Up to 30 of the country’s top sommeliers came together this week to compete in the UK semi-final of Wines of South Africa’s Sommelier Cup. In the end it was Erik Simonics, sommelier at the Savoy, that will now go on to represent the UK in the final in September.
Savoy sommelier, Erik Simonics, wins the UK heat of Wines of South Africa’s Sommelier Cup competition and will compete in world final in September.
Erik Simonics, sommelier from The Savoy, came out top this week in the UK semi-final of Wines of South Africa’s Sommelier Cup competition. Not only does he have the title of the UK’s leading sommelier on South African wine he will now go forward to represent the country in the world final that takes place in Cape Town in September.
Simonics was joined by 28 other leading sommeliers from across the country who took part in the semi-final event held at London’s 67 Pall Mall. Each of the candidates were asked to complete both a written test and then go through a blind tasting of three wines before going through an interview with the competition’s judges, Ronan Sayburn MS, wine director at 67 Pall Mall and Greg Sherwood MW of wine merchants Handford Wines, who as a South African has built up one of the biggest and most impressive ranges of South African wines in the UK.
Yoel Abarbanel, sommelier at The Ledbury and Dorian Guillon, assistant head sommelier at Alaine Ducasse at The Dorchester were named as the two runners-up. Both will receive a case of specialist South African wine.
Simonics was found to have had the highest score in the written exam and did “exceptionally well” in the blind tasting. “
Jo Wehring, UK head of Wines of South Africa, who helped organise the competition said: “This was a tough competition to win, the standard was extremely high and we were very impressed with the knowledge and ability of the participants. Erik achieved high scores in all aspects of the competition and is a well-deserved winner. We wish him all the best for the next stage.
She added: “The on-trade is a focus area for Wines of South Africa in the UK, we are seeing strong growth in this sector, up 9% (CGA Strategy MAT to 19/03/16) by value and with a good average price. The sommelier community is vital to developing the reputation of our wines and their direct influence with consumers is helping to cement South Africa’s image as one of the most exciting and innovative wine producing nations.”
Sherwood, on behalf of the judges, said: “Having judged the WOSA Sommelier Cup for the last six years from inception, this was certainly the most distinguished group of on-trade sommelier professionals I have seen yet. The finest talent from the finest restaurants across the United Kingdom, including The Ledbury, The Savoy, Alain Ducasse and The Fat Duck in Bray. I think this is symptomatic of the high esteem in which wine trade professionals now hold premium South African wines in particular.
“South African fine wine is well established in the merchant and off-trade sector, and now I believe this is yet another pointer that South Africa’s finest wines are starting to cement their place on the best wine lists across the country. A notable day for South Africa’s wines indeed!”
This is the third time the Sommelier Cup has been held. The last competition in 2013 was won by Terry Kandylis, now of 67 Pall Mall, who has gone to become the Moëtt & Chandon UK Sommelier of the Year 2016.
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.