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.