It’s been a really tough 18 months for the South African wine industry. Following four alcohol sales bans, three Covid-19 waves and many wine businesses forced to close its doors permanently, the noble profession of sommelière has been hanging in the balance.
Finally, there’s reason to smile again. Who will take top honours and claim the title of South Africa’s 2021 Best Sommelier? The winner will travel to France to represent South Africa at the World’s Best Sommelier competition in Paris.
The Best Sommelier in South Africa 2021 competition was officially announced on Thursday, 29 July, in partnership with Stellenbosch Wine Routes.
“For five decades, the Stellenbosch Wine Routes have been crafting exceptional wines and sharing them with the world. This is a great opportunity to support the profession. Sommeliers are the link between consumers and brands, the ambassadors of our wines and region,” says Stellenbosch Wine Routes chairman Mike Ratcliffe.
The competition will take place at Blaauwklippen Wine Estate on 15th September 2021. The competition will boast an top-tier panel of judges, including:
- Madeleine Stenwreth (MW)
- Famed chef Harald Bresselschmidt
- Reigning Best Sommelier in South Africa, Jo Wessels
- SASA chairman and ASI diploma sommelier, Spencer Fondaumiere
For the first time, this competition will be live-streamed worldwide thanks to WineLand Media. “Not only are we itching to see who’ll be crowned South Africa’s best sommelier, but we’re chomping at the bit to provide a quality, uninterrupted live feed and blow-by-blow coverage. The world will witness the world-class talent of South African sommeliers,” says Anton Pretorius, online editor at WineLand Media.
“The quality of South African wines has never been better. The will to succeed has never been stronger. And the fighting spirit within the industry has never been more powerful. I am inspired to be a part of showcasing South African talent on the world stage,” says Madeleine Stenwreth, (MW)
- 2 August- National Quarter Finals Open (RSVP to sign up)
- 16 August- National Quarter Finals Close
- 23 August- Semi-Finalists Announced
- 15 September- Competition
The WWF Conservation Champions has also joined the fray to help showcase sustainability achievements within the South African wine industry, which will form part of sommeliers training curriculum in the future.
“It’s a great opportunity to raise awareness among sommeliers of the social and environmental achievement of our wine farms. This competition is a positive move during challenging times, showcasing the creativity and adaptability of our wine farms which deserves more recognition and support,” says Shelly Fuller of the WWF Conservation Champion initiative.
Long-time supporter and industry mainstay Winterhalter recognises the importance of the sommelier profession. “Without a somm to guide us, our dining experience would be lacking. Without brilliantly clean, sparkling glassware, a somm can’t do their job; the symbiosis is clear,” says Winterhalter’s managing director Brandon Park.
Once again, providing critical support in the form of glassware, competition organisers are delighted to partner with Ambience Hospitality. “As suppliers of internationally recognised tabletop solutions to the hospitality industry, we’re committed to supporting our valued clients, and this sponsorship of world-class glassware allows us to lend our support to SASA,” says Gillian du Toit, owner and director of Ambience Hospitality Brands.
“We’re delighted to be able to host the Best Sommelier in South Africa competition in what is a challenging time for the trade. We are humbled and overwhelmed by the massive amount of support from the industry and our members. We are excited for the opportunity to showcase South Africa’s best against the best in the world,” concludes Spencer Fondaumeire.
To compete, RSVP here