Italian wine expert Giuseppe Vaccarini started his career as a professional sommelier and was awarded the title of “Best Sommelier of the World” in 1978. From 1978 to 1983, he was director of Milan’s renowned restaurant “Gualtiero Marchesi.” He was President of the Association of Italian Sommeliers (AIS, 1999 – 2002) and President of the ” Association de la Sommellerie Internationale “(ASI, 1996 – 2004). In addition to numerous teaching, consulting, and judging positions, Vaccarini is also the author of numerous books and specialist publications on the subjects of wine and food. Vaccarini is currently president and founder of the Italian sommelier association “Associazione della Sommellerie Professionale Italiana” (ASPI).
1) How has the ASI Diploma changed over the last 8 years since its introduction?
GV: To his great credit, Shinya Tasaki, at the beginning of his first presidency in 2011, recognized the increasingly urgent need to establish an international qualification for the sommeliers and entrusted me with the formation of the ASI Exam Commission with the primary objective of professionally certifying those who could pass the exam tests, which started in 2012.
Giant strides have been made from that first exam session to today, both in terms of the growing number of professionals who have achieved international certification and for the caliber of sommelier — including younger people —who view the International Diploma as a strong tool for distinguishing not only their profession but also their own CV’s.
2) How can sommeliers best use the exam after receiving the diploma? How does it help them in their individual career? How does the Diploma help ASI as an organization?
GV: For young people in particular, it is clear that the International Diploma is not only a matter of personal gratification, but also a helpful workplace vehicle for career advancement, to obtain roles of greater responsibility and adequate remuneration.
Its appreciation by the experts is an affirmation of its success, and with each passing year it grows in higher positioning among the different international certifications. After all, it is unique insofar as ASI is the only international and professional organization to issue such a certificate, an indisputable sign of the seriousness with which it is conducted.
3) How have this year’s candidates changed to reflect the development of our industry in a more inclusive, less exclusive direction? What trends, if any, do you see?
GV: I was able to see a great interest on the part of potential candidates wishing to deepen their knowledge in the issues concerning the profession (tasting, food-wine pairing, other drinks, viticulture, etc.), to obtain the coveted recognition by ASI.
I perceived a trend of those of desiring qualifications to compare with colleagues from other countries and of being able to seize new job opportunities.