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VIA welcomes new Italian wine ambassadors and experts to HK

Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) inaugurated seven new Italian Wine Ambassadors and another two Italian Wine Experts, the highest certification of proficiency in Italian wine awarded by VIA, after a four-day intensive course in Hong Kong prior to the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair

Left to right: VIA Faculty Henry Davar and Sarah Heller MW; Gill Gordon-Smith, new IWE from Australia; Veronafiere General Manager Giovanni Mantovani; Luca D’andrea new IWA based in the US; Giulia Mengoni new IWA from Italy based in Australia; Francesco Marchio, new IWE at the first try from Italy but based in Hong Kong; Veronafiere President Maurizio Danese; Stevie Kim, Vinitaly International Managing Director; Phyllis Wan Yin Chan, new IWA from Hong Kong; Sebastian Wöll new IWA from Germany but based in China; Alice Wong, new IWA from Hong Kong; Anson Wan, new IWA from Hong Kong; Vincent Yuen M.S., new IWA from Hong Kong.

A total of 29 candidates took part in the four-day educational programme in Hong Kong, and immersed themselves in Italian wine culture through lectures on grape varieties, wine regions, as well as close examinations on Italian wine-making traditions. 

Taught by two new VIA educators Henry Davar and Sarah Heller MW, the course this year introduced a new curriculum with an enhanced tasting course and a group video project.

After the four-day course and examination, two new professionals received the ‘Italian Wine Expert’ title, Francesco Marchio, managing director at Vinoveritas Asia in Hong Kong and Gill Gordon-Smith, Wine Educator and Owner of Fall From Grace Winery in Aldinga, South Australia. 

Seven students obtained Italian Wine Ambassador titles: Alice Wong, co-founder and wine coach at Vinetude Asia in Hong Kong; Anson Wan, sales manager at ASC Fine Wines HK; Phyllis Chan Wai Yin, senior executive officer at the Constitutional & Mainland Affairs Bureau in Hong Kong; Vincent Yuen MS, freelance wine columnist at Winenow in Hong Kong; Sebastian Wöll, main educator at Wine Family Education & Consulting based in Hangzhou, China; Giulia Mengoni, sommelier at The Crafers Hotel in Crafters, South Australia and Luca D’Andrea, former export manager at the Corvezzo Winery in Italy.

This brings the overall count for VIA-certified Italian Wine Experts and Ambassadors to 171 professionals, of which 13 are Experts and 158 are Ambassadors

VIA founder Stevie Kim named the new Ambassadors and Experts during a ceremony held in the Vinitaly Hong Kong pavilion yesterday (8 November) during the HKTDC International Wine and Spirits Fair together with Veronafiere’s President Maurizio Danese and CEO Giovanni Mantovani, in addition to Sarah Heller MW and Henry Davar.

Commenting on the curriculum and educational objectives of the revisited Ambassador course, Kim said: “This was our 10th edition and it was a bit tricky as we were implementing a newly-formatted Ambassador course, which was characterised by key elements of innovation aimed at strengthening the candidates’ knowledge of Italy’s distinctiveness in viticulture and winemaking and enhancing the candidates’ tasting skills. I am pleased with how it went and confident that VIA is on the right track to educate wine professionals abroad to the complexity and quality of Italian wine in an effective and thorough way.

The enhanced tasting component of the course included tastings led by the VIA Faculty and additional self-guided tasting labs. In total, VIA Ambassador candidates tasted 85 labels of Italian wine coming from the 20 regions of Italy. The addition of the new tasting labs was particularly welcomed; in Hong Kong, these labs featured wines coming from Abruzzo and Alto-Adige.

Another key element of innovation was the group video project where candidates presented a video exploring the evolution of the Valpolicella blend. This new component to the course has been designed to strengthen the candidates’ communication skills and facilitate community-building.

Commenting on the new addition, Heller added: I’ve been immensely impressed by the enthusiasm of our students, some of whom have travelled from as far away as the US and Mexico as well as all over Asia to take part in this first new edition. They’re highly engaged and really seem to be embracing the new, more structured format based on the insightful, informed questions we’ve been fielding all week. Also, the group video project seems to have accelerated the community-building that is another key pillar of this project.”

The next VIA Italian Wine Ambassador certification courses will run in 2019 in Verona, Italy, in the lead-up to Vinitaly from 29 March to 2 April

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