Leading sommeliers gather in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch Wine Routes re-affirms support for SA Sommeliers

“The contribution of sommeliers to the South African wine experience cannot be overstated,” says  Stellenbosch Wine Routes manager Elmarie Rabe on the eve of the fourth Ubuntu Sommeliers Trophy competition for wine service professionals.

Organised by the Sommeliers Academy, the Ubuntu Sommeliers Trophy competition is the first international sommelier contest on the continent. On 11 December, the event pits industry specialists from Southern Africa’s two leading sommelier countries – South Africa and Zimbabwe – against each other.

Taking place at Lanzerac Hotel and Spa in Stellenbosch, it is broadcast internationally and involves a series of challenges, testing participants’ talent, culinary and beverage knowledge, and capacity to deliver an exceptional experience.

“The Lanzerac prides itself on excellence in hospitality. For us to host the event is therefore not only appropriate, but a privilege,” says GM Emile Langenhoven.

Stellenbosch Wine Routes has been a proud partner of the Ubuntu Sommelier Trophy  since its inception.

Crucial winery extension

“We recognise the important connection between a fine wine and a consumer’s food and beverage experience,” Elmarie says. “With record numbers of visitors anticipated in the Cape this festive season, the significance of a sommelier in enhancing the vineyard and cellar efforts becomes increasingly important.

“As such, it is incumbent on us as South Africa’s first official wine route and most prominent wine tourism destination to highlight and encourage support of this crucial relationship.”

Sommeliers Academy manager Jean Vincent Ridon says he is hopeful to open the Ubuntu Sommeliers Trophy competition to more African countries while exploring the identity of Stellenbosch wines.

In addition to partnering with the Ubuntu Trophy, Stellenbosch Wine Routes most recently provided support to chenin noir in hosting the Court of Master Sommeliers graduation programme at L’Avenir Wines, as well as a long-standing partnership with the Sommelier Association of South Africa’s Best Sommelier of South Africa competition, concluded at Hazendal Wine Estate.

During the former, a total eight participants including Sivuyile Komani of the Pinotage Youth Development Academy received introductory passes and two, certified. At the latter, Ridon earned the title of Best Sommelier of South Africa after four determined attempts, exemplifying perseverance, and determination. His significant contributions to the industry are inspirational and will undoubtedly motivate many others.

Stellenbosch Sommelier Bootcamp

In 2024, Stellenbosch Wine Routes continues its investment in sommelier development through the hosting of the Stellenbosch Sommelier Bootcamp in April. The five-day intensive course comprises  both online and practical immersion into the world of Stellenbosch fine wines. Drawing on the Stellenbosch Terroir Toolkit – a comprehensive analysis that defines the region – participants will take a theoretical and practical tour of the area that includes viti- and viniculture, tutored technical tastings, and site visits with producers and industry experts.

“The Stellenbosch Sommelier Bootcamp has been designed to provide wine service professionals with complete understanding of our terroir, history, and in-depth knowledge of our wine language and the taste profiles of Stellenbosch’s champion varieties,” says Elmarie. “It is also a rare opportunity to engage with groups of wine producers and fellow wine professionals.”

From left to right: George Young, Stefan Reinmuth, Janine van Zyl, Jean Vincent Ridon, Tawanda Marume, Stanley Zimbizi and James Mukosi

Sommelier bootcamp 2022

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