Benchmark Italian wines appeased the palate of New York sommeliers and importers during Vinitaly International Academy Ambassador course

The Vinitaly International Academy proclaims 12 Ambassadors in New York City, following its five-day Italian Wine Ambassador course. Organized by Veronafiere and Vinitaly International with the support of ICE – Italian Trade Agency, the New York edition of the course was characterized by a special attention to benchmark Italian wines for the American market and to the trendy organic and biodynamic wine market segments.

VIA new York New Italian Wine Ambassadors Photograph: The newly-proclaimed Italian Wine Ambassadors in New York with Stevie Kim (Managing Director of Vinitaly International) and VIA Faculty.

After an intense week of lectures and tastings as well as a final examination in New York city, Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) has just certified 12 new Italian Wine Ambassadors. The new Ambassadors are all operational in the United States:

  • Rose Thomas Bannister, Sommelier, Rose Thomas Bannister, New York;
  • Bobby Domenick, Sommelier, Vetri Cucina, Philadelphia;
  • Tiziana Forni, Brand Ambassador, Dark Star Imports, New York;
  • Paola Pavan, Marketing & Sales, Italian Trade Commission, New York;
  • Matteo Bolla, US & Canada Development Manager, Valdo USA, New York;
  • David Pinzolo, Marketing & Sales, Ca’ di Rajo USA, New York;
  • Gianluca Queiroli, Wine Director, Wine Empire, Ashland, Massachusetts;
  • Susannah Gold, Marketing & Sales, Vigneto Communication, New York;
  • Amy Ezrin, Wine Consultant, Amy Ezrin Consulting, New York;
  • Alessandro Boga, Importer/Distributor, Wilson Daniels, New York;
  • Diane Heck, Importer/Distributor, Southport Wines LLC, New York;
  • Stefano Campanini, Marketing & Sales, Wine by the Bay, Miami.

The re-formatted, tasting-intensive VIA Italian Wine Ambassador course saw the participation of 39 highly-qualified candidates, who joined the VIA Faculty and Team in New York from June 26th to 30th. The 2019 New York cohort featured wine professionals who are active players in the New York wine and restaurant scene, as well as importers and marketing specialists operating, for the most part, in New York city and states such as Florida, Massachusetts, California, Nevada, Texas, Tennesse, Rhode Island, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. The group also included a small number of professionals from Canada and the U.K.

VIA New York proceedings were officially opened by Gioia Gatti, the Head of the Wine and Food Section at ICE – Italian Trade Agency in New York. In 2019, ICE – Italian Trade Agency supported also the Los Angeles and Verona editions of the Italian Wine Ambassador course. During the New York course, students sampled 215 wines: 70 during the guided tastings led by Faculty members, and 144 during the additional tasting sessions labelled “Tasting Labs” which of walk-around tastings with wines offered by VIA Supporters Italia del Vino, Italian Signature Wines Academy, Famiglie del Vino, Wi-Fi Wine from Irpinia, Consorzio Franciacorta, Consorzio Vini del Trentino, Consorzio Vini d’Abruzzo, and Sicilia DOC.

The 70 wines sampled during the guided tastings and studied for the blind tasting component of the Italian Wine Ambassador final exam represent benchmark Italian wines and have been carefully selected by VIA Faculty and team of specialists to reflect global market trends combined with local winemaking expertise. In New York, candidates trained their palates and improved their tasting skills with benchmark wines from key denominations across the 20 regions of Italy, native grape varieties and different styles. VIA Faculty Henry Davar commented on the wine selection:

With every new edition of the Vinitaly International Academy Ambassador Course, thanks to the continuing participation of our producer, supplier, and consorzio partners, we’re able to offer benchmark wines from the top producers in the most important wine growing areas. In our the section on sparkling wines for example, we had the opportunity taste iconic wines such as Ca’ del Bosco’s Franciacorta Annamaria Clemente and Ferrari’s TrentoDOC Riserva del Fondatore. I’d say that was a pretty good start!”

Candidates also availed of the new VIA Tasting Schematic booklet, VIA’s standardized tasting grid with descriptors which are specific to Italian wine. The selection of benchmark wines per categories, VIA’s Tasting Schematic and the increase of the number of wines sampled in both guided tastings and Tasting Labs partake in VIA’s mission to maximize international candidates’ exposure to Italian wines.

Additionally, In New York, VIA’s constant commitment to become the gold standard of Italian wine education was reflected in the course’s attention to market niches such as the Organic, Biodynamic, and Natural wine markets. During the five-day of lectures on Italian wines, VIA guest lecturer and Biodynamic wine expert Monty Waldin, led a module on “Biodynamic and Organic Wines in Italy.” Waldin commented on the importance to learn more about this category:

Italy is one of the world leaders in terms of the surface area of its organic vineyards, so it is natural for VIA students to immerse themselves in Italy’s burgeoning organic and Biodynamic wine categories. Understanding how such wines are grown and made and how they taste enhances a deeper understanding of their intricacies and attributes to both trade and private buyers.

The next VIA Italian Wine Ambassador course will be held in Hong Kong from November 3rd to 7th, 2019, a few days before the International Wine and Spirits Fair (November 7th to 10th) where Vinitaly will also organize a dedicated expo of Italian wines (Vinitaly Hong Kong). Applications to the VIA course in Hong Kong are currently being received. and sessions.


Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) aims to be the gold standard of Italian wine education. It offers a complete educational path with standardized courses that will teach professionals and educators to master the diversity of Italian wine in a rigorous, organized manner. VIA’s main objective is to foster a global network of highly qualified professionals such as Italian Wine Ambassadors and Italian Wine Experts: in turn, they will support and promote Italian wine throughout the world. VIA was founded by Stevie Kim, Managing Director of Vinitaly International. The new VIA ecosystem avails of the guidance of Italian trade associations Federdoc, Federvini, Vignaioli Indipendenti FIVI, and Unione Italiana Vini as members of the Institutional Advisory Board. Italian vine genetics scholar, Prof. Attilio Scienza, oversees VIA’s scientific and educational direction as the Chief Scientist. VIA Faculty Sarah Heller MW and Henry Davar teach the flagship Italian Wine Ambassador course. The following trade associations in the Italian wine industry have also joined as VIA Supporters: Italia del Vino; Italian Signature Wines Academy; Le Famiglie del Vino, Wi-Fi Wine from Irpinia, Consorzio di Tutela Vini del Trentino; Consorzio di Tutela Sicilia DOC; Franciacorta; Consorzio di Tutela Vini d’Abruzzo. To date the VIA community comprises 202 certified Italian Wine Ambassadors and 14 Italian Wine Experts. Since its foundation in 2014, over 560 candidates from all over the world have taken VIA’s courses.