Astrum Wine Cellars was founded in 1999 by Bruno Besa together with long term friends and former colleagues Max Folli and Stefano Benato. Through the last decade Mark Perna and Marco Michieletti have joined the management team and Jim Thompson and Francesca Cioce, joining more recently, have expanded the Sales teams. Thomas White has recently moved from Operations to take over the role as Marketing Manager and Martino Ossena joined to assist Marco in the Operations and Logistics department. Most recently, Dora Turbett has joined the growing team as Marketing and Sales Support Assistant. Astrum is widely recognised as one of the best specialist importers and agents for Italian and Central European wines and spirits in the United Kingdom.
Who We Are
Like many who work in wine today, the soft-spoken, very competent Bruno started out by working in restaurants when he was 15 years old “… and so wine has been very much part of my working life for the past thirty years!” He loves the passion that everyone in the industry has for wine and the people who make it so special. He loves to taste and drink wines, and as time goes he finds himself preferring more and more restrained, elegant white and red wines, ranging from traditionally crafted Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir to Central European aromatic whites.
Stefano has a long and distinguished career in the world of food and wine, starting out young working in Italy and throughout Europe first as a waiter and in catering, in simple restaurants but also 1 to 3 Michelin starred ones, and then honing his wine skills. “…But my full immersion in the wine business became reality early in 2001, when Bruno literally snatched me from my hometown and got me back into UK!”. Stefano loves wine for it’s “ … a never ending story, developing everyday with new frontiers”. His favourite wines are Pinot Noir from Burgundy and Germany, Pinot Blanc from Alto-Adige and Fiano and Greco from Campania as well as Aglianico from the South of Italy. “…but of course Barolo complements them all!” he laughs.
Max has been involved in wine since he was very young, opening his first restaurant when only 18 years old. “…and London, with the amazing array of wines one can taste from all over the world, has opened my eyes even further!” He loves the complexity of the wine business, and over the years has come to appreciate that there are so many different people with so many different tastes: “… which makes our job more challenging and satisfying. However we who love wine all speak the same language, and ultimately, quality speaks for itself and we can all agree: I think this is quite wonderful!” His personal loves have gradually narrowed over the years: “At the very beginning I was very open minded and keen to try it all. But now I have the answer! I absolutely love traditional Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. As for the whites: Riesling, Gruner Veltliner and top Chardonnay”.
Francesca is originally from Rome. After working for several years in the luxury hospitality sector in Scotland, and while studying Business Management in Edinburgh she went to Piedmont for a short break and found herself in the heart of the Langhe, surrounded by the beautiful vineyards of Barolo: it was there that she realised the strong impact wine could have in her career as well as in her personal life. On graduating with an honours degree, she moved to London in 2010 and began an exciting career in the luxury wine retail sector, working in Harrods and Hedonism, two of the capital's most prestigious wine shop, before moving on to the on-trade side of the business. Among her favourite wines are the most ethereal, elegant and traditional expressions of Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo, recent Nerello Mascalese discoveries from Mount Etna and savoury Syrahs from the Northern Rhone, in particular Cornas. Her taste in white wine ranges from the broad, rich, dry Rieslings of the Pfalz, to great and versatile Chenin Blancs, ample and long-lived Hermitage, and the most stylish and refined expressions of indigenous Friuli varieties. She is currently studying for the WSET Diploma and enjoying focusing on fortified wines, especially Sherry and Madeira.
Jim's interest in wine began when he started working in his local pub in Norfolk at the age of 16. Since then his passion for wine has grown exponentially. Jim spent the summer months of his second year at university in the south of France working on a vineyard and that’s when he knew wine was his calling. After graduating from Newcastle in 2013, Jim moved down to London to start his first job with Jeroboams, a wine retail company, before joining Astrum in February 2015. "The excitement of discovering new wines and sharing it with clients, colleagues and friends gives me a real sense of purpose and fulfilment in my work. My favourite wines are those of a lighter style such as Pinot Noir and I have a particular soft spot for the Nebbiolo-based wines of Italy."
“My beginning in the wine industry came when I was asked to work part time at my local winery, Brown Brothers, during school holidays. Over this time I was introduced to their Cellar Door Manager, Russell Green, who took me under his wing and delighted me with his passion, knowledge and enthusiasm. I haven’t stopped working with wine and sales since!” Mark loves the fact that all those in the industry relish the opportunity of opening and sharing great bottles of wine with other passionate people, and is still excited about the thrill and satisfaction gained from introducing people to completely unknown wines or wines from regions previously unknown. He’s another Nebbiolo-lover in the Astrum group, though that means Nebbiolo- based wines too, not just Barolo and Barbaresco. “… the attraction is in their complexity, perfumes, purity, structure and ageing capabilities. A close runner-up is Riesling, wines that are great young or with age and display amazing diversity from different countries, regions or simply producers.”
Marketing and Sales Support Manager
Thomas has always worked with food and drink but it wasn’t until studying in Turin as part of his degree that he really became interested in wine: ‘the quality and price of the local wines available in the enoteche in Turin are enough to turn anyone into a wine-lover.’ In Italy, spending time with people whose families are winemakers led him to discover the beauty of the vineyards in Piedmont where he was introduced to the winemaking process. The following summer, looking to learn more about wine and the industry in general, Thomas worked the grape harvest on an organic vineyard in Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France. After this incredible experience, he knew that a career in the wine trade was for him and had a fortunate stumble across Astrum, where he has been working since graduating from Warwick University with a degree in French and Italian in the summer of 2015.
Marco was born in Asti in the southern part of Piedmont, an area renowned throughout the world for the production of many white and red wines.
After finishing his financial education he realized how passionate he was about the F&B industry so began his professional career in Italy working at various restaurants as Chef Trainee where he achieved excellent results, before deciding to start a management trainee program with the Michelin starred group of La Smarrita in Turin.
Marco decided to carry on with the training abroad, so he moved to Switzerland and finally to London where has worked since ’91, with the prestigious Ritz Hotel, The Lanesborough Hotel, The Capital Group, as part of the Management Team; The Hempel Hotel, Myhotel Bloomsbury, as Food & Beverage Operations Manager.
Marco vast experience, enthusiasm and passion for the industry and anger to succeed make him a vital part of Astrum Wine Cellars.
Office and Warehouse Assistant
Martino joins Astrum with an esteemed background in hospitality and a wine education that started when he was very young. Growing up in Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Martino was visiting vineyards and wine-producers from school age and, in 2011, after finishing his studies in agriculture in Italy, he moved to the UK to pursue a career in the wine industry. Martino has worked at some fine establishments including a private member's club in London and the three Michelin starred Waterside Inn in Bray. He also completed a small spell at a wine merchant in Greenwich during which time attending the London Wine Fair, Vinitaly and as many tastings as he could fit in. In 2015 he passed the WSET Level 3 with a distinction and if you catch him during his spare time you’ll probably find him listening to a Sommelier podcast, cheering on Juventus or sipping on some Amarone from Bertani.
DANIEL VIERA Warehouse/Driver
PEDRO MORAIS Driver
DECIO QUINTA Driver
MARCELO BAIO Driver
Marketing and Sales Support Assistant
Pandora started her career, like many others in the wine industry, working in hospitality which is where she found her passion for wine. In 2011 she started at Plumpton College where she studied a three year BA in Wine Business. Upon graduating, Pandora moved to London to start her career in wine and began working for Vagabond Wines, an award winning independent wine shop and bar in Fitzrovia. After one and a half years with Vagabond, her yearning to travel and desire to learn more about the production side of wine resulted in her moving to Australia for six months. Pandora worked for Margaret River Vintners as a Cellerhand where she was able to put theory into practice and gain an in-depth understanding of wine production. After the vintage in Aus, Pandora moved to Bordeaux in order to compare and contrast Old and New World winemaking, she spent six months working for Union de Guyenne. Returning to London, Pandora is very happy to be part of the expansion of the Marketing Department at Astrum. “Wine is an experience; every wine has an occasion, a mood and/or an atmospheric state in which it is symbiotic. This is what makes wine so special!”