Updated: Jun 4
Following a year of disruption, the would-be class of 2022 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 2020...2021…2022
Andrew Fullerton, Chairman
I am a Certified Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers and I am currently the 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.
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.
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.
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.
I am now the Senior Vendor Manager for Beers, Wines and Spirits at Amazon. Previously I was 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Caroline Palma de Azevedo
I am currently Business Development manager at Davy’s Wine Merchant and was previously Head of Customer Experience at hometipple.com, an 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.
A decision to join the wine trade after studying Geography at University and then studying Law in London was not an obvious move, but one that allowed me to follow my true passion – the world of wine. Joining Majestic Wine in the South West, allowed complete immersion in the wine world, alongside time to enjoy exploring the English wines of the region.
Progression to manging my own store in Devizes and a stint with Avery’s of Bristol, a decision to relocate to God’s Own County led me to join Firth & Co to develop the on-trade business. This position now involves supplying some of the finest and most prestigious hotels and restaurants in Yorkshire and the North East. Promotion to Director in 2019 allows more involvement with buying and building relationships with suppliers.
Champagne has always been a passion, and opportunities to visit has only whetted my appetite for more.
Outside of Wine, I enjoy rugby and cricket alongside spending time with my family and trusty Lab. The shooting and fishing that Yorkshire offers, allows for my enjoyment of cooking to be fully enjoyed, of course, with a glass of Champagne in hand!
Giovanni Ferlito MCA is the Head of Wine and Beverage at The Ritz London.
An Italian and French native, Giovanni grew up in Sicily in the wine region of Mt Etna, where he also owns a small vineyard, Monterosso, on the south-east slopes of the volcano.
At an early age he discovered a passion for mixology (from watching the iconic Tom Cruise film, Cocktail) and first began a career in the hospitality industry as a Bartender in 2002.
He went on to become Bar Manager in 2006 for one of the leading Italian group of hotels and resorts and within this role was able to travel throughout the world.
In 2010, Giovanni moved to London and started his career as a professional sommelier. He worked in several of the city’s most prestigious restaurants, such as Locanda Locatelli and Hélène Darroze, before joining The Ritz London in 2014 as the hotel’s Head Sommelier.
In 2017, having relaunched The Ritz London’s wine list (which now includes approximately 1000 references, of which more than 300 new wine listings have been added during Giovanni’s tenure), he was promoted to his current position as Head of Wine and Beverage at the hotel, overseeing the Michelin-starred Ritz Restaurant, Palm Court, Rivoli Bar, Private Dining and Events as well as a team of 7 Sommeliers.
In 2018, Giovanni became also one of the Academicians of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, after being awarded MCA, Master of Culinary Arts, the previous year.
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.
I started working at Virgin Wines back in 2007, where my passion for wine blossomed and I became one of their Wine Advisors. Over the years my wine knowledge increased, and I gained my WSET level 2 and 3 in Wines and Spirits – and even become a WSET Nominated Educator for the Level 2 course which we offer to all staff. In 2019 there was an opportunity to join the Buying Team within Virgin Wines, and the rest is history! I now buy our Champagne, as well as a number of other portfolios, and I have recently completed my WSET Level 4 Diploma. I feel extremely lucky to have a job that I adore and the opportunity to work with winemakers around the world who are equally passionate about wine.
This will be my first time in Champagne, and I cannot wait! Champagne is all about celebration (whether it’s a personal celebration such as making it to the weekend, or something much grander). For my 30th birthday I treated myself to a methuselah of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée and shared it with 35 of my closest friends and family. I will always have lasting memories of my loved ones cheering as we popped the cork, and everyone raising a glass together. And I still have the empty bottle on display at home to remind me of that great day!
Hailing from Ireland, Karen is a wine and spirits buyer at the large retailer, Dunnes Stores.
Karen completed the WSET Diploma in 2001 and also holds a Masters in Sociology.