A unique training centre is due to open in September 2022 to coincide with the start of the next school year
The South of France Regional Sommelier Institute will feature not one but two campuses, combining both historic and ultra-modern facilities, between the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Canigou in the Pyrenees. Byrrh cellars in Thuir and Mas Reig in Banyuls-sur-Mer, in the heart of the world’s most extensive wine region, will offer sommeliers, industry members and wine enthusiasts a first-rate education, in an outstanding setting.
Showcasing the region’s wines
“Excellence will be the guiding principle of the institute, which will provide high class, innovative training programmes for members of the wine industry and ancillary industries, as well as for wine tourism clients. As a showcase for the region, it will allow us to promote our products and champion the outstanding cultural and wine tourism heritage of the Aspres. Hence our choice of host venue – the Byrrh cellars in Thuir, listed as an historic monument, which epitomise our winegrowing culture”, says René Olive, chairman of the Aspres local council. “Our remarkable vineyards, our quality wines and winegrowers and our regional products that stem from unique expertise, deserved the tools to assert their quality-driven image and the region’s reputation“, stresses Antoine Parra, chairman of the Albères Côte Vermeille Illibéris local council, which rehabilitated Mas Reig.
A passport to excellence
Trainees will be immersed in local winegrowing history, but also in a spirit of modernity at the two-centre institute at Caves Byrrh and Mas Reig. They will have at their disposal, 1,000 m² of state-of-the-art facilities offering ideal conditions for studying, from the educational kitchen to the smart bar and from the storage cellars to the tasting laboratories. Not to mention the breath-taking vistas from the rooftops, that can be copiously savoured before venturing out to explore the surrounding vineyards. The geographical reach alone of the campuses covers 66% of the appellations in Roussillon, the cradle of dessert wines and bastion of time-honoured rancios and of the storied Byrrh. The curriculum has been tailored to suit the needs of the marketplace. It embraces all fields of education, both basic and advanced training, aimed at a wide audience – current and future French and international sommeliers; members of the wine industry; job seekers; employees or simply wine enthusiasts. For the first time in France, five preparatory classes have been designed by renowned experts to coach candidates for the various prestigious competitions for Sommeliers and Wine Merchants. Other flagship courses include the complementary Sommelier endorsement provided in conjunction with the Pyrénées-Orientales adult education centre and the new Wine Business Management Bachelor with a specialism in luxury goods, wine tourism and gastronomy.
The Institute offers some fifty different courses, ranging from production, marketing, wine stewardship, wine tourism, management, marketing and accountancy to PR – including the Master Level Sud de France – along with masterclasses focusing on food and wine pairings and proficiency in wine, spirits and beer, making it the most all-round, varied choice of education in Occitania. As befitting of such an outstanding centre, a renowned patron was a must. Actor, comedian, entertainer, producer and director of the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre in Paris, François-Xavier Demaison, fits the bill perfectly, particularly as he is part owner of Domaine Mirmanda with Dominique Laporte (MOF Sommelier), and a wine fanatic. “I am delighted to be a part of the creation of the institute in this beautiful region. The combination of wine, celebration and gastronomy is a winning choice. Also, Thuir is the birthplace of my wife, her friends and family and it has adopted me. It is also home to the Pellicu-Live festival, featuring gourmet food, live cinema and music… Long live wine!” Philippe Faure-Brac, 1992 World’s Best Sommelier, who is very active in sharing his knowledge of wine, will be instrumental in helping the first group of students on their way. “Promoting dynamic initiatives that take a forward-looking approach to the wine industry is of paramount importance. The South of France Regional Sommelier Institute resonates with this ethos of enhancing and spreading the values of wine stewardship and so it is a pleasure and an honour for me to be part of this project“.
Putting people first
The type of structure makes all the difference. As an intercommunity co-operation body, the South of France Regional Sommelier Institute makes people its primary focus. Its aim is to provide an inclusive structure for all of the region’s stakeholders, both institutional and trade partners, around a project promoting economic development and job creation.