The year was 2014, in San Remo participating in the Contest for the Best Sommelier of Europe. Iraklis Christophorou, then president of the Cyprus Sommeliers Association, and myself were at one of San Remo’s best trattorias, La Porta Verde, enjoying espresso after a lovely meal when Iraklis said “you know we can take advantage of the new decision by the International Association, to sponsor the host country with €100k. Surely we can do it”
He meant Cyprus could do it. The Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) of which the Cyprus Sommelier Association has been a member since 2003, had announced this financial help. Somehow, it stuck in my mind so the first thing I did when I became president the following year was to make some enquiries.
We tried a bid for 2017 however we realised that Austria was already prepared for it and got the green light. Two years later at the General Assembly in Rheims, France, Cyprus bid again and got the green light.
Preparations for the contest started immediately, budgets, contacts with government officials and municipalities and of course Winemakers Associations. In 2016 at the World contest in Mendoza Argentina and in 2017 the Best of Europe and Africa in Vienna we had the first indication of masterclasses, along with visits to the regions’ wine treasures. We realised we needed to add a new concept, what we now call the Bar de Sommelier. This is a place where before and after dinner, somms will have their own space and taste the various sponsors’ products, meet and interact.
The new ASI board supported us from the start and the event in a few days time has been in development for a few years now. It has been twice postponed due to the lingering impact of the global pandemic. However, finally, our visitors from abroad will be here from November 19 for the Europe and Africa event to soak up the famous Cyprus sun, and the generous hospitality of our organising team.
A week before the event starts, it gives me time to reflect on the future of Sommellerie, both in Cyprus and abroad. It has been a tough journey for everyone, and particularly those working in the hospitality industry.
But the heroes in this contest are the candidates. When you see all 34 of them parading live on the Rialto stage I would like you to remember the resolve of the candidates and the volunteers that have sacrificed so much to be here. The candidates to study and prepare for this contest, while volunteers will dedicate an immense amount of time to highlight that dedication to the world.
It is a big event, no doubt about it. And there is a switch. We have witnessed a cultural switch from focusing on champions to focusing on all those that choose to dedicate their lives to this profession, embracing the spirit of diversity and inclusion that is part of our ASI culture. This spirit clearly evidenced in our candidates who represent an incredibly diverse background of ethnicity, culture, gender and age.
We all hope that on the eve of this incredible contest, we will raise a glass of Cypriot wine and be thankful for our glorious world of wine. Professional somms and members of the Association de la Sommellerie should never forget that we live in a privileged world. No matter if our restaurants are open or closed, our bank accounts full or empty, we know our glasses are always full of the joy that the wine world brings and the pleasures of dedicating ourselves to communicating that love and knowledge of wine to consumers around the world. Let us raise a glass together this week and toast our good fortune.