The 2018 winner of the Veritas Young Wine Writer of the Year Competition, Llewellyn Lambert, will be attending the Best Sommelier of the World Competition in Antwerp, Belgium, as special guest later this month.
South Africa will be represented through competition participation by sommelier Jo Wessels, who was the runner-up in the Veritas Young Wine Writer competition in 2017.
The outgoing chairperson of the South African Sommelier Association (SASA), Higgo Jacobs, has offered Lambert the Association’s only media seat to the competition, to attend the week-long activities (10 – 15 March) and write about it on various media platforms. The competition is organised by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) and is one of the most difficult challenges in the world of wine. Described as an Olympic-standard contest, the prestigious winner’s title opens the door to a lucrative international career.
The competition has three components, a written examination, a segment in which contestants serve wine to the judges and a ‘blind tasting’ evaluation. The profession of a sommelier is complex and in the 21st century this discipline also requires being informed on beers, spirits, saké, waters, coffee and tea. In the 2019 competition, 65 sommeliers from 62 countries will compete with the very best internationally.
Lambert says he started writing as a means of sharing his travels, opinions of eating establishments and accompanying wine choices. Being in hospitality, friends would always ask what wineries they should visit in the winelands and what new restaurants have opened in Cape Town and the Hospitality Hedonist blog became the go-to space for these very answers.
Fast-forward three years, and while there are a few posts that explain what to do, where to eat and quaff wines, Hospitality Hedonist has also become a vehicle for him to share the stories of winemakers and chefs who have become friends along the way. Writing down these accounts, makes them tangible and shareable and serves as conversation points.
“For myself and hopefully those others reading to develop themselves, the inspiration will get us to share the knowledge and become more versed in wine and food and all the pleasures that it brings,” says Lambert.
The South African representative in the Sommeliers competition, Jo Wessels, works as a sommelier in Germany, where he is a BSc student completing a course in International Wine Business at Geisenheim University. He is also enrolled at the German Wine and Sommelier School, completing his WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) Diploma and serves as head sommelier at Restaurant Opus V in Mannheim, Germany. He qualified last year by winning the SASA/Moët & Chandon Best Sommelier of South Africa Competition.
“This was the second time South Africa presented the competition, and the second time we are sending the South African winner to the world championship,” says Higgo Jacobs. The previous participant, Gareth Ferreira, competed in Mendoza, Argentina, in 2016 and advanced as one of 15 semi-finalists from among 66 candidates. SASA, like most other national organisations, allows South African nationals working outside the borders of the country, as well as foreign nationals with permanent residency, to enter the domestic competition.
The Association has established itself as an integral part of the food and wine industry in South Africa. The movement was started in 2010 when a group of like-minded individuals got together in the hope of forming an association to help improve and promote wine service in South Africa.
WineLand Media, media partner of the Veritas Young Wine Writer Competition, has published reports by Llewellyn Herbert on the progress of the competition. “Spreading wine knowledge through attending this prestigious competition and being a brand ambassador for South African wines, is what WineLand magazine is all about. By giving young wine writers the due recognition and an established platform to voice their opinions, we support and develop young talent in the wine industry,” says WineLand Media Manager Wanda Augustyn.
Veritas-chairperson Christo Pienaar says he is excited with the SASA and WineLand Media partnership. “This will contribute largely to our vision of giving young wine writers exposure and opportunities to write about wine and related subjects. We wish Jo and Llewellyn all of the best for the week in Belgium.”