – Security, he started his career working with industrial, banking, retail and media clients. In 2002 after receiving two MBAs (the Sorbonne & INSEAD) he co-founded, then ran Glowria, a video-rental and VOD service. In 2005, he also co-founded and ran vpod.tv, a multi-media content management software aimed at Fortune 500. In 2009, he became an active business angel and startup mentor and later co-founded Expon Capital in 2015, a venture capital firm. An international speaker at events and lecturer, he is also a regular jury member at startup competitions. Rodrigo has also participated in 300+ podcasts in the past 10 years, focusing on business in technology.


Edegar Scortegagna

Chief Oenologist at Luiz Argenta Vinhos Finos, Partner and Educator at ConceptWine School

Edegar Scortegagna was born in Brazil. In 2008 he graduated in Viticulture and Enology from the Università di Trento – Fondazione Edmund Munch and Università degli Studi di Udine in Italy. Over the span of his 5 years at these Universities, he was able to study and collaborate with famous Italian farms. He has an MBA in Business Management from the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV Brazil) and is an International Sommelier. Since 2009 he has been the Director at Luiz Argenta Vinhos Finos, he is now part of the Administration Committee of the Brazilian Association of Oenologists (ABE), the founding member and professor at Concept Wine School in South America, and also lectures at Sommelier Internacional. For the last ten years Edegar has been the President of the Brazil Wine Challenge. He has also participated in multiple worldwide wine contests as a judge.


Roddy Ropner

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Director of Wellspring Wines

Roddy was born in England but has lived in Asia for the past 30 years. He currently resides in Japan where he has lived and worked since 1990; a total of nearly 15 years. His career began at the Christie’s auction house. His initial ten years there were spent as a specialist of Chinese porcelain which was then followed by ten years in management roles. He was also the former Managing Director of Christie’s Japan, based in Tokyo, helping to organize their successful wine auctions in the late 1990’s. He currently writes for Meininger’s Wine Business International about the Japanese wine market. He is also an Italian Wine Ambassador certified by Vinitaly International Academy.


Nikolay Chashchinov

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.


Christophe Heynen

Managing Director of Creativenture/Gustoworld

Christophe Heynen is currently based in Belgium. He is the founder and Managing Director of Gustoworld Belgium as well as the owner and board member of several wine import companies in France, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Belgium. His principal company, Gustoworld, is a well-known, leading fine wine importer with extensive activity in Belgium and France. Christophe is an alumnus of the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), Switzerland, from which he graduated in 1998 with a BSc in Hotel and Restaurant Management (HES). After a career in the hospitality industry in Canada and the USA, Christophe returned to Europe and began his career in wine – within his own company.



Franco Zhang

Genaral Manager at Changsha Vinopera Wine Trading Co., Ltd.

His relationship with wine began in his college years while he was studying Viticoltura ed Enologia at the University of Bologna. He not only learned about wine making, but he was also able to gain deep insights into Italian food & culture; an experience that would prove helpful in his future career and life. Over the past 10 years, he has been working in the wine sector, travelling between China and Italy. He founded Vinopera Wine Trading Company, to present Italian fine wines to the Chinese wine sector as well as focus his business on a wine education centre. The Chinese market is at a stage where wine education is urgently needed, so he cooperates with a number of Italian official organisations to promote wine education and culture within China.


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.


Hugh Preece

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Operating Partner at Salt Creek Grille

Restaurant leader and owner with 30 years of restaurant management, community leadership and philanthropic experience. During his college years he worked in a bar, and the owner took him under his wing educating him on wine and the restaurant industry: it was his influence that determined his career. Later in his life he formally studied wine with Court of Master Sommeliers and Vinitaly International Academy, becoming an Italian Wine Ambassador. He has been 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. Recipient of the Walt Disney Delivering the Difference Award, Operator of the Year, Most Profitable Region of the Year, Culinary Operations of the Year.

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