>> Marc Almert (GERMANY)

ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2019
Marc was born in Cologne (1991), completed his training in hotel management then got his first job in the field in the restaurant Ente (1* Michelin, Wiesbaden) Rheingau region, known for its Rieslings. He returned to the Fairmont Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Hamburg, as chef sommelier in the 2* Michelin restaurant Haerlin. In 2017 Marc moved to Zurich, Switzerland, where he is currently in charge of the wine program at the 5* hotel Baur au Lac, including the 2* Michelin restaurant Pavillon.

Inspired by his discovery of wines, Marc began training seriously and participating in various competitions. He admits to being naturally competitive, with a goal to excelling in everything he undertakes. He is an active member of Somm360° and the German-based Sommelier College, where the best German sommeliers meet colleagues and mentors, as excellent preparation for the Master Sommelier (MS) exams. 
He passed his Advanced Sommelier Exam by the Court of Master Sommeliers. In 2015 he got awarded as best Sommelier, Concours National des Jeunes Sommeliers, organised by Chaine des Rotisseurs Germany In 2016 he won the WOSA Sommelier Cup 2016 in Cape Town and the Gaggenau International Sommelier Award in Vienna. In 2017 he was awarded as Best Sommelier of Germany. 

In March 2019 Marc won the ASI – Best Sommelier of the World in Antwerp, Belgium. He is the 16th winner of the world’s best sommelier competition since the event was founded in 1969. He is also one of the youngest to take the prize, at just 27 years old. Marc was nominated as the German Candidate to participate at this world-class Sommelier Competition and he competed against 66 candidates from 63 countries. 

>> Sören Polonius (sWEDEN)
Trainer and head coach of the Swedish national sommelier team, ”Swesomm”. Wine director for the Adam/Albin Restaurant Group and proud father of two. So in short, a balance artist, managing three full time roles 24/7.

During his years as a trainer and coach, Sören has trained numerous successful sommeliers, both Swedish and foreign, in national and international competitions.
However the most important winnings was the European and the World championships, for both Andreas Larsson and Arvid Rosengren.

Besides a full time job at Adam/Albin, Hands on training of the national Sommelier team and the family commitments, Sören runs his own consultant company. Travelling around the world helping other nations training and setting up national sommelier teams. 

However, being afraid of growing moss if sitting still, Sören took on the task, of being the director of the Didactic Committee for A.S.I. (Association de la Sommelerie International) 2018. Rumor has it, that Sören has discovered the 25th and 26th hour in the day.

Sören works by an ephigraph, from the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle.  ”We are what we repeatedly do, excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

>> Ronan Sayburn (UNITED KINGDOM)
I was born in Scarborough, North Yorkshire and have been involved in the wine business for nearly 20 years.
Currently I am developing my own business – The RS Wine Academy – which will manage private client portfolios, teach WSET and other wine training courses as well as being involved in wine events and PR.

I am also a Master Sommelier (one of only 214 in the world), previous winner of the UK Sommelier of the Year competition and twice a representative for the UK in the European Sommelier Competition. I am a regular judge for the Sommelier of the Year Competition and various tasting competitions (including the Decanter World Wine Awards) and an examiner for the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Formerly I worked for the Gordon Ramsay group as Executive Head Sommelier for 8 years, mainly in the 3 Michelin star Royal Hospital Road plus created the wine lists and trained wine service teams for Claridge’s, the Connaught, the Savoy, Boxwood Café, Maze and several overseas operations including Dubai, Tokyo and New York.

Other previous employers include Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, Pied à Terre, wine merchant OW Loeb and the Greenhouse Restaurant (which has the UK’s largest wines list of 3,400 bins) plus the Hotel du Vin group, a boutique, 14 hotel chain which is themed around wine as the Wine and Spirit Director. More recently as the Head of Wines for the Dorchester Collection UK – 3 luxury hotels (The Dorchester, 45 Park Lane and Coworth Park).

When not drinking wine I attempt to run marathons or can be found deep diving shipwrecks from the south coast of England.

The South African Sommelier Association (SASA)

The South African Sommeliers Association (SASA) 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 the same minded individuals got together in the hope of forming an association to help uplift and promote the service of wine in South Africa. SASA is a non-profit organization and aims to offer its services to local and international Sommeliers, in being the contact and network portal for those local and international. The association aims to provide training and mentorships to guarantee the continuous development of professional standards of the highest level. It will also liaise (or partner) with associations from other countries and will therefore act as an official representative of its professional membership within South Africa.

The WoSA Sommelier Cup 2019 Final is organised in collaboration with Wines of South Africa and a Technical Committee from The South African Sommelier Association (SASA) who assist with the planning and setting up of the written and practical tests.

Image of Barry Scholfield
>> Barry Scholfield

"Spending his formative years growing up amongst wheat and vines in the Swartland area of South Africa, Barry formalised his love of wine through the CWA and WSET in his twenties after working in various high street restaurants, pubs and clubs in South Africa and Europe. A proud SASA level 2 graduate he’s busy wrapping up his WSET L4 Diploma, currently serves as chairman of the board of the South African Sommelier Association and works at Somm, where he oversees the day to day running of the business, trains sommeliers, writes about all things wine, consults for various restaurants and works as a sommelier for a small portfolio of restaurants."

Image of Minnie Minenhle Mthombeni

>> Spencer Fondaumiere

Spencer began his journey in wine when he moved to South Africa in 2013. He is an Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) certified sommelier, one of less than 500 people to have successfully passed the demanding diploma exam. He is a qualified wine judge and graduated from Michael Fridjohn's wine judging academy in 2016 and has completed WSET level 3. He is a qualified chef, with vast experience in hospitality on both sides of the pass. Currently, he is the National Brand Manager for Warwick Wine Estate and the Vice Chairman of the South African Sommeliers Association. He has extensive experience in judging wine competitions andconsistently serves on several panels.

Image of Minnie Minenhle Mthombeni
>> Minnie (Minenhle) Mthombeni (associate judge)

Minnie (Minenhle) Mthombeni currently works as a sommelier at the deluxe Singita Sabi Sands Lodges. She is a Level 1 certified SASA sommelier and sits on the executive of BLACC Cellar Club. Further qualifications include Cape Wine Academy Sommelier certification and WSET Level 3. Serving that perfect wine to her clientele is what makes Minnie happy along with the opportunity to mentor young and up-and-coming wine stewards and imparting her knowledge and experience to others who are keen to learn. Her motto when teaching others: Respect alcohol!