Up to 30 of the UK’s top sommeliers will be competing next week to win a coveted place in the world finals of Wines of South Africa’s prestigious Sommelier Cup. But to do so they will have to win the UK semi-final and show not only their knowledge of South African wines, but a genuine passion to be a UK ambassador for their wines.
Sommeliers line up to take part in South African challenge and win a place to the world finals in Cape Town in September.
Some of the leading lights of the UK sommelier scene will be travelling to London’s 67 Pall Mall on Monday to demonstrate all they know about South African wine. They will be competing in the hope of becoming the UK winner of the Sommelier Cup who will then go on to compete in a world final to find the best sommelier for South African wine anywhere around the globe.
It is all part of the Sommelier Cup competition run by Wines of South Africa which will see similar events taking part in different parts of the world. Now in to its third year it offers the opportunity for the regional winners to take part in a week long study visit to South Africa in September, culminating in the world final where the overall winner will be announced.
The UK winner will be following in the footsteps of Terry Kandylis, who won the UK Sommelier Cup competition in in 2013, and has used it as a stepping board to go on to become one of the country’s most influential sommeliers. Last month he was named the overall Moëtt & Chandon UK Sommelier of the Year 2016.
There will be close to 30 sommeliers battling it out to win the UK semi-final on Monday under the close inspection of chair of judges, Ronan Sayburn MS, who also heads up wine at 67 Pall Mall, host for the event, along with South African wine merchant, Greg Sherwood MW of Handford Wines.
Each candidate will have to complete a multiple choice exam, including a food and wine matching exercise. They will then need to blind taste three wines and be interviewed by the two judges.
High calibre of entries
Jo Wehring, head of Wines of South Africa in the UK, said she was particularly pleased the event had attracted such a high calibre of entries from sommeliers from right across the country.
She told The Buyer: “The UK round of the Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup is bringing together some serious heavyweights from the sommelier world. We’re honoured that this influential group is interested in South Africa and keen to spend time finding out more about our wines.”
She added: “We hope that the participants enjoy the experience and also get to taste some of the 50 plus wines we’re showing at the event, to really immerse themselves in the country for a day. South African wines are very well suited to food matching, we have great versatility, fantastic quality and genuine stories to tell – everything you need for an exciting wine list.”
Yoel Abarbanel, sommelier at The Ledbury in London, was quite clear why he wanted to enter: “Because now South Africa is by far the most interesting New World country and a competition between professionals is always a great way to share experiences and point of views.”
Ricardo Rodrigues, who is clearly keen to follow in his colleague’s Terry Kandylis footsteps at 67 Pall Mall, added: “I would like to participate because South Africa has an outstanding bio-diversity, some of my favourite wines (including beautiful Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc) and amazing people. I would love to explore this area, and meet with the producers and taste more special and rare vintages. It is one of the places of the world that I really want to travel to.”
Nicola Jesus, sommelier of the Royal Automobile Club, said the reason he was entering was to “explore more the magic of South African wines”. He added: “I welcome the opportunity to widen my knowledge about their wines in order to be an ambassador for South African wines in the UK.”
The impressive line up restaurants and establishments that have sommeliers competing in the UK event include The Fat Duck, Hotel Terravina, The Ledbury, Chewton Glen Hotel, Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, The Savoy, China Tang, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Hakkasan, Hotel Bath Priory and Yauatcha.
The first Sommelier Cup was held to coincide with the staging of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. The second took place in 2013 and was won by Canada’s Will Predhomme.
The other semi-finals around the world are taking place in Kenya, Ghana, Sweden, The Netherlands, Canada, the United States, Asia and Germany.
The final takes place in South Africa between September 18-23.
* Wines of South Africa worked with The Buyer to help recruit and promote the Sommelier Cup to the trade. If you have a project you would like to recruit leading on-trade professionals, buyers and sommeliers for then please email Richard Siddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.