Above: Dal Zovo, a legacy wine shop in Verona (image via the Dal Zovo website).
In America, there are a number of channels and platforms where aspiring sommeliers and wine shop professionals can access educational resources. But our country lacks educational programs expressly created for and focused solely on wine shop professionals.
In 2017, members of the Italian association of wine shops, Vinarius, launched the national Association of Italian Wine Shop Professionals, known as AEPI (Associazione Enotecari Professionisti Italiani), an organization that fosters education and professional standards for people who own wine shops and work in wine retail.
Last week, the group announced that it has partnered with the Italian agriculture ministry and some of Italy’s leading appellation consortia to create a competition and series of awards for wine shop professionals: the Miglior Enotecario d’Italia awards, including a “best Italian wine shop professional” category.
The goal is “to bolster personal and collective growth,” said AEPI president Francesco Bonfio in a statement issued last week (disclosure: Francesco is a good friend of mine).
The competition is open to professionals, including owners and employees, who work in wine shops, wine bars, restaurants, and all public-facing services that offer retail wine sales (in Italy, where wine professionals scratch their heads at the thought of our anachronistic and repressive “three-tier system,” retail sales have always been allowed at “on premise” venues).
The competition also includes an award for “best Italian wine shop professional abroad.” The category is open to Italians working beyond the country’s borders, said Francesco in a WhatsApp message yesterday.
The following consortia are underwriters of the competition and others are expected to join: Vini Alto Adige, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Tutela Vini Colli Euganei, Vini Cirò, Tutela Vini Valpolicella, Vini del Trentino, IGT Toscana, DOC delle Venezie, Enoteca Regionale del Barolo, Vino Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, and the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne. Semi-finalists will be invited to those appellations for hands-on educational programs created especially for those who work in retail wine sales.
Visit the Miglior Enotecario d’Italia website here. The portal is now open for applications through the end of February.