Meet The Class of 2021!

Following a year of disruption, the would-be class of 2020 cannot wait for their Champagne Academy time with the Houses to begin and to experience the ultimate educational course.

As the prize of a place on the Champagne Academy is so sought after, we are always fortunate to attract such an impressive array of experience and talent from across the industry. This year is no different.

Please meet the Class of 2021…

Daniele Chelo

I am a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers and I am currently the Assistant Head Sommelier at Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay, awarded 1 Michelin Star.

I have been in the industry for almost 10 years, since I finish my studies. School I did join because I thought it would have been cool to become a chef. However, the care and the attention of the Front of House service, add the Wine element to it, made it inevitable to step out of the kitchen.

My career has been built mainly between Milan and London, with the last important experience being the Head Sommelier at Clos Maggiore, where I was looking after a Wine list of over 2,500 bins with Wine Spectator Grand Award.

My first memory with Champagne is back to school time. I had started working with catering companies after school and I happened to take part in some very prestigious events. However, it was only during a stage (my first as commis sommelier) at the Auberge du Lac in Welwyn Garden City that I started to handle different Champagne bottles and taste them with regularity, what a discovery. Since then, I had the luck to work in places which allowed me to try any kind of Champagne and develop this passion.

Phil Innes

I have been in the wine industry since 2004 starting my first job in Thresher Group and progressing through to management at Wine Rack. I founded Loki Wine in Birmingham in 2012, and opened our second store in Edgbaston in 2016, and have just opened the third store in Knowle, Solihull. I have completed my WSET up-to Level 3.

Champagne has always had a special place for me, and we always used to relish exploring different brands on pay day in the early years at Threshers, starting off with brands like Veuve, Bollinger and Moet, and then the real eureka moment came when trying Krug for the first time, and just fell in love with Champagne. My favourite Champagne House is undoubtedly Charles Heidsieck, I love the complexity of the wines, and I think the Brut Reserve offers fantastic value considering the amazing quality.

Champagne is always the first thing on my table for any occasion, and I can't wait to learn more about it on Champagne academy.

Michel Paszto

I have been working in the industry for 7 years. My grandfather was a winemaker and a distiller. I was fortunate to spend most of my childhood in the vineyard. The passion for wine and other beverages stayed with me until today.

Currently I work as head sommelier at the Chester Grosvenor hotel. It is a real honour to work with chef Simon Radley who retained his Michelin star for 31 consecutive years. I feel privileged to look after the wine cellar with over 1000 bin numbers including many outstanding and rare champagne bottles. My love for champagne can be described perfectly in words of Coco Chanel: "I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not."

I am looking forward to exploring more about this wonderful style of wine and then share it with the world.

Sarah Everden

I am a buyer of French wines, including Champagne, for Direct Wines, sourcing new and exciting wines for customers across international markets to enjoy. Champagne plays a dynamic and important role within our portfolio. I previously lived in Montpellier in the South of France where I completed a master’s degree in Wine Business and Marketing and went on to become an export manager for multiple wineries from across the region.

My passion for the industry started on my University year abroad in France when I ran the Marathon du Médoc, followed by a month work experience with Laithwaite’s French operations in Castillon La Bataille. I immediately fell in love with wine and the industry.

Having been accepted for the Champagne Academy in 2020 but with the course unable to go ahead last summer due to the covid pandemic, I am now excited and hopeful about the prospect of making it to Champagne this year. I’ve always been enthralled by Champagne and am looking forward to developing my knowledge further and alongside others who share that passion.

Paul Turner

I am currently the category manager/assistant buyer for O’Briens Wines, the largest family-owned drinks retailer in Ireland, with 34 stores and nationwide delivery through our website. Originally from the south-west of England the bright lights of London called, and I worked within the Soho House group for several years before moving to Ireland in 2004 where I studied my WSET qualifications. I joined O’Briens in 2010 and have work within the buying department since 2012.

I was lucky enough to have visited the Champagne region in 2019, the experience of climbing down into the cellars of Charles Heidsieck, the cooperage at Bollinger and the stunning view across the Vallée de la Marne from the winery of a small grower in Venteuil, have made my interest in these amazing wines even greater. I’m honoured to have been given the opportunity from Champagne Academy to take part in the course and am looking forward to meeting my fellow candidates in 2021 after the disappointment of 2020!!!!

Jack Lucas

I’ve worked in retail for the last 6 years and as a wine buyer for the last two and a half years. I’ve spent the majority of that time as the Champagne buyer at Sainsbury’s, which understandably, is the most enviable position in the team. I didn’t get encounter too many colleagues asking for samples when I worked in Dairy, but it turns out it’s always someone’s birthday when you’re the Champagne buyer! The role has provided me with real insight into me the genuinely unique world of Champagne and I’m so grateful for the wonderful experiences it’s brought. My bank balance however, is slightly less grateful for the fact my drink of choice is now a vintage Blanc de Blancs..

Being a big foodie, (I somehow fluked my way through to the finals of MasterChef back in 2014), I’ve loved the excitement that pairing food and Champagne (and other wines) can bring. I’m fascinated in general by winemaking and the crafting of Champagne is pretty magical.

I’ve been super fortunate to visit Champagne a couple of times and I genuinely think it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. Whilst we had to wait a little longer this year due to travel bans, I can’t wait to return and take in all that the Champagne Academy has to offer.

Szandra Helter

My admiration to champagne started at my first job in London in the JW Marriott, Grosvenor House where I had been introduced to an extensive collection of Champagnes. Working in a luxury hotel made me realise that luxury comes not only from the best ingredients but from people who add the personal value to the final product.

Like champagne… it requires the most authentic self to be added to the glorious beverage in order to be able to immerse yourself with a true characteristic of passion and quality. Champagne represents for me commitment. Commitment that we professionals take every day towards to doing something exceptional, the enormous amount of work we put into details, fines, and quality that we believe.

The complexity of wine and champagne making raised my curiosity towards this unique beverage.

After my first visit to Champagne, I never looked at Champagne the same way again. Beside the joy of the consuming I had developed an admiration and respect toward the people who committed to preserve and share the legacy of this symbolic beverage.

I am honoured to be able to join to the Champagne Academy’s commitment to preserve and share the knowledge of all aspect of this heritage.

Sebastien Morice

After obtaining my catering and wine diploma in France, I did what many have done, I came to the UK to improve my English. Initially only for a couple of years as we all think. Here we are 16 years later, and I have no intention to go somewhere else.

I started as an assistant sommelier at L'Hotel du Vin in Winchester with Claire Thevenot. After 18 months I decided to move to London to have new challenges and experiences.

I have worked in different settings and have met great mentors. From the fine dining at Tom Aikens with Gearoid Devaney, the wine bar 28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen with Xavier Rousset to L'Autre Pied with Mathieu Germond and the Cubitt House Group.

I am now the Head of Wine at Claridge's since January 2019.

I've been lucky enough to visit Champagne a few times. Walking through the Crayeres with Cellar Masters was a truly memorable experience.

Fergus Watson

I have been working in the hospitality industry for ten years. I began as a Commis waiter, graduated to Chef de Rang and then later Sommelier. I am the group Sommelier for Cail Bruich in Glasgow - Scotland’s newest Michelin Stared Restaurant.

Being a real Francophile, and having previously lived in France, Champagne is something that truly fascinates me. Having never visited the region, the opportunity to do so with The Champagne Academy would be the perfect start.

I have had great experiences working with the Grande Marques over the years. One of the most memorable wines I have tasted recently has to be Bollinger Vieilles Vignes Françaises 1999. This emotional experience reaffirmed that Champagne is more than just a wine of celebration, it is the wine of all occasions!

Sonal Clare

I am Head Sommelier at the Wilderness restaurant located in Birmingham.

Previously restaurant manager of Michelin Starred Purnell’s.

I have a had a very close relationship to champagne and always remember my first job of being in a restaurant as a rookie in Ireland on my placement from University.

I asked my manager what his favourite wine was.... he pointed down to Krug 1988... he was like “this is my favourite”.

I fell in love with Champagne and thoroughly enjoy sharing the stories of my adventures in Champagne but also introducing Champagne with food on tasting menus.

If I had a choice, I would serve just Champagne in a restaurant!

I have been very fortunate to attend Champagne Academy dinners in the past and have been very fortunate to attend tasting and dinners hosted with some of the amazing Houses.

I have been lucky to have visited the Maisons of Krug, Laurent-Perrier and Ruinart; I love the history, tradition and values of them all to bring identity and uniqueness to the consumer.

I was very fortunate to win GQ sommelier of the year in 2018.

I am a big fan of Arsenal (we cannot all be perfect)!

Thoroughly looking forward to meeting peers, sharing our experiences and creating new ones over a glass of fizz in 2021!

Nick Zalinski

My career started at WINE magazine, where I met journalists and producers, attended blind tastings, and caught the wine bug. In 1991 I took the plunge and joined Geoffrey Roberts-Griersons who generously funded my WSET studies up to Diploma level. One of my proudest achievements was winning the Maggie McNee trophy, the award that recognises the course’s top taster – and I have tried to maintain my skills by judging at the International Wine Challenge. So, armed with newly acquired knowledge and youthful enthusiasm, I cut my sales teeth servicing the diplomatic community before progressing to the On-Trade. A move to Michael Morgan Wines allowed me to work closely with Bollinger, and a four-year stint at Moet Hennessy gave me the opportunity to go much deeper into the Champagne world, representing Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Mercier and Krug in the UK. However, it’s at Matthew Clark that I have spent most of my career to date, working with National groups in the hotel, restaurant and catering channels. I’ve enjoyed a long-standing position as judge for the AA’s Wine List of the Year awards and I have particularly enjoyed opportunities to match wine and champagne with dishes prepared by the country’s top chefs. In my spare time, I’m to be found in the kitchen cooking for friends, in a studio playing keyboards with my band or travelling in France whenever I have the chance.

Klearhos Kanellakis

I worked for several years in Michelin restaurants and boutique hotels in Greece. Once I started my WSET courses I felt that wine was the subject I want to spend my life learning about. In 2015 I was invited to be part of the opening Sommelier team of 67 Pall Mall private members club. After 4,5 years of tasting the finest wines and meeting so many interesting wine personalities from all around the World, I moved to the newly opened and very promising Trivet restaurant where I hold the Head Sommelier position.

My first memory of Champagne is from my first restaurant in Athens. Working as a waiter, I was given a glass of Louis Roederer Brut premier. With the very first sip I realised why Champagne is so special and so famous.

I can’t wait to participate in this year’s Champagne Academy Course and meet the Houses that shaped the region and made Champagne the most recognised wine of the world.

What is your most memorable Champagne moment?

67 Pall Mall Opening event with Olivier Krug

How did you start your career in Wine & Champagne?

I started WSET courses in Greece and my mentor was the only Greek Master of Wine that time, Mr K. Lazarakis.

What is your current role in the industry?

Head Sommelier at Trivet restaurant

3 Interests Outside of The Champagne World

Books, Yoga, Visiting wine regions.

What is your favourite quote?

A magnum bottle of Champagne is the perfect size for two people, especially when one of them isn’t drinking!

Why Champagne?

Whenever you want to highlight a special moment in your life there is always a bottle of Champagne in the scene!

Caroline Palma de Azevedo

I am currently Head of Customer Experience at, a new and exciting online drinks company. But my journey into the world of wine began in 2017 when I stepped away from cooking in European restaurants to spend a year studying at the Cafa wine school in Bordeaux. I then relocated to London, gaining experience at several wine companies, in parallel to completing my Level 3 at the WSET. I will complete my Level 4 diploma in May 2021. Given my background in gastronomy and cuisine, along with my Brazilian/Portuguese family traditions, it’s probably no surprise that a great enthusiasm of mine is pairing food and wine. I love matching and discovering flavours and combinations. Doing this in good company is always time well spent! My first visit to champagne was in late 2019. It was during this visit that my eyes were opened to the true complexities and marvels of this legendary region. Champagne is absolutely my favourite sparkling wine, and I can’t wait to return to learn more.

William Tilling

William is a director of Firth & Co. wine merchants, who are suppliers to prestigious hotels and restaurants.

William was incredibly excited to be attending the Champagne Academy course but has deferred for one year because his wife is due to give birth this summer.

We wish William and his family all the best and we look forward to celebrating with him with a glass of Champagne.

Giovanni Ferlito

Giovanni is currently Head of Wine and Beverage at The Ritz London.

Having trained in Hotel Management at Oxford House College and then obtaining a Master of Culinary Arts at the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, Giovanni has worked in several prestigious establishments including The Connaught Hotel, Morton’s Club and Locanda Locatelli.

Richard Masterson

Richard is currently a Champagne and wine buyer working for Matthew Clark.

After a role as a head sommelier at Ubiquitous Chip, Richard moved in to buying at Laithwaites.

Further buying positions at Jascots and then at Copestick Murray followed before Richard moved to Matthew Clarke.

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