Native Grape Odyssey Maestro Course – Sep 15th to 19th

Europe. Quality. Wine.

There are two free events to choose from (aimed at professionals working in the wine industry – journalists, consultants, beverage directors, sommeliers, etc.):

Please read on for more information or jump to the bottom of the page for event details and registration.

“Oh, great question!” This was Canadian Master Sommelier Bruce Wallner’s answer when asked “what sort of relationship do Canadians have with European Quality Wine?” Like most Canadians who seek to sip great wines, Wallner is aware of the rapid increase in demand for European wines.

The Native Grape Odyssey team collaborated with Wallner during the initial press conference held on July 10th in downtown Toronto. The project is now returning to the city in September to hold its very first edition of the “Native Grape Odyssey Maestro Course” hosted by Peter Pan Bistro. The participating students (trade and wine professionals) will be taking notes, clinking glasses, and displaying their passion for wine in no time.

But what exactly are we talking about? The project’s name, “Native Grape Odyssey” (NGO) implies a journey, however, it is so much more than that. Initiated in 2019, NGO is a three-year educational program promoted and funded by the European Union, and managed by Unione Italiana Vini (UIV), one of the leading and most representative associations of Italian wine companies, and the Interbranch Organisation of Spanish Wines (OIVE), a non-profit organization that brings together the representative entities of the value chain of the Spanish wine sector. The project strives to disseminate knowledge on European quality wines within its three target markets: Canada, Russia and Japan. Courses are set to be held each year in various cities within these countries.

Each course will be comprised of two parts. Initially, in the first half of the day, participants will undertake masterclasses, whilst the afternoons hold the tasting portion. Tastings will include the major varieties and European denominations of origin, led by wine world celebrity, Daniele Cernilli, director of DoctorWine, director and curator of the “Essential Guide to Wines” and founder of the prestigious Tre Bicchieri award, and co-founder of Gambero Rosso.

A ‘Walk Around Tasting’ has also been organized for the final day dedicated to business networking and promoting the project, as well as allowing an in-depth experience with Italian and Spanish wines. This will be open not only to all those who attended the Native Grape Odyssey Maestro Course, but other wine experts and enthusiasts.

What is the primary objective of the project? Simple: to educate and promote quality European (Italian and Spanish) wines, and in particular, to spread knowledge about the occasionally complex world of European denominations of origin: PDO and PGI, to understand how they are obtained, and how closely the conditions of the territory of origin are linked to the final product. In addition to these goals, the NGO project intends to enable a critical mass of highly qualified professionals to understand and disseminate knowledge of European vine varieties and the respective quality wines that are derived from them.

Italian and Spanish wine is achieving top-level results within the Canadian market. Just take a quick look at the LCBO shelves  and you can clearly see that the market demand has grown in leaps and bounds. LCBO outlets have an entire department dedicated to European wines. As far as Italian wines are concerned, entire shelves house labels such as Barolo DOCG, Valpolicella Ripasso DOC, or Chianti Classico DOCG. The same situation can be found for Spanish quality wines: among the most known and appreciated, Rioja DOCa, Priorat DOCa, Cava DOC. The continued demand is not only seen in Ontario, but extends to all Canadian provinces. According to the latest figures released by Statistics Canada, the Canadian public is more inclined to purchase products imported from abroad, despite having a healthy domestic wine production market. In fact, 70% of the wines consumed between 2017 and 2018 were imported.

In Québec, for example, Italian wine sales achieved exceptional results in the last year. They now represent almost a quarter of all bottles sold. (Source: SAQ – Annual Report)

The complex universe of Italian and Spanish denominations can catch even the most passionate wine lover by surprise, perhaps finding it difficult to recognize the story behind the wine. We are not implying that names like Franciacorta DOCG or Cava DOC are not recognized outside of the Bel Paese, but that often only the name of the wine is understood, and not its denomination of origin. As Daniele Cernilli explains, “an international audience does not necessarily know the reality of Italian wine well – which is complicated. It is a very complex and articulated subject, with names of wines and vines that are not immediately comprehensible to a public that was not born in those areas“. This sometimes also leads to difficulty in recognizing when a product is of quality and when it is not.

Therefore, let’s go back to the initial question: “what sort of relationship do the Canadians have with European Quality Wine?” Needless to say, after their first visit to Canada, the Native Grape Odyssey team including the general coordinator of the project and Managing Director of Vinitaly International, Stevie Kim, returned to Europe with a renewed sense of ambition and excitement, culminating in an awareness of their responsibility to create lasting impressions on the Canadian wine world upon their impending return.

Thus, the NGO Maestro Course is ready to set sail for Canada, and the experienced team will “communicate in a way that is within reach of our public,” as was explained by Bruce Wallner MS during the NGO Press Conference 2019. After the first edition of the course in Canada the project will then move onto Japan and Russia, bringing their knowledge of Italian and Spanish winemaking excellence to land of the rising sun and beyond!

Both the Native Grape Odyssey Maestro Course and the Walk Around Tasting are free of charge, a courtesy of the European Union.

For any other information and/or questions about the event, please write to [email protected] or stay updated by consulting the Facebook page Native Grape Odyssey_CA. If you would like to register now, you can fill out the form here. In this case, we’ll see you at Peter Pan Bistro, 373 Queen St W, Toronto.

Note: if after you register you find that are not able to attend, please inform [email protected] so someone else can take your spot.

Event Details:


Date: September 15th to 19th (9:00 am – 4:00 pm)
Place: Peter Pan Bistro (373 Queen St W (2nd Floor), Toronto, ON M5V 2A4)
What: a wine course, aimed at professionals working in the wine industry (journalists, consultants, beverage directors, sommeliers, etc.), focused on Italian and Spanish quality wines, with a particular attention on their denomination of origins.

Only 40 spaces available.

Register for the five-day course


When: 19th September (3:00 pm – 5:00 pm)
Where: Peter Pan Bistro, 373 Queen St W, Toronto
What: a core event open to all wine enthusiasts dedicated to business networking and promoting the project, while getting some in-depth experience with Italian and Spanish wines.

We kindly ask that you register only if you really intend on going as the number of participants is limited and not attending would prevent other people from taking part.

Register for the walk-around tasting

To participate in the five-day course, simply fill out the form found on the website.

To register for the Walk Around Tasting please do so here.

For further information and/or questions about the event, please write to us at [email protected] or stay up to date by visiting the Native Grape Odyssey website or the Native Grape Odyssey_CA Facebook page.