Following the inaugural Somm360 three-day summit in Montreal this week, founder of the show, Vincent Lafortune, told db he is taking the format around the world, starting with LA.
“Next year we are going to start a world tour for one-day sessions, instead of a three-day congress,” he said, referring to the Montreal event, which saw 300 members of the wine trade, 75% on whom were from Canada, gather in Montreal for a series of tastings and presentations.
Continuing, he explained that these one-day events would essentially be a distilled version of the Montreal congress, and would run from 9am to 5pm in a series of major cities.
When asked about the locations, he told db, “We have Los Angeles confirmed, then Montreal, and we are planning to something in London, as well as New York and Shanghai.”
Explaining the reason for choosing these cities, he said that Somm360 had been developed with the help of an “ambassadors’ club”, comprising 16 people from nine countries, and it was due to their influence that the organisation had chosen to extend its reach to these particular locations.
Meanwhile, Lafontane said that he couldn’t confirm the timing or the location of next year’s Somm360 congress, because he wanted to wait and hear the feedback from this year’s event before planning the 2019 congress.
The inaugural Somm360 was held from 24-27 November at Le Grand Quai in Montreal’s Old Port, and was conceived to help those in the hospitality sector become better sommeliers as well as support them in their attempt to obtain the MS (Master Sommelier), MW (Master of Wine) or WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) certifications.
Speaking to db after the congress was almost over, Lafontane said that he was very pleased with the first ever Somm360 event. “We have delivered in the last three days much more than I expected,” he began. “Yes, there needs to be some fine-tuning, but the picture is good, and it seems that everyone is happy,” he added.
Running at the same time as the congress, and continuing until close of play today, is a ‘bootcamp’ for sommeliers, laid on specially for 22 people who are planning to compete in the Best World Sommelier award by The Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI).
These sommeliers attended the congress, but also attended additional events, with special evening tastings, and a 6am start, where yoga was taught to help them prepare for stressful situations, such as sommelier competitions, as well as busy periods at work.
After the congress was over, the somms, whose attendance was sponsored by Somm360, were briefed by Quebec-based psychologist, Meagan Daley, on how to stay focused when under pressure, as well as put through a blind tasting exam, with the conclusions given orally to examiners. This was also filmed, so the attendees could later watch their performance.
Other special events for these 22 sommeliers included a talk on wine chemistry from professor Benoît Marsan from the University of Quebec at Montreal, a chocolate tasting, and a session on beer, focused on the positive influence of brettanomyces.
The sommeliers were also given a masterclass on the wines of Quebec, and a tea seminar, following by blind tasting training with sommelier-turned-winemaker Rajat Parr.
Speaking about this select band of sommeliers, Lafontane said that he had been inspired to organise a ‘bootcamp’ by the Ecole d’Entrepreneurship de Beauce in Saint-Georges, Québec, where top businessmen and women are coached over a five-day period.
“It is limited to 24, and it is designed to make them better managers and better people, and they evolve together, and that is my inspiration for this group – part of the concept is to break boundaries between countries and restaurants, so you are just one group, and this is your new family for the week,” said Lafontane.
Concluding, he remined the sommeliers that they were just six months away from the Best World Sommelier championship, while thanking the 22 figures for their attendance. “I hope you are as excited as we are – we are very happy you have accepted our invitation for this first bootcamp, it means a lot to us,” he said.
And the members of the Somm360 Ambassodors’ Club can be seen on the following page.