A New Centre for Sommellerie is Opening in the South of France  

A New Centre for Sommellerie is Opening in the South of France  

A brand new training centre dedicated to work in the wine sector is opening in Cave Byrrh, near Perpignan.

The Institut Régional de Sommellerie (IRS) Sud de France will open its doors to the French and international sommelier trade, as well as to the wine industry and associated sectors, at Cave Byrrh, in Thuir, near Perpignan, in January 2024. 

Launched in collaboration with Communauté de Communes Albères, Côte Vermeille, Illiberis (Banyuls campus) and the Communauté de Communes des Aspres (Thuir campus), with support from the Pyrénées-Orientales department and Occitanie Pyrénées Méditerranée, the new centre aims to be a flagship for the region’s wine sector. The area is already famous for its origins in the mutage technique, a way of stopping the fermentation process in order to keep the sweetness of the wine, used in Vins Doux Naturels and sparkling wine. 

The Communauté de Communes des Aspres, which owns the estate, has renovated its historic buildings to create a 1,000 m2 training centre over four floors, including a mixology bar, sensory room, modular teaching kitchen, auditorium and rooftop bar for events, inviting guests from master sommeliers, oenologists, consultants, and winners of sommelier or wine merchant competitions, to share their expertise for those wanting to enter the wine sector. 

“We want to become a major player in the world of wine, both in France and abroad. With numerous projects underway, including the creation of the first wine business incubator in Occitanie and using the classrooms to prepare for national sommelier competitions: such as MOF Sommelier, Meilleur Sommelier de France, and Meilleur Jeune Sommelier de France,” said Nicole Gonzalez, president, IRS Campus de Thuir. 

“The centre will be a showcase for the region, allowing its terroir and local producers to shine on the international stage. To do this, we will create international student exchanges, organise Wine Expert Tours, combining vocational training and oenology and invite sommelier associations abroad to partner with us.”  

The Institute has already named its first ambassadors and international partners including French actor François-Xavier Demaison, Elizabeth Gabay, Master of Wine and Patron of the IRS; Federica Zanghirella, Vice-President, UK Sommelier Association and Stijn Verleven, Association of Flemish Sommeliers. 

For more information visit www.suddefrance-sommellerie-thuir.com and Aspres/Thuir tourist office. The town has a popular gastronomy festival once a year called Pellicu Live.


What is Byrrh?

Byrrh (pronounced ‘beer’) is a French, wine-based apéritif. Its bittersweet flavour is derived from botanicals including cocoa, coffee, orange peel & quinine. 

Created by brothers, travelling salesmen, Simon and Pallade Violet in 1866 and a trademark since 1873, it was popular as a French apéritif. With its marketing and reputation as a “hygienic drink”, Byrrh sold well in the early 20th century. It was even exported, despite the similarity of its name to “beer”, complicating sales in English- and German-language speaking regions. 

In 1976, Byrrh and Cusenier (a French spirits brand) was acquired by Pernod-Ricard. Thankfully for Byrrh, Pernod continue to make Byrrh, faithful to the original recipe (a blend of Roussillon wines flavoured with plant extracts and enhanced with cinchona bark) in the Violet family’s original cellars in Thuir. 


Lead photo credit : Tuïr._Les_caves_Byrrh

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Jenny Eagle has been a journalist for more than 20 years, writing for The Daily Mail, OK! magazine, The Sun, The Mirror, the Mail on Sunday, the Press Association and The Sunday Telegraph. Her career highlights include working with the European Union as a host and facilitator for the EU Citizens Dialogues for the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021. Jenny has lived and worked in Montpellier for 10 years and in her spare time writes travel articles for France Today, The Good Life France and Culture Trip.

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