As someone once said, how did it get so late so soon? December is well under way, and it is time to come together, to rejoice, and to reflect. It has been a very intense year for ASI, in preparation for an even more challenging year to come.
Here is a quick overview of what happened over the year. It provides an indication of the many things we are doing, in the context of a solid, long-term plan, to make ASI more modern, professional, and international.
We provided support to three regional contests (Nordic, Baltic, and Balkans), organized two continental contests, and had two Technical Committee meetings involving several former winners of the Meilleur sommelier du Monde title, as well as presidents of various sommelier associations. We started work to foster cooperation between the Didactic Committee and the Technical Committee: a first master class about coaching candidates for competitions was held, and work has started on improving scoring sheets and other tools. The Exams committee organized our Certificate examination with positive results, too.
A modern partnership programme was put in place from scratch. Eight partners have come on board and more are set to start working with us in 2019.
We also greatly needed to improve our communications and branding, so that we could successfully increase ASI’s outreach and generate more visibility for our activities and those of our partners and members. Consequently, we put a lot of energy into making this happen. Today we have a brand new logo, a totally revamped website – with a much better domain, after we acquired www.ASI.info – and you are reading the sixth edition of #ASInews, our growing newsletter, now edited monthly by Rémy Charest.
Press coverage and social media have also grown quite a bit, and we expect to see even more impact in the future: we are developing our own database of journalists, we recently hired a PR firm in the United States, and we’re doing a lot of work in collaboration with the national associations. Social Media has seen significant growth, between 2017 and 2018: our followers have gone from 13k to 17k on Facebook; 1.2k to 1.8k on Twitter; and an impressive 460 to 3.5k on Instagram.
Online streaming the finals of international contests is now the norm, and thousands of people are watching them, either as a live broadcast or on our new YouTube page, making it a great tool for communication and training. Our video team, under the guidance of Gabriel Dvoskin, has been a great part of making us more visible and attractive to worldwide audiences.
The General Assembly in Georgia kickstarted some new concepts for our annual meetings: going to a different country every year, and introducing master classes and tastings for ASI delegates, press, partners and local sommeliers alike. As a result, we left something for young local somms, we got press coverage from four out of the five national TV channels, we sparked interest in forming a sommelier association in quite a few countries in the region, and we learned about qvevri wines and feasted on Georgian gastronomy, culture and heritage. Much more than just a meeting, it is an opportunity for learning and growth.
Our global family is growing strong, too, which is giving the ASI By-Laws committee a lot of hard work. ASI now represents sixty national sommelier associations from five continents, and a few more are asking to join our community over the coming years. The first Asian-Oceanian presidents’ meeting was held last October, as a first step in focusing on the development of that region. A significant milestone was also reached in the USA: in a few weeks, a contest run by Doug Frost MS MW and a group of top somms will select the American candidate for our world contest in Antwerp!
There is still a lot more to be done, and we make it our New Year’s resolution to do even better in 2019, as we hold the ASI Meilleur Sommelier du Monde contest and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our association. Please don’t hesitate to get involved, send us your comments and ideas, tag us in your social media, share the news of your national sommelier associations with us so we can publish them, and forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues so they can subscribe to it as well. It is by walking together that we can go far – and impact future generations of sommeliers.
Last but absolutely not least, I want to thank the partners of ASI and the sommeliers of the world who are generously dedicating hours of their personal lives to build the ASI of the future. Few actions embody the Christmas spirit – and the spirit of ASI – better than giving back.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
President of ASI