Thirty-six new heroes join the Native Grape Odyssey community at the Maestro course in Russia

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On November 1st, 2019, thirty-six wine business professionals were awarded the title of “European quality wine hero” following five intense days of lectures and tastings. Of the Russian edition of the Native Grape Odyssey Maestro course, students appreciated in particular the continuous learning prospects that the training program offers, together with its corollary events, such as a Walk-Around Tasting and a Masterclass about the wines of the Dolomites held on October 28th, 2019.

The 37 NGO Maestro Russia participants with the project’s organizers after the award ceremony.

What makes the NGO Maestro course unique is the fact that it is not an independent, one-off course, but rather the beginning of a shared learning path.

A month after the launch in Canada of the Native Grape Odyssey (NGO) Maestro course, the Native Grapes Academy (NGA) project implemented its educational program also in Moscow, offering another NGO Maestro course and a Walk-around Tasting. Both students and educators highlighted that all these educational activities offered new perspective on European quality wine and its position in the Russian market.

Russia was chosen as one of the key countries for the NGA project for its position as a strategic market for European wine, in particular for Italian and Spanish wines. Russia is ranked number seven for wine consumption in the world (Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin). Moreover, a large portion of the export market in Russia belongs to Italian and Spanish wines: in particular, in 2019 Italy was ranked number one country for wine export to Russia for both value and volume (ANSA), with good growth prospects for the future.

The NGA project aims to support this growth by educating wine business professionals on European wine, so that, in turn, they will be able to educate local consumers. Wine merchant, sommelier, and educator Vladislav Markin, who taught the NGO Maestro course, stated: “Unfortunately, in Russia we do not have the good habit of the majority of the European countries, that is, being surrounded by wine from a very young age, drinking wine at lunch and in the afternoon. People need to be educated about wines, and they need to be given more freedom in selecting the wines.” The “freedom” he refers to, however, presupposes the skills to be able to make informed choices among the many products available. Thanks to the extended knowledge on the subject, the newly-proclaimed “European Quality Wine Heroes” will play a key role in supporting clients in these choices, directing them to higher-quality products.

Given the countless products on the market, the task is often difficult and requires comprehensive and up-to-date knowledge on both Italian and Spanish wines. What makes the NGO Maestro course unique is the fact that it is not an independent, one-off course, but rather the beginning of a shared learning path. As such, the course is only the very first event in a long series of educational initiatives scheduled for 2020 and 2021 by the NGA project. Contact and exchange of ideas between students and teachers will continue even after the course, as Markin further noted: “The information supplied throughout the five days of the course is a lot; students need time to absorb it through individual study. Obviously, it is our job to support them in this process. While we are looking forward to the NGO events in the next two years, we will certainly keep in touch and continue the conversation.”

Indeed, participating in the NGO Maestro Course means to become part of the project’s international community and its network of wine producers and industry professionals. To further foster networking and connections among participants, a dedicated NGO Tasting App (tasting.nativegrapeodyssey.com) was also created: with the App students will be able to share their comments and tasting notes on the wines presented during the course, thus sharing their knowledge and continuing to learn.

Several participants commented on their willingness to continue their study of European wine. For example, Ekaterina Chistova, wine importer at Vinoterra and top scoring student in the course, remarked: “I am really thankful to all the teaching and organization team. This course reminded me of how it is important to ‘continue to learn’… and here are so many things to continue and develop further!”

The next NGA stop will be in Tokyo, Japan. Applications are currently being received for the NGO Maestro Course Japan (japan.nativegrapeodyssey.com/apply-japan/) from December 2nd to 6th, 2019, and for the Walk-Around Tasting (japan.nativegrapeodyssey.com/apply-for-ngo-walk-around-tasting/) on December 6th, 2019.

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