Identity matters. As the Roman philosopher Seneca said, if one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. Our lives, our work, our attitudes are shaped not just on how we present ourselves to others, but also on how we understand ourselves. And when the weather is stormy, knowing who you are and where you are going matters more than ever.
We view ASI as the worldwide authority for Sommellerie and Sommeliers. Yet the most visible part of ASI’s identity — our contests — is absent in 2020, as Covid has forced us to postpone this year’s competition until March. But even the darkest clouds have silver linings, and this crisis also presents us with a rare moment to reflect and ask ourselves a very interesting question: What is ASI at its core?
ASI is much more than just its contests. ASI is a global community with a shared dream. A family so diverse that it brings together men and women from over sixty countries, people that have the most heterogeneous backgrounds, yet are willing to do what a Sommelier does best: to serve colleagues, customers, employers, producers and, ultimately, ideals. A concept so strong that it keeps growing, pushing the boundaries of Sommellerie in every corner of the world: Countries like Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Paraguay, Philippines and Thailand are now getting ready to become full members of ASI, and many others are starting the process too.
This cosmopolitan and inclusive spirit is being reinforced through fundamental changes to how and where we conduct our meetings: Our annual meetings are now true celebrations of Sommellerie, held in different countries every year and with programs that go well beyond the formalities of a General Assembly. They now include educational and networking events for local Sommeliers, specialized press, ASI delegates and partners, generating fantastic communication opportunities that multiply ASI’s outreach and benefit both ASI and host country partners. They give more opportunity for host countries to showcase regions and products that might not have the same level of exposure. Unfortunately, one of the most promising achievements of these efforts – the meeting we were going to have in Ningxia this year — has also had to be suspended due to the pandemic, but our recent meetings are good examples of this, and other elements continue to blossom.
By joining forces behind the core drivers of education, networking and inclusivity for sommeliers from all around the world, we are reinforcing our identity: We are building an ASI that is united in its diversity, that amplifies our voices, and that takes Sommellerie to the next level. We’re here to make the world a happier place one glass at a time, to promote the industry and to improve the lives of all sommeliers in the process. Now that is something I think we can all identify with!