Judges and Scientific Committee 2023

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.

ITALY

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.

GENERAL CHAIRS 2023 

GERMANY

Caro Maurer MW

Master of Wine, Educator

In 2011 Caro Maurer MW became the first female Master of Wine from the German speaking countries. Since more than 25 years Caro is working as a wine writer. Caro also works as a wine educator for WSET Diploma in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Bordeaux, Paris, Tuscany and Norway. She is deeply involved in the education of MW students at the Institute of Masters of Wine where she is also chair of the Admission Committee and member of the Council.
Furthermore Caro is hosting educational seminars and tastings for numerous generic wine associations such as Wines of Alentejo, Wines of Greece or VDP. She is judging in international wine competitions, at Decanter WWA in London she is a panel chair.

BELGIUM

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.

FRANCE

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.

UK

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.

ITALY

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).

ITALY

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.

PANEL CHAIRS 2023 

USA

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.

AUSTRALIA

Gill Gordon Smith IWE

Italian Wine Expert, CEO of La Madrina Wines

Gill Gordon Smith IWE is an awarded wine communicator, winemaker and educator with an international profile and a passion for alternative varieties, grapes and wines with extensive experience in judging both in Australia and Internationally.

She is an Italian Wine Expert with VIA, a Certified Specialist of Wine, French and Italian wine scholar, Certified Sherry Specialist, and she is the winemaker and owner of La Madrina wines as well as the lead educator and co-ordinator for the Wine and Spirit School TAFESA and Lecturer for Wines of the World at Flinders university. She was an integral part of the award-winning team who developed the Qantas sommelier in the sky program rolled out in 7 cities, 4 countries and trained over 7000 staff.

Her personal awards and achievements include:

• Qantas airways international achievement award- Qantas sommelier in the sky program
• 2017 WCA Educator of the year
• 2017 WCA Wine communicator of the year
• 2018 finalist AWIWA Winemaker of the year
• 2020 AWIWA Woman of inspiration
• WCA Mentor program: 3 years as Mentor to some amazing women in wine

Team awards include:

• WSET finalist top ten wine schools for WSS TAFE SA 2019
• WCA Educator of the Year
• WSS TAFE SA 2020

ITALY

Alessandra Piubello

Journalist

Journalist, writer, and wine judge professional born in Verona, Alessandra Piubello is Editor of several magazines. She is the co-editor of the “Guida Oro i Vini di Veronelli” (the only woman in Italy chosen for this role) and author of the guide “I Ristoranti d’Italia” of L’Espresso. As a freelance journalist, she collaborates with the most important national and international magazines. She has also published some books and is member of prestigious national and international associations related to wine. She judges at important wine selections worldwide.

SOUTH AFRICA

Richard Kershaw MW

Master of Wine, Founder and Winemaker of Richard Kershaw Wines

Born and raised in the UK, Richard travelled extensively, harvesting in California, Chile, Bordeaux, Hungary, and Germany 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. In addition to this, Richard was approached by Naked Wines UK in 2012 to make an exclusive range of wines under the Richard’s Label, which is now available to over 400,000 angels. He has recently launched a smaller selection of wines with Naked Wines USA.

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. In 2021 he was elected as a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild, which brings together a select number of the top South African winemakers who have demonstrated excellence and innovation in winemaking.

AUSTRALIA

Ned Goodwin MW

Master of Wine at Langton’s and Co-Owner of Wine Diamonds

Born in London, raised in Australia and educated in Tokyo and Paris, Ned splits his time between Tokyo, where he resided full-time for 14 years, and his beloved Sydney.

Ned is a dux of the Len Evans Tutorial, Japan’s first Master of Wine, educator, consultant, judge, critic and a highly regarded motivational speaker and presenter. He consults for select restaurant groups, private clients, lauded Montalcino estate Biondi-Santi and Langton’s, Australia’s premier auction house and purveyor of fine wine. Ned also hosts ‘Taste with Langton’s’, an interactive YouTube tasting platform for top clients.

From 2001 until November 2012, Ned served as Wine Director – educator and buyer – for one of Asia’s largest restaurant groups, Global Dining Japan. In Japan, Ned was also the ‘wine face’ for All Nippon Airways First and Business Classes, for which he created a bespoke ‘MW Cuvée’, a world first, while training a legion of inflight attendants. The airline produced a documentary on Ned’s life in wine, viewed by nine-million people across the inflight entertainment platform and The Food Network. During that time, Ned also hosted Divino Tuscany, with James Suckling and musician, Sting.

More recently, Ned also took on an Asian focused ambassadorial role for a Champagne house, in addition to founding his own company, Wine Diamonds, a niche importer based in Tokyo.

Ned co-writes The Wine Companion as a chief critic and recently served as Bettane et Desseauve critical voice across Antipodean wines for the Chinese market.

Before Japan, Ned was one of three sommeliers at Veritas restaurant in Manhattan’s Grammercy neighborhood, from 1998-2001 and prior, at Juveniles in Paris. Wine Spectator Grand Award winner and Michelin-hatted restaurant, Veritas boasted what was arguably the finest wine list of any restaurant in the world, holding deep reserves of Burgundy, Rhône, Champagne, Bordeaux, Tuscan and Piedmonts’ wines. Ned also worked at Willys in Paris, in addition to Michael’s in Los Angeles, also as a sommelier.

Ned had his own Japanese television show on wine, Vintage’ (2000); served as guest-lecturer on ‘Wine Marketing’ at one of Japan`s most prestigious universities, Keio (2002-2004); hosted wine dinners for winemakers, châteaux owners, Hollywood stars and corporate organizations, while boasting strong traction across media channels, having been featured in the New York Times, Decanter, Wallpaper, The Japan Times, Tokyo Calendar, Newsweek, Elle, CNN, Wine Business International, Gourmet Traveler Wine and Qantas Inflight, among other publications.

CANADA

Gurvinder Bhatia IWE

VIA Italian Wine Expert, Editor for Quench Magazine

Gurvinder Bhatia is the editor-in-chief and publisher for Quench Magazine – North America’s longest-running and Canada’s most widely distributed wine and food publication. Although he has written for Quench for over two decades and been on the editorial team for the past 15 years, Gurvinder purchased the magazine in 2021, and is committed to the magazine’s evolution to be a much truer representation of our society. Gurvinder is also the wine columnist for Global Television Edmonton, an international wine judge and the president of Vinomania Consulting.  Gurvinder was the owner/founder of Vinomania wine boutique (opened in 1995, closed in 2016), which was named on numerous occasions among the 20 best wine stores in Canada.  In addition, Gurvinder was the wine columnist for CBC Radio for 11 years and is certified by Vinitaly International Academy as one of only 15 Italian Wine Experts in the world. Gurvinder is a recovering lawyer and in addition to his law degree (JD), he also earned his master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with honours. In 2015, Gurvinder was named by Alberta Venture Magazine as one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People. He is actively involved in the community and has served in leadership with numerous community organizations including the Edmonton Community Foundation, the Alberta Social Enterprise Venture Fund, and the Edmonton Shift Lab initiative to reduce racism as it contributes to poverty. Gurvinder developed and moderated a roundtable on ‘The Media and Racism’ as part of the Centre for Race and Culture’s Challenging Discrimination through Community Conversations series.

SWEDEN

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.

USA

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.

ITALY

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.

ITALY

Andrea Lonardi

COO (Chief Operating Officer) Angelini Wines & Estate

Andrea Lonardi was born in 1974 in Valpolicella.  Lonardi’s education was an international one, with a degree in Agriculture from Bologna, a Master’s degree in management control for agro-industrial agencies from the Grande École of Montpellier (ENSAM), and an Internship with Washington State University. He also benefitted from training internships in Languedoc and Sonoma.

He returned to Italy in 2003 to begin a career in marketing and sales, in the Top Wine Division of Gruppo Italiano Vini. In 2005 he took on the exciting challenge of an ambitious project of reorganization of the viticultural part of a group. This role lead him to work as Group Viticultural Coordinator, in the most important Italian wine territories, covering 1,200 hectares of vineyards from Valtellina to Sicily. In 2008 he was entrusted with the management of two of the Group’s wineries and began a shared marketing and trade marketing collaboration in order to support the development of the product portfolio and image.

In 2012 he assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer within the newly born Bertani Domains, rebranded from December 2021 as Angelini Wine & Estate. For this project he took on production reorganization, the development of the group concept, the construction of the product portfolio and the development of the business in the main markets. He alternates his operations between vineyards, wineries and markets thanks to a dynamic and strongly style & product-oriented approach.

Andrea is a Master of Wine stage 3 student and is working on a final Research Paper on the long-standing issue of “Labor Shortage” in viticulture. The path with IMW is a unique experience for him, thanks to which he has been able to expand his international network, interest in trade-marketing and different methodological approaches of analysis, as well as maintain a continuous update on the world of Fine Wines and major world trends.

He lives the profession in an innovative way, with continuous training cycles and a deep sense of collaboration, belonging, and responsibility aimed at building a working, young, heterogeneous, and extremely dynamic team.

He is on the Board of UIV, collaborates with research centers, and serves as Vice President of the Valpolicella Consortium.

He lives with three beautiful women, namely his wife Alberta and their two little girls; he is an avid collector of Art Brut and an inveterate

UK

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-five years. Graduated in English and Philosophy from Trinity College in Cambridge, Stephen worked for many years as a publisher’s editor, in both the United States and Britain. He became a freelance writer in 1982 and contributed to wine magazines in Austria, Sweden, Korea, Hong Kong, and other countries.  Stephen Brook is also an active and experienced wine judge in competitions in England, France, Australia, California and Canada. The 4th edition of his definitive The Complete Bordeaux will be published in September 2022.

USA

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.

JUDGES 2023

CANADA

Corinne Keddie IWE

VIA Italian Wine Expert, DipWSET, Architect

Corinne Keddie is a VIA Italian Wine Expert and educator, WSET Level 4 Diploma holder, and Stage 2 Masters of Wine Student. She has her own wine consulting company 365 days of wine, and regularly hosts wine tastings, seminars and educational sessions, leads wine tours, writes about food, travel, wine and design, and is just about to launch her own wine club. She also judges at various international wine competitions and typically spends several months every year traveling to various wine regions around the world to further her wine knowledge. When not busy drinking wine, she works as an architect and has designed award winning architectural and interior design projects both locally and internationally.

 

SWEDEN

Åsa Johansson DipWSET

Freelance writer for Swedish and international press

Freelance writer Åsa Johansson moved to Italy in 2001. After graduating from the University of Florence with degrees in Political Science and Journalism, and recently obtaining her WSET Diploma, she writes about wine, food, and travel for magazines in Swedish and international magazines like Decanter, Quench Magazine, Corriere Vinicolo, Guida ristorante dell´Espresso, Svenska Dagbladet, Aperitif, and others. She has visited all twenty Italian regions and is traveling a large part of the year. She has started Sweden’s first podcast about Italian wines, Italienpodden.se and also makes her own Tuscan extra virgin oil, La Collina Blu. She goes to Sweden on regular basis to give masterclasses and to teach at the new Swedish school of sommeliers, The Wine Hub, for which she also has written the material about Italy.

ITALY

Cristina Mercuri DipWSET

Wine Educator & Presenter, Founder and Head of Education Wine Club

Cristina Mercuri DipWSET – Presenter, Wine Educator, and Master of Wine Student at Stage 3 – is a candidate to become the first Italian Woman MW. Cristina left her career as a lawyer to devote herself to her greatest passion: wine. Today, she is the Founder and Head of Education of Wine Club.

She teaches students at all stages, from beginners to WSET Diploma Candidates, as well as Sommeliers and Wine & Spirits companies. She is a presenter for Italian wineries at the most important wine events in Italy such as Vinitaly and Milano Wine Week. She also runs promotional events, as well as staff training, team buildings, and private tastings.

Cristina has more than 10 years of experience in the sector and is distinguished by her profound multidisciplinary knowledge.

HONG KONG

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.

FRANCE

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.

USA

Julianne Farricker IWA

Co-owner of The Italian Cellar

Julianne is a Vinitaly Italian Wine Ambassador and a co-owner of The Italian Cellar, a wine shop that exclusively sells Italian wines. She has also traveled to all 20 regions of Italy and her next goal is to try every DOCG/DOC/IGT wine. When she is not keeping track of that list or educating customers about the beauty of Italian wine and gastronomy, she is also a secondary English and social studies teacher specializing in European history.

USA

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.

USA

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.

LUXEMBOURG

Jessica van der Schee IWA

Wine Academy Programme Coordinator at Bernard-Massard

Jessica is a WSET Certified Educator based in Luxembourg. She is the programme coordinator for the Bernard-Massard Wine Academy, and also helps source Italian wines for Bernard-Massard’s portfolio of international wines.

She is almost finished with the WSET Diploma, and is also studying for the UC Davis Winemaking Certificate programme. In addition to being a Vinitaly Italian Wine Ambassador (IWA), Jessica is a French Wine Scholar (FWS) with the Wine Scholar Guild, having been a top scorer in 2020 (100%). Prior to working in wine, Jessica was a corporate lawyer and worked in London, Shanghai and Zurich.

JAPAN

Asami Yoshikawa IWA

Instructor at Academie du Vin Tokyo, CEO of aiVino CO., LTD.

Asami is an instructor of the Academié du Vin, a major wine school in Tokyo. Before she became an instructor, she was an actress. She became an Italian Wine Ambassador of the Vinitaly International Academy in 2019, now teaching wines of the world for beginner and intermediate-level students, and classes specialized in Italian wines. She is currently on her way to obtaining the WSET Diploma.

USA

Emily Saladino

Freelance Journalist and Writer at Large, Wine Enthusiast

Emily Saladino is a writer, editor, and recipe developer based in New York. Previously the Digital Managing Editor of Wine Enthusiast and Editor in Chief of VinePair, her writing has been published in The Washington Post, Bloomberg, BBC, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and others. She also currently reviews wines from Greece, Crete, and Georgia for Wine Enthusiast. A former professional cook and bartender, she holds a Culinary Arts Degree from The French Culinary Institute and Level II Certification from The Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

SWEDEN

Jonas Röjerman MW

Managing Director at Vitis Wines AB, Master of Wine

Jonas is the Managing Director of Vitis Wines, that import and sell wine on the Nordic markets. He is one of only three Masters of Wine from Sweden. Jonas lives in Stockholm with his wife and children.

Previous he was Head of quality control at the Swedish retail monopoly for alcohol, Systembolaget, where he developed the quality processes for procurement and lead the tasting panel, ensuring selection quality before distribution to over 400 outlets.

He joined Systembolaget in 2007 as category manager for the Fine Wine division after previously being the Head sommelier at the five-star Grand Hôtel in Stockholm. In 2001, the WSET Diploma led to lecturing at various wine and sommelier schools in Sweden, and to co-authoring wine literature and writing for wine magazines.

A successful sommelier career has earned him several Swedish and Scandinavian titles, plus high rankings in international championships, which has given Jonas the opportunity to judge at various wine competitions around the world.

Jonas earned the Master of Wine credentials in 2019.

JAPAN

Irving So IWE

Instructor at Académie du Vin Tokyo

Irving was born in Hong Kong. He felt in love with Japanese culture since his youth, after his first visit to Japan. His enthusiasm in mastering Japanese landed him a job in Tokyo in 2000. He never looked back.

Irving is a WSET Certified Educator at the Académie du Vin Tokyo. He holds the prestigious title of Italian Wine Expert of the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA), shared by only 16 people in the world as of today. He is also an Italian Wine Educator (VIA), a Langhe Wines’ Ambassador (Barolo & Barbaresco Academy), Valpolicella Wine Specialist (Consorzio Tutela Vini della Valpolicella), an Italian Wine Scholar (Highest Honor, Wine Scholar Guild), as well as a WSET Diploma holder (DipWSET). He is the Japan Ambassador for Delle Venezie DOC. He has conducted masterclasses for various Consortia including Valpolicella and Lugana, as well as producer associations from Veneto.

HONG KONG

Alan Kwok IWE

Managing Director of DECO Wines Limited

Alan fell in love with Italian wine during his PhD Chemistry studies in Melbourne, when he discovered an old bottle of Barbaresco wine in a bottle shop. In 2014, he established DECO Wines Limited, a boutique wine importing company with a main focus on Italian wines in Hong Kong.

Alan has been climbing up the Vinitaly International Academy ladder since 2020, it was an unforgettable journey from Maestro to Ambassador and to Expert. He is currently the Master of the Knights of Alba (Cavalieri del Tartufo e dei Vini d’Alba) Hong Kong Delegation.

SOUTH KOREA

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.

UK

Marc Millon IWA

Wine, food and travel author and journalist

Marc is a wine, food, and travel writer. The author of 14 books on food, wine, and travel, he and his photographer wife pioneered a series of illustrated wine-food-travel books including “The Wine Roads of Europe”, “The Wine Roads of France”, “The Wine Roads of Italy” (winner of the Barbi Colombini award), and “The Wine Roads of Spain”. Other titles include “The Taste of Britain”, “The Wine and Food of Europe”, “Flavours of Korea”, “The Food Lovers’ Companion Italy”, and “The Food Lovers’ Companion France”. He has also written widely for a number of magazines, including Food & Travel Magazine and Italy Magazine. Marc organises, leads and lectures on gastronomic cultural tours to Italy with the UK’s leading cultural travel operator Martin Randall Travel. He is a patron of the Oxford Cultural Collective, a centre for food and culture studies. Marc has been on international judging panels in Italy as well as in the UK. He is the host of a weekly show on Italian Wine Podcast, “Wine, food, and Travel with Marc Millon”.

USA

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.

USA

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!

USA

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.

USA

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.

USA

Alberto Martinez Interiano IWA

VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, Wine Journalist

Alberto is a VIA Italian Wine Ambassador, wine educator, and writer based in Seattle, WA. He currently works as an instructor at The Cellar Muse Wine School in Seattle, and also teaches Italian and Spanish wine courses at the Wine & Spirit Archive in Portland, OR. His passion for wine started when he lived in Tuscany as a student, where he fell in love with Chianti and rustic Italian food. After being bitten by the wine bug, his curiosity led him to read all the wine books he could get his hands on, join multiple tasting groups, and later pursue a formal wine education in San Francisco and Seattle. Alberto is a big fan of Italian wines, in particular old-school Barolo & Barbaresco, Etna (Rosso & Bianco), and Campanian whites. He’s traveled extensively throughout Northern and Central Italy and next on his travel wish list are trips to Sicily and Sardinia. He holds the WSET Diploma and has an MBA in Marketing and International Business. He speaks Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese and is now working on his French. He writes for his blog www.vinointeriano.com and is a contributing blogger at the Vintner Project: www.vintnerproject.com

USA

Kevin Di Lucente IWA

Wine Consultant with Winebow

A Western New York native, he began his 13+ year career in wine at a boutique wine shop, where his love for wine took root. Eventually he would find his way into the wholesale side, and for the past 10 years has worked in distribution, representing producers from all over the world, and sharing their stories. He has also been a repeat featured guest among world renowned winemakers, sommeliers, celebrities and wine enthusiasts on the locally celebrated Spiel the Wine television series, broadcast in parts of New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. His passion to learn has never ceased, and his credentials to date include Certified Specialist of Wine, Italian Wine Ambassador, and Italian Wine Professional. In addition, he’s also an ongoing student of the Italian language. When it comes to wine, those of Italy, and their native grapes are his number one fascination, and the fuel for his continued passion. If he’s not going on about Italian wine, you can find him exploring his many other interests, including music, comedic improv, cycling and many others.

BRAZIL

Pablo Soares Fernandez IWA

Wine Consultant and Educator

Pablo is from Florianópolis, Brazil. An engineer by training, in 2019, Pablo decided to take a sabbatical, where he drove 13,000 kilometers across Italy, understanding that his true love was there.

He decided to follow his passion for the Bel Paese and turn this into his professional work. So, during the pandemic, he began his education in wine, quickly making several certificates (Professional Sommelier, WSET Level 3, Italian Wine Scholar Guild). He is now starting his WSET Diploma journey in 2022. Also, in 2022, Pablo became an Italian Wine Ambassador at the Vinitaly International Academy.

Pablo is a consultant at Winext marketing consultancy, where we strive to fill the gaps between wine producers and consumers in Brazil, assisting wineries in accessing the Brazilian market and supporting them throughout the implementation of authentic brand experiences.

Pablo also promotes consulting, mentoring, tastings, and classes for wine lovers and students in Brazil with his remote and in-person tasting project, tente.online. He also writes about wines for the South America Wine Guide and Única – Guia de Vinhos websites. His friends call him a wine geek and nerd, which he vehemently denies as he reads Professor Scienza’s new book for a second time.

USA

Angelo Secolo IWA

Sommelier and Wine Buyer for Altomontes Italian Market and Wine Consultant

Angelo Secolo was born in Sicily and he has been living in the USA since 2009. He is a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers since March 2017, a Vinitaly International Academy Italian Wine Ambassador since July 2021, and an Orvieto Wine Ambassador since July 2022.

He has 14 years’ experience in restaurants and has been working with wine for the last seven years. He has built two wine programs and won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the wine list at Cicala Restaurant in Philadelphia in 2020.

He is currently working as Sommelier and Wine buyer for Altomontes Market in Doylestown, PA. He is passionate about his job and constantly eager to learn more about wine.

NIGERIA

Temitope Akintola

Area Manager for Mediterranean Europe and Africa at ZONIN1821

Akintola Temitope (Temi) started his first business in Nigeria at the age of 17, grew it until when he ran into troubles with the regulatory bodies in the country abandoned it at the age of 26 to follow a career as an Engineer in the Oil and Gas Industry.

For a lack of fulfillment, Temi decided to come to Italy to pursue a Double Master’s degree in Engineering at the prestigious Politecnico di Torino and Politecnico di Milano and was selected as one of the top 100 Engineers in Italy by the ASP. Over the course of his studies, he fell in love with the _bella vita_ that Italy offered, especially with the food and wine and for this reason he enrolled for an MBA in Food and Wine at unique Bologna Business School.

After the MBA, Temi returned to Nigeria to set up Going Global Consultancy, a family run firm that specializes in Route to Market and Risk Assessment analysis for European countries willing to expand into the African market. Going Global consultancy has since then spread its tentacles into many West and South African markets.

Currently Temi is the Area Manager for Mediterranean Europe and Africa at ZONIN1821 where he and the team are responsible for the growth of the business on the continent. Temi is also responsible for ZONIN1821’s e-commerce business worldwide.

ITALY

Alessandro Rossi

Partesa National Category Manager – Wine

Alessandro Rossi is Partesa’s National Category Manager – Wine: bon vivant, scholar and connoisseur of the wine world. He loves to interact with the most authoritative exponents of the wine and the gastronomic industry, and has written numerous publications and books on the subject.

ITALY

Eros Teboni

Wine consultant, Sommelier, Educator

Eros began his journey to wine knowledge through his father, with whom he had his first discussions about which wine to pair with a particular dish, maintaining respect for both the food and the wine, as well as the history of South Tyrol, his homeland.

Sacrifice, comparison, travel, daily training, good reading, and studying in Italy and abroad gave him a broad view of the world’s terroirs and tasting techniques, and a certain knowledge that he had chosen the right path.

Eros achieved international certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers in London (Certified Sommelier) and, on 30 June 2018, he achieved the incredible accolade of Best Sommelier in the World from the Worldwide Sommelier Association after competing in Rome.

Study, research and training continue, but he currently seeks to share what he has learned, give back what he has received, and spread his wine knowledge to others.

ITALY

Simon Staffler

Falstaff Head of Tastings Italy

Bachelor in Human Sciences and Geography and Master in General Management, Simon Staffler is a taster, an expert and critic of wine, spirits and Italian gastronomy.

USA

Peter Yeung DipWSET

Wine consultant

Peter Yeung (pronounced “young”) is a leading wine business consultant, developing strategic business plans and innovative marketing plans for the wine industry. He is the author of the book “Luxury Wine Marketing” and the host of the XChateau podcast. He was previously Vice President of Strategy & Business Development at Realm Cellars in Napa and Kosta Browne Winery in Sonoma, managing the allocation systems and business analytics functions. Peter holds the WSET Diploma as well as the CIA’s Certified Wine Professional designations. Prior to wine, Peter led Strategic Marketing, Market Development, and Sales for a clean technology company in Silicon Valley and was a management consultant with McKinsey & Company. Peter also holds a MSc from the London School of Economics and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley in Economics and is based in San Francisco.

ASSOCIATE JUDGES 2023 

SPAIN

Joan Harnish DipWSET

Corporate Events Consultant

Joan is a native-born Californian and now resides in Spain. She graduated from UCLA in Political Science and also holds a double Masters Degree MBA/MIM in Business Administration and International Management. She has lived overseas for over half of her life working in International Corporate Event Management in London, Paris, Munich, Rome, and Barcelona.

Joan is a Certified Sommelier, DipWSET graduate, and Weinakademiker with distinction of her Marketing Thesis by the Austrian Marketing Board. She is now involved in wine tourism, professional tastings, and sourcing. As a Climate Change Activist, Joan strategizes with the wine industry across the board to consciously adapt to the urgent shifts our planet and humanity face.

SOUTH AFRICA

Tawanda Marume

Sommelier and Founder of Expression Wines Africa

Tawanda is the inaugural winner of the Best Sommelier of Zimbabwe which was held in 2020. He went on to represent Zimbabwe at the Best Sommelier of Europe and Africa, which took place in Cyprus in 2021. He started his first role in the wine industry as a tasting room assistant at Neethlingshof Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Tawanda grew to love wine and decided to pursue the studies completing the Cape Wine Academy Diploma and recently ASI Sommelier Level 1 course. He started his work as a junior sommelier at La Colombe Restaurant in 2012 and he has since worked on and off the floor. He is passionate about wine education and training which is what he is currently doing with a number of restaurants in Gauteng.

DISCOVER THE JUDGES OF PREVIOUS EDITIONS

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