2020 posed unprecedented challenges to the organizers of the ASI General Assembly. It was necessary to walk a tightrope between practical restrictions, including formal and informal bans on international travel, and fulfilling legal obligations and preserving a semblance of normalcy.
With this in mind, the gathering (held from 16 – 18 November 2020) can only be called a rousing success. Using remote conferencing technology and clever deployment of on-site interpreters and attorney, the organization successfully elected a new president and board and satisfied its statutory obligations. While unremarkable in most years, in this crazy time it was nothing short of an impressive achievement.
Election of a New President and Board
As expected, the enduring headline of the GA was the election of a new president and executive board. When the voting was done, William Wouters of Belgium and his slate of restricted board candidates prevailed over reigning President Andrés Rosberg of Argentina and his board, first elected in 2017.
Wouters is well-known within the ASI, as an ASI board member, previous national president, and sommelier contest competitor. He will be joined in his three year term by an executive committee filled with old and new faces. Peer F. Holm was selected as the ASI Secretary General, Julie Dupouy-Young as the ASI Deputy Secretary General, Philippe Faure-Brac as ASI Treasurer and Samuil Angelov as ASI Assistant Treasurer.
A separate round of ballots was also cast for vice-presidents. The winners were Saiko Tamura-Soga (Asia & Oceania), Michèle Aström Chantôme (Africa & Middle East), Piotr Kamecki (Europe), and Marcos Flores Tlalpan (Americas).
Numerous technical and organizational issues had to be resolved before that vote could occur. Two secure electronic platforms were used for the proceedings: one allowing candidates to present their arguments to the ASI’s electorate; another ultra-secure platform was dedicated strictly to electronic voting. The vote was conducted remotely and via secret ballot, and thankfully (due in no small part to the amazing efforts and energies of Juliette Jourdan!) ran smoothly. After the voting closed, the results were validated by an independent lawyer and the Electoral Committee.
As required by the ASI’s bylaws, the association’s various officers and committees presented their annual reports. This started with the Treasurer’s report, including the sworn statement from the 3 statutory auditors.
President Andrés Rosberg then offered an overall update on the state of ASI and in particular its work and accomplishments from Oct 2019 to Nov 2020. He was followed by reports from the Public Relations, Communications & Marketing (including partnerships), Ethics & Compliance, Sommeliers Contests Committee, Education (Didactic), ASI Certification Exam and By-laws. These reports were concluded with a 20-minute Q&A session.
ASI Initiatives & Events
Details were also provided on the ASI’s many initiatives. One was the ASI Gerard Basset Lifetime Achievement Award founded as a way to continue the legacy of beloved mentor, friend, ASI official and 2010 ASI Best Sommelier of the World. The recipient of the annual award will be selected by a jury chaired by ASI President and Nina Basset, and announced on March 7th, Gerard’s birthday. Nominees should be both true ambassadors of their profession as well as embody Gerard’s memorable character in both word and deed.
Next came a presentation from the By-Laws committee on associations applying for observer and active member status. In a subsequent vote, the Thailand Sommelier Association, New Zealand Sommeliers and Wine Professionals Association, Philippine Sommelier Association and Asociación Paraguaya de Sommeliers were all awarded Full Member status. The Sommelier Association of Zimbabwe was accepted as a new observing member.
Finally, Georgios Kassianos of the Cyprus Sommeliers Association provided details on the Best Sommelier of Europe 2020 event, currently rescheduled for November 2021. Cyprus, which served as the official host of the GA, promised to apply lessons learned from the GA toward the BSEA event.
Finally, a series of updates were offered on future ASI general assemblies and contests. While the pandemic has left all planning in ‘provisional’ mode, the official schedule is nevertheless in place:
- General Assembly 2021 Mainz, Germany
- General Assembly 2022 Ningxia, China
- General Assembly 2023 Prospective Host Country presentations. Finland confirmed
- Contest of the Best Sommelier of Asia & Oceania 2021
- Contest of the Best Sommelier of Americas 2021
- Contest of the Best Sommelier of the World 2022
- Contest of the Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa 2023: Host proposals presented
New ASI President William Wouters expressed hope and fortitude for the days ahead: “Our goal, for it truly is our goal and not my goal, is to transition from a contest-focused association to one that places equal weight on governance, professional development and education. With a team-driven vision, the new ASI board is committed to supporting our member countries through strong and collaborative communication and supporting their sommeliers to achieve success. As part of the commitment, we will be focusing attention on providing our member countries tools for the successful training of their sommeliers to a world standard. Increased emphasis will be placed on the ASI Diploma as a means of providing an international standard for sommeliers to aspire to.”