The inaugural winner of the Wines Of South Africa Sommelier World Cup is Christopher Bates from the US, who came away with the top overall score after a rigorous series of theoretical and practical examinations in the knowledge of South African wine.  He was up against 11 other professional specialists in wine service, all chosen as their national representatives in the challenge conceived and arranged by the industry organisation, Wines of South Africa.

The first runner up is Stefaan Camerlinck of Belgium and second runner up Veronique Rivest of Canada.

A sommelier is a professionally trained wine steward, specialising in all aspects of wine service as well as wine and food matching.

The 12 finalists were examined by a seven-member panel of internationally trained and certified sommeliers and wine educators.  Competitors came from the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Russia, the US, Canada and South Korea, all countries which import South African wines and that enjoy an established culture of professional wine service.

Just four competitors, from the US, Belgium, UK and Germany have visited the country before. For all the others, it was a first.

The idea for the competition, said WOSA CEO Su Birch, came about in the run-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  “We wanted to capitalise on the international focus on South Africa and the soccer tournament in the lead-up to the games by creating a contest for professionals to test their understanding of South African wines.

“Contestants, all of whom had to be full-time employees of restaurants or hotels, were put through a series of examinations in their home countries to assess their understanding of our wine styles and what makes our offerings distinctive and unique.  The national winner of each country was then flown to South Africa and spent a week visiting the Winelands, meeting winemakers and dining in some of the Cape’s most exciting restaurants.”

She added that the opportunity for local wine service staff to meet some of the world’s best sommeliers was an important source of motivation for aspirant sommeliers.  “South Africa has a few internationally trained sommeliers and there is expanding interest in the profession as a dynamic career with huge scope for personal growth.

“However, it is still an untapped area with enormous potential, particularly as our wine tourism industry continues to grow. When local people in the wine service industry meet trained sommeliers they get a glimpse of what they can achieve one day.”

 The competition culminated in a multi-part examination held at the Grande Roche in Paarl.  The first part involved a written test and was followed by a blind tasting in which participants had to accurately identify a selection of wines made locally. The top four scorers also took part in a live “restaurant” contest on stage with the judges acting as restaurant patrons. There was a large audience present of wine producers and members of the local hospitality industry.

Said Birch: “The week-long visit, culminating in Saturday’s contest, created a great opportunity to expose an important group of opinion leaders to the diversity and excellence of South African wines. Many sommeliers play a key role in compiling wine lists for restaurants and hotels, and are in this respect, ideal ambassadors for us.

“There has been huge interest from the international wine fraternity and judging by the level and extent of support, there is definitely the appetite to continue the competition. We hope to involve a broader spectrum of countries in future, particularly from Africa, where the profession is still in its infancy.”


Note to the editor

The members of the judging panel were:

Miguel Chan, Mauritius-born and certified by internationally recognised industry body, the Court of Master Sommeliers, he is the group sommelier of Southern Suns Hotels.

Marilyn Cooper, MD of the Cape Wine Academy that educates the public and hospitality in wine, is a Cape Master of Wine (CWM).

Neil Grant, also certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers, worked in the hospitality industry in the US for seven years and is now the sommelier at Rust en Vrede Restaurant.

Åsa W Karlsson, one of Sweden’s best- known wine personalities with over 14 years of experience. In 2002 she won Sweden’s Female Sommelier of the Year title. She served on the panels of the World Championship for Sommeliers in 2004 and the European Championship in 2003.    

Mia Mårtensson, born in Sweden but living in South Africa, is a graduate of the Restaurant Academy in Stockholm and holds a sommelier certificate from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. She has worked in a two-star Guide Michelin restaurant in Stockholm.

Hans-Jürgen Podzun, CEO of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Koblenz (IHK) and president of the German Wine School and a contributor to Germany’s respected GaultMillau wine guide since 2001, is a member of numerous national and international juries.

Jörg Pfützner, who worked as a sommelier in his native Germany before coming to South Africa, is the sommelier of the Aubergine Restaurant, consistently awarded by Diners Club for the excellence of its wine lists. He is consulting wine editor to G&W magazine (formerly Golf und Wein) and is a taster for the Platter South African Wine Guide.



UK                              Alan Holmes

Holland                       Jurgen Luppes

Belgium                       Stefaan Camerlinck (final round finalist)

Germany                     Sebastian Wilkens

Sweden                       Marie Dahlgren

Denmark                     Asbjørn May

Norway                       Francesco Azzarone (final round finalist)  

Finland                        Caroline Gullström

Russia                          Leonid Sternik

 US                              Christopher Bates (final round finalist)

Canada                        Veronique Rivest (final round finalist)

Korea                          Seung-Hoon Lee


DATE                         October 2010

ISSUED BY              DKC (De Kock Communications)

ON BEHALF OF      Wines of South Africa (WOSA)

QUERIES                  Su Birch, CEO, WOSA (021) 883 3860, 082 563 0677

                                   Tessa de Kock / Marlise Potgieter, DKC (021) 422 2690, 082 579 235


Kind regards


Marlise Potgieter

De Kock Communications (DKC)

Tel: +27 21 422 2690

Fax/Faks: +27 86 610 5388

Cell/Sel: +27 72 562 5307