articles | 12 November 2023

Cyprus’ new school to train wine experts

The vine-growing mountain village of Vouni is set to become the proud location of Cyprus’ first ever recognised Wine Sommelier School.

In a significant milestone, the Cyprus University of Technology (Tepak) signed a cooperation agreement last week with the Limassol village to create an academic pathway for people to become certified sommeliers, or wine specialists, in Cyprus. The courses will be approved by the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education (CYQAA).

Vouni is one of Cyprus’ most active winemaking villages and the Tepak rector Panayiotis Zaphiris underlined the sommelier school as a pivotal stride for both the university and the Vouni community. “The agreement is a crucial component of the university’s strategy to improve our reach to remote areas of our country and to increase societal interconnectedness,” he said. “This collaboration is poised to facilitate cutting-edge viticulture research and the development of innovative educational programmes.” Zaphiris added that the partnership will contribute to the sustainable winemaking development of the entire area surrounding Vouni.

The village’s community leader Matthaios Protopapas hailed the project as “the beginning of a collaboration with promising future prospects, creating new opportunities for the community, particularly in viticulture and tourism employment”. “Tepak’s presence here will be a focal point for tourism, which will be intertwined with the region’s history. It will elevate the quality of life and boost our economic resources,” he said.

The person responsible for the groundwork for courses at the upcoming school is Tepak professor Antonis Theocharous, who told the Cyprus Mail that the original idea for a certified sommelier school belongs to former Mountain Communities Development Commissioner Costas Hambiaouris. “Around three years ago, we initiated discussions with Hambiaouris and Protopapas on how to use some available spaces in Vouni to establish proper sommelier courses,” Theocharous said. “I am very happy to see that the idea is turning into reality.”

Theocharous said courses at the Wine Sommelier School will feature two separate directions. “Basically, there will be two separate courses. One, which is going to hold the CYQAA accreditation will last two years and people who will complete it will hold an official, international wine sommelier certificate,” he said. “The second one will be a shorter course, a vocational one. This will be aimed to everyone interested in knowing more about wines and winemaking and will most likely take place at nights to allow more people to join after work.”

He added that a third course is also on the cards, albeit still only in theory. “In recent years, especially considering the rising cost of living, olive oil has become ever so expensive. It’s almost a luxury commodity,” he said. “Therefore, we are thinking of offering oil sommelier courses. We’re going to teach people how to distinguish the qualities and varieties of olive oil. It will be one of a kind in Cyprus, which is a major player in olive oil production in Europe.”

While the oil sommelier course is still in its embryonic phase, the sommelier courses are close to being finally laid out. “The short, vocational course should start in 2024. For the two-year course, however, we will need some more time, if only because CYQAA needs to approve it in full and inspect the premises and examine the programmes, among other things. It will take from one and a half to two years for the courses to start.”

Theocharous added that the ongoing feasibility plan for the courses are also being examined by renowned Cypriot sommelier Sotiris Neophytides, who was named “Best Sommelier of Cyprus” in 2022. “We are seeking the best people to help us in our venture, from Cyprus and from abroad. It will be crucial for people undertaking the courses to have the best possible figures teaching them about winemaking,” Theocharous said, adding that they will seek the help of the Cyprus Sommelier Association at a later stage, when a clearer picture regarding the courses will emerge.

The signing ceremony was also attended by the environmental commissioner Maria Panayiotou, who highlighted the agreement’s significance in strengthening the bond between the academic realm and local communities. She emphasised the creation of an environment where education converges with culture, fostering active community participation in the academic process. “Winemaking is deeply rooted in Cyprus’ culture,” she said. “The upcoming school is crucial to modernising production methods, while preserving customs and traditions.”

Source: Cyprus Mail

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