The countdown is on for the ASI Contest Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa in Cyprus for what has been one of the most anticipated sommelier contests in memory. The twice rescheduled event is now a mere week away. The event has long been under the stewardship of Georgios Kassianos, president of the Cyprus Sommelier Association, and ably assisted by Vasos Manoli, a former Best Sommelier of Cyprus winner, along with other members of the local sommelier association including Haris Stylianides, Stalo Arambantzi and Heracles Christophorou. Of the event, Kassianos says “it has been a long road (or perhaps better said boat journey) to this contest which will be held on our beautiful island of Cyprus, but all the effort will be worth it next week as we welcome the world to enjoy our hospitality and our wines. More importantly we have been working diligently, along with the team at ASI including our illustrious SCC (Sommelier Contests Committee) to ensure the candidates have a fair test of their skills.”
Stylianides who manages the volunteers concurs with Kassianos stating “this has been a remarkable team effort to get to this point and come next week will be an even greater one as we welcome sommeliers from around the globe to assist us put on all the events and activities. It’s an incredible amount of logistics that goes into hosting an event like this, and just the volume of wine (more than 2,000 bottles) to manage and the thousands of glasses which will need to be polished and set out for each event staggering.” The team in Cyprus will be joined by more than two dozen sommeliers, who are coming at their own expense in an effort to support, learn and network with the elite of Europe and Africa’s sommelier community. Through simple calculations, it’s been determined that more than 3,000 hours of volunteer work goes into hosting an event such as the ASI Contest Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa.
Hosting an event like this requires a herculean effort and is financed jointly by ASI but also by partner organizations. In addition to ASI’s institutional partners, the events are support by nine international partners and 15 local partners. Of its partner organizations, ASI Director of Marketing and Partnerships Claire Berticat says “we are privileged to have a number of world class partners along with numerous local supporters. These events would not be possible without them. Not only do our partners support us financially but they like ASI are committed to fostering educational events at our contests which is in keeping with our mandate to evolve into an association with a greater focus on the balance of competitions and education.” ASI President William Wouters says “ASI is committed to providing top level educational experiences at all our events including our continental and world contests. This is exemplified by our great lineup of speakers for this event.” Masterclasses will be conducted by amongst others Luis Cerdera (Quinta Quinta Soalheiro), Raimonds Tomsons (on behalf of Japanese Saké and Shoshu makers Association), Michael Moosbrugger (Österreichische Traditionsweingüter – ÖTW), Elaine Chukan Brown (Discover California Wines), Julia Scavo (Romanian Wines of the “Iconic Estates” – Alexandrion Group) and local experts speaking about the Cyprus wine industry.
Despite the lingering effects of the global pandemic, more than 120 delegates are expected to arrive on the shores of Limassol, on the southern tip of Cyprus. However, unlike previous contests, in which robust delegations from numerous countries came to drink in the generosity of ASI, Cyprus represents a more fiscally prudent approach to hosting a contest as each member country are now only afforded a space for their president (or other representative) and candidate. A spousal and delegates program are on offer in Cyprus, which allows for more delegates to participate but at a cost. Of the change Wouters says “as ASI continues to grow, we are trying to create a more professional association. While we look forward to seeing all our friends from around the world at all our events, it is our duty to our member associations and ultimately to the sommeliers we all represent to ensure we are investing the association’s money wisely. This year we have launched numerous initiatives that will provide positive impact to our sommeliers including ASI BOOTCAMP, launching of the sommelier guidelines and we will be creating educational videos for our sommelier community, so everyone around the globe can learn from our top sommeliers. We believe saving in money where we can so we can invest in our profession’s future.”
Also joining the candidates and ASI delegates will be a number of prominent journalists from around the world. The journalists have come to witness not only the competition itself but drink in the gastronomic pleasures Cyprus has to offer. Cyprus’ small but might wine industry will be on full display during the week with Cypriot wine poured and local food to be enjoyed. Kassianos wraps it up succinctly by saying “at the end of the week we expect to have another great champion crowned and we know our friends around the world will leave having experience wonderful hospitality.”