For most people, round, happy anniversaries are celebrated with Champagne. When you’re the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale, round, happy numbers are cause to celebrate IN Champagne. We are talking of course about the ASI’s 50th anniversary, to be commemorated across two days, first in Reims (October 7, 2019) and then in the area of Épernay (October 8, 2019).
There has indeed been very much to fete since the association’s first gathering in Reims on June 3-4, 1969. The association’s mission was and remains quite clear:
- bring together the national sommelier associations (just one member association per country) and to promote their founding where they do not yet exist
- coordinate actions aimed at developing and advancing the profession by various means (training courses, etc.)
- enhance the sommelier’s profession and educate consumers
- defend the ethics of the profession.
The ASI has long used many tools to achieve these goals. The most high-profile and outward-facing is perhaps the Best Sommelier of the World contest. These events garner headlines far beyond the industry press and reinforce the public’s perception of sommeliers as unimpeachable experts in their field. Each qualifying round of national, regional and then global competition provides the press plenty of opportunities to take captivating photos of talented men and women at the highest levels of theoretical and service perfection. And there is a huge audience worldwide eager to receive those reports.
While less flashy, our internal projects are just as consequential, if not more. Given that acquiring sommelier experience and knowledge is often an informal and largely hands-on process, a strong system of continuing professional education is crucial to shaping talented but still raw sommeliers into world-class professionals. No matter how dedicated an individual might be to honing their own craft, there is even greater strength when that journey is undertaken as part of a larger collective.
Our celebratory events in Champagne reflect this understanding of our mission. This is first and foremost a party, and there will be plenty of amazing food, cheese and of course wine. But there are also plenty of chances to broaden horizons. A program of master classes, vertical tastings and walking tours have been established on topics ranging from Blanc de Noirs to Chinese Moutai to the creation process for the new Champagne glass. They promise new insights, whatever your level of knowledge.
The ASI may have started 50 years ago in the cradle of our profession, France, but it has successfully grown well beyond those borders. Today we proudly look on 55 full members, 4 observers and 6 applying observers. Tremendous progress has already been made, but we all acknowledge that there is still more work to do in expanding the ASI family worldwide… and the most important persons in that process are each of you.
So we invite you to join us for what will surely be one of the greatest gathering of international sommeliers in history. Come raise your glass with us!
President, Association de la Sommellerie Internationale