I recently visited South Africa for 6 days to help run the World Final for the SA Sommelier World Cup.
During the preceding months, 8 different National Finals had taken part across the globe (Kenya, Netherlands, UK, USA, China, Germany, Sweden and Canada), testing the skills and knowledge of Sommeliers about the wines of South Africa.
The winners of these competitions were invited to the Cape for a comprehensive week of winery visits and tastings sessions with some of the countries finest winemakers.
Two other International judges and myself – James Tidwell MS (founder of the epic TEXSOM events in Dallas) and Will Predhomme (consultant, Canadian and previous winner of this competition) visited Stellenbosch, Tulbagh, Durbanville – where we were shown an insight in the rapidly developing state of the industry. Exciting times ahead for SA with the growth of small producers creating great quality Chenin Blancs, single vineyard Cinsaut and Pinot Noirs.
The final day found both Judges and Sommeliers gathering at the iconic Taj hotel in Cape Town in front of a large audience of winemakers and local media for the final of the Sommelier World Cup. After a morning of testing – a theory paper, a blind tasting and a tricky practical test (opening a bottle of sparkling wine closed with and agrafe rather than a wire muzzle) the three finalists were chosen.
Canada, Germany and Macau (China) battled it out on stage; having a complicated decantation of 1983 Allesvelloren ‘port’ with a crumbling cork, a 10 course food and wine pairing of local dishes with SA wines and a blind tasting of beverages including Cape brandy and Caperitif (Adi Badenhorsts vermouth).
The event was streamed live globally, through the Wines of SA website, an increasing common occurrence and great for the Sommelier community.
The German – Marc Almert – had plenty of competition experience and delivered a slick, knowledgeable and charming performance and was declared the winner.
It is a great event and a real testament to the exciting state of South African wine at the moment. Over the last few years, the industry has lept forward with amazing confidence. Improving it’s flagship white grape Chenin Blanc by managing the leaf canopy to expose the grapes to the sun and wind, thereby thickening the skins and giving the wines depth and texture. They hold new oak very well, giving wines of finesse, depth and Burgundian complexity. Cinsaut (or Cinsault if you are French) one of the original varieties planted in the Cape is making a big comeback. This incarnation is very pale and delicate in colour, bright in acidity (like a Beaujolais) and full of garrigue like aromas of wild thyme, rosemary and lavender (the locals call this ‘fynbos’ which is the local flora and fauna).
Speak to our very own SA Champion Gareth Ferreira to find out what exciting South African wines we have on our list.