From the frontline

Waitrons and sommeliers are at the frontline when it comes to introducing South African wines to tourists and locals alike, suggesting which wines to pair with which dishes and encouraging patrons to experience our exciting wines in the way they work best, enjoyed with food.

When I attended an event at the recently launched Open Door at Constantia Uitsig in Constantia announcing the winners of the inaugural The Sommeliers Selection, the first South African wine competition judged solely by a panel of sommeliers, I went curious as to whether it could add value to an already fully loaded local wine competition circuit.

Described as ‘A New Wine Award with a Difference’, it also caters for beers, ciders and international wineries. Close to 400 entries were evaluated by five members of the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA), which was established in 2010 with its vision to promote a culture of fine wine, food and service excellence in South Africa. David Clarke and Higgo Jacobs chaired the panel, which included Joakim Blackadder, Neil Grant and Jörg Pfützner.

The categories chosen were different to the typical variety/style format of most wine competitions and the well thought out groupings, such as luscious, aromatic whites and elegant, classy reds, read more like a restaurant winelist. Within each category judges awarded a Wine By The Glass Trophy (read full results here). Wines were tasted blind and the highest standard of audited judging criteria was applied. All five judges have an in-depth knowledge of both local and international markets.

“We found the overall standard of entries received above average with an excellent range of wines to work with and judge. We believe in the potential of a wine competition in this format and can't wait to see consumers’ reaction and engagement with the awards,” said Jacobs.

So what’s in it for the winners? They will be represented on The Sommeliers Selection list with the judges’ seal of approval, which will be sent to restaurants countrywide, and also have the opportunity to take part in winemaker/sommelier dinners at leading restaurants, among other benefits. A selection of winning wines will also be curated and sold via the newly launched bespoke online wine retailer, Port2Port.

I left with an inkling that this competition, where wines are judged for their ‘food appropriateness and gastronomic relevance’, could grow and be of real benefit to the food, wine and tourism industries.

– Lindsaye Mc Gregor