Most Important Wine Event Ever to be Held in Cyprus – Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa 2021



14th ASI Contest for the ‘Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa

Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa 2021In just ten days, Cyprus will welcome the prestigious 14th ASI (Association de la Sommellerie Internationale) Contest for the Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa to the Island. The event will take place in Limassol, and it is a huge honour for the City to host this occasion. The Contest has been delayed twice by the pandemic, but will finally start on the 15th November and run until the 19th November. Sommeliers, dignitaries and journalists will arrive in Limassol from all over the world. It is considered to be the most important professional wine event in Cyprus, possibly in Europe. Whilst the dignitaries will be staying in Limassol, a series of events, wine tours and dinners are planned across Cyprus, including visits to wineries in the Limassol and Pafos regions.

We took the opportunity to catch up with George Kassianos, President of the Cyprus Sommeliers Association, to find out more about the preparations for this huge event, which will utilise over 2000 bottles of wine! The Contest involves blind tasting, written and practical tests, to find the three finalists, who will participate in the televised final at the Rialto Theatre. It is expected to be watched by a global audience of over 1.5 million.

When did you start working on the Competition?

The whole idea started in 2013 at the San Remo European Contest. It was actually the inspiration of the then President of Cyprus Sommelier Association, Iraklis Christoforou. He knew that the ASI had sponsorships available for a European Contest, and thought about the possibility of bringing it to Cyprus. The idea remained in our minds, and in 2014 when I became President of the Association, we agreed to “ have a go”, and prepared a proposal. However, Austria also had a full proposal for 2017, so we presented Cyprus as a host country for 2020. The ASI hold this contest every three years.

We had to convince all the ASI delegates at the General Assembly in Reims, France, that Cyprus was ready and could complete a successful Contest. At that time, we were also competing against Spain, which also wanted to host it. We were delighted when we found out that we were the chosen country for the event. The excitement for all our members and associates permeates throughout Europe.

How are the final plans for the Contest?

Everything is going very well. We now have a list of the sponsors, and it looks as if we will be able to cover the budget.  To hold the event, we require funding of €340K, so we needed money from both Cyprus and abroad. We have a lot of people coming to Cyprus, so the selected hotels, Four Seasons and the Mediterranean in Limassol, have been reserved since last year. The Gala Dinner will take place at the Four Seasons Hotel. 

Who will be coming to Cyprus?

There will be thirty-four countries taking part, and each one will be sending their President and a candidate. We will be hosting the ASI Board and the Technical Contest Committee, along with the Communications team.  Due to COVID measures, each country is allowed to bring two more visitors at its own expense.  In addition, there will be ten distinguished journalists coming from abroad, who will have a separate program.

How will the ultimate winner be decided?

The Contest will take place in three parts.  In the quarterfinals, all of the candidates have to take a written test. They will also have to blind taste two wines and identify two spirits.  Then, in the afternoon, they will go on to take practical tests. The top ten are then selected to compete at the semi-finals on the following day, which involves more rigorous tasks.

On the final day, at the Rialto Theatre in Limassol at 3 pm, in front of a live audience, three of the ten semi-finalists will compete for the title of the ASI contest of the Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa.  The Contest will be live-streamed on YouTube. The ASI Technical Committee is led by Olivier Poussier, who was the World Champion in 2000. Vasos Manoli of Pralina Experience, will be assisting the Technical Committee. Usually, the judges are past World Champions, Master Sommeliers or Masters of Wine. The Technical Committee also includes Andreas Larsson from Sweden (2007), Markus Del Monego from Germany (1998), Philippe Faure-Brac from France (1992), Serge Dubbs from France (1989) and Giuseppe Vaccarini from Italy (1978).  There are also three ladies on the Technical Committee: Heidi Mäkinen MW from Finland, Veronique Rivest from Canada and Paj Levinson from Argentina.  Dejan Zwiskovski from Serbia is in charge of logistics.

Is there anyone, in particular, you would like to thank?

I am privileged to have been supported in this task by many over the past few years. Firstly, the ASI board, specifically William Wouters, President, Peer F Holm, General Secretary and Piotr Kamecki, Vice President of Europe. In addition, Claire Berticat, our consultant, and Stalo, Vasos, Haris, Iraklis, Vanessa, Costas, and many others working for us, including our volunteers from Cyprus and overseas.

I would also like to thank our partners and associates in Cyprus and abroad. The reality is that, without their financial support, this event would not have been possible. Those from Cyprus include, the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, the Ministries of Commerce and Agriculture, Zorbas Bakeries and Coffee Berry, Photiades Distributors, Pegasus Refrigeration and fourteen Cypriot wineries. From abroad, apart from the ASI, we would like to thank Soalheiro Winery in Portugal, Wines of Austria, Japanese Sake & Shochu Makers Association, Alexandrion Group, Onegin Vodka, the wine web application Wineally, Deutz Champagne, Wines of California, Salentein Winery in Argentina, Klein Constantia in South Africa and Château Phélan Ségur in Bordeaux. As is apparent, we have a great combination of local and international partners.

The ASI, and the Deputy Ministry of Tourism, have covered all the costs of the VIP Wine journalists, who will be attending.  In addition, the five gold sponsors of the Contest will have workshops to present their products to 120 delegates from all over Europe and Africa. 

How has it been organising this colossal event?

As you can imagine, it has been a tremendous amount of work. It has been made particularly difficult due to the implications of Covid. There has been a lot of stress and a huge amount of work, but I am delighted to be days away with everything in place. However, I am glad to be at the helm, with my team, and look forward to a successful Contest. The eyes of the wine world will be firmly on Cyprus, and we cannot wait to show our visitors our Island and our wines.

To learn more about George Kassianos, click here.

Meet the UK Candidate, Sommelier and Vice President of the UK Sommelier Association, Éric Zwiebel, in an exclusive interview with Cyprus in Style Magazine, during his recent research trip to the Island. Read the Interview here.

An interview with the Cypriot Candidate, Andreas Kyprianou, will be published next week.

Interview by Sarah Coyne

Published by Cyprus in Style Magazine | October 2021 | #InStyleBusinessNetwork | Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa 2021

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Copyright Cyprus in Style Magazine 2021 – All rights reserved / Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa 2021