Women’s Power in Wine: WTA nominees making a difference in the wine world


Let’s focus our attention on the amazing women who are driving wine culture, wine education and wine tourism in various countries of the world. Welcome the WTA nominees in several categories — and please don’t forget to vote for these women and their projects!

Nataliia Burlachenko (Ukraine) is a renowned sommelier, a wine writer and columnist, whose reviews of wine regions of Spain and Argentina, articles about Malbec and Tempranillo varieties, as well as stories about talented oenologists and wine producers, have been published by Drinks+ more than once. 

For many years, Nataliia has been working as a brand ambassador for the international winemaking company Vinos de La Luz

Nataliia Burlachenko

Nataliia’s most recent project is no less exciting: she is the CEO and ambassador of Big Wines, a “young” and ambitious Ukrainian winery launched by Vinos de la Luz a couple of years ago. The collection of wines currently produced by Big Wines is not so big, but definitely successful, winning medals from Mundus Vini and Berliner Wine Trophy. Big Wines are working with the famous local red variety, Odesa Black, and the white indigenous grape, Telti-Kuruk, producing aged red wines, elegant white and a charming rose. Our compliments to Nataliia and her team! 

Please vote here (category: The Brightest Journey).

Cassandra Charlick (Australia) is a wine, travel, and food writer and television presenter. She’s a wine critic and writer for reputable international media, such as Decanter Magazine (UK), Wine Pilot, Halliday magazine, International Traveller, Delicious Magazine, Escape, Australian Traveller, The Urban List, T Magazine, Luxury Traveller, Ray Jordan’s Wine Review, and she’s a reviewer for the WA Good Food Guide. Cassandra is a professional judge at various international wine competitions. 

Ms Charlick lives in the famous wine region of Margaret River, Western Australia, and is fully engaged in the world of wine. She facilitates wine masterclasses and tastings for trade and consumers and is regularly called upon for commentary at wine tastings. A regular television presenter on Channel Nine’s Our State on a Plate, Cassandra also delivers immersive wine experiences throughout Western Australia’s wine regions as the co-founder and director of Earn Your Vino and Travel Better DMC. As a consultant, she assists brands in the tourism and wine industries in sharing their stories.

Very recently, Cassandra Charlick was announced as the winner of the IWSC Emerging Talent in Wine Communication, a competition sponsored by Prosecco. Ms Charlick is one of the few Australians to receive an award in the realm of communication from the IWSC. “This award will enable me to pursue projects in wine communication that I believe passionately in, and I hope will make a positive difference to the world, and the wine communities I’ve been so lucky to spend time in and connect with,” — writes Cassandra in her social media.

Cassandra Charlick

We sincerely congratulate our nominee, Cassandra Charlick, with this prestigious award, and wish her similar success in the WTA voting!

You can support Cassandra wit you votes here (category: The Brightest Journey).

Marinela Ardelean (Romania) grew up in the stunning Maramures region in Transylvania, but her true passion for wine and spirits flourished while she was living in Italy, which is now her second home. Inspired by her deep love for Italian culture, a genuine feast for the soul, Marinela authored her first book, an award-winning review, ingeniously pairing lesser-known Romanian wines with dishes from fine Italian cuisine. It was the first book which successfully harmonized the wines of one country with the food of another. Notably, Marinela received the prestigious title of Dame Chevalier in the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. Additionally, the Italian Chef Academy selected her among the top experts in the Italian food and wine sector to lead professional development courses in sensory analysis and wine and food pairings. These achievements reflect her ongoing collaboration with the best in the industry.

Marinela Ardelean

Marinela has several important degrees and awards:

  • Awarded for excellence at the CONAF Gala “Women in Economy – Day by day Heroes” in 2023
  • Speaker at TEDx Cornișa Women in Târgu Mureș, Romania in 2022
  • Winner of “The Active Role in Society” Award in 2019
  • Honorary Member, Baia Mare Rotary Club, Romania in 2019
  • Winner of the “Special Projects” Award at the Romanian Values Gala in 2017
  • Second Place, Gourmand Drinks Awards in 2015
  • Winner of “Best Romanian Sommelier” Award in 2014
  • Holds a PhD in Marketing, Executive MBA, and various certifications in wine business.

“I understand that titles and diplomas help build up credibility, and this is a necessary trait for any promoter, ambassador, or representative. For me, they were simply evidence of passing through a certain educational stage,” — comments Ms Ardalean on her multiple professional achievements.

Marinela is a passionate promoter of Romanian wines, not only elevating their status through her work, but also positioning them among the finest in Europe: “My goal is to see the Romanian wine on the same level as the French and Italian wines, and my entire work is dedicated to taking the Romanian wine to the place where it belongs. It’s a difficult road ahead, but all the signs are there. The industry still has plenty of space to develop — we only have about 500 wineries; wine tourism is in its first days and about to blossom, and the food industry and retail understand the importance of local taste. So, it all can only go upwards from here”.

We wish Marinela Ardalean lots of success in her exciting and interesting journey of promoting Romanian wines, and remind you that you can vote for our brilliant nominee in The Brightest Journey category here and in the Expert Opinion Category here.

Dr. Elizabeth Smith (USA) is a former college professor and wine club manager turned award-winning writer, copywriter, and wine and writing competition judge. She is the Creative Partner and Brand and Marketing Director for Danube Wines, a wine importer and retailer based in Bristol, United Kingdom, whose focus is Central European wines.

Elizabeth’s writing awards include the 2017 Born Digital Wine Award for Best Tourism Content with a Focus on Wine and the 2022 Koch Winery category in the annual Hungarian Wines Web Wine Writing Competition. She was also a finalist in the 2023 Wine Travel Awards (The Brightest Journey category) and served as a jury member for the 2023 Winelovers Wine Awards Competition in Budapest, Hungary, and Open Balkan Wine Trophy in Belgrade, Serbia.

Dr. Elizabeth Smith

Elizabeth has obtained a doctoral degree in community college education, a master’s degree in French, a graduate minor in Spanish, and WSET Level 3 (Advanced). She is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers, Les Dames d’Escoffier International Sacramento and Sonoma chapters, and the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association.

Elizabeth is taking a special interest in Central-European wines, therefore most of her current travels are to this part of the world. Dr Smith is a connoisseur of Hungarian, Slovakian, Serbian wines. In November 2023 she was a jury member for the Open Balkan Wine Trophy in Belgrade and attended Wine Vision by Open Balkan. She recently wrote her first article about Serbia featuring Deurić and winemaker Mirko Niškanović.

A skilled storyteller herself, Elizabeth strongly believes in the power of the narrative, which in her opinion plays a significant role in forming the wine’s identity. “The way you tell your story can make all the difference,” says a quote on Dr Smith’s website. We do agree, because her stories, indeed, make a difference, helping winelovers to discover the fascinating world of wines.

Please vote for Dr Elizabeth Smith, the WTA nominee (category: The Brightest Journey) here.