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  Wine farms aim to serve sommeliers-in-training

20 Mar 2014

Topics: 54 on Bath, Alto, Annette Kesler, Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, Beverly Hills, Birkenhead House & Birkenhead Villa, Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, Cape Grace, Cape Legends, Cape Legends Inter Hotel Challenge, Distell, Durban Hilton, Durbanville Hills, Fleur du Cap, Guy Webber, Le Bonheur, Lomond, Michelangelo, Neethlingshof, One&Only Cape Town, Oyster Box, Plaisir de Merle, Pongrácz, Protea Hotel Balalaika Sandton, Queen Victoria, Radisson Blu Gautrain, Radisson Blu Waterfront,, South African Sommelier Association, Southern Sun Elangeni, Southern Sun Hyde Park Sandton, Southern Sun Maharani, Southern Sun The Cullinan, Southern Sun Waterfront, Stellenzicht, Taj, Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Tsogo Sun, Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, Uitkyk, Vineyard Hotel, Zimbali, Zonnebloem

Cape wine farms are actively getting involved in the improvement of the skills of hotel wine stewards through a mentoring and sponsorship programme in conjunction with the country’s top hotels.

Cape Legends Fine Wines, a division of major wine and spirits producing wholesaler Distell, responsible for the distribution, sales and marketing of several top wineries, has lent its name and clout to what will now, from its second year, be known as the annual Cape Legends Inter Hotel Challenge.

Last year’s inaugural event featured pairs of trainee Cape Town hotel chefs and wine stewards competing in a cook-off combining a menu with suitable wines. The 2014 Challenge in June has been extended to include hotels in Johannesburg and Durban.


The 11 wineries participating are Alto, Durbanville Hills, Fleur du Cap, Le Bonheur, Lomond, Neethlingshof, Plaisir de Merle, Pongrácz, Stellenzicht, Uitkyk and Zonnebloem.

The 11 Cape Town hotels nominating a representative ‘team’ are Birkenhead House & Birkenhead Villa, Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, Cape Grace, Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, One&Only Cape Town, Queen Victoria, Radisson Blu Waterfront, Southern Sun The Cullinan & Southern Sun Waterfront, Taj, Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, and the Vineyard Hotel.

The five Johannesburg hotels are 54 on Bath, Michelangelo, Protea Hotel Balalaika Sandton, Radisson Blu Gautrain and Southern Sun Hyde Park Sandton.

The five Durban hotels are: Beverly Hills, Hilton, Oyster Box, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani and Zimbali.

In a draw later this month, each hotel team will be paired with one of the wine farms. They will work together to create a three-course menu – featuring pork in the main dish this year – complemented by carefully chosen wines from their allocated winery.

Judging will be by a panel of wine, food and hospitality industry professionals. The competition is the brainchild of Annette Kesler, veteran food writer and editor of food, wine and travel portal


In extending the scope of the wine education aspect of the competition, this year’s Challenge includes a special Grape to Glass experience. All the teams will be hosted by their farm partners during April and May, and spend time with the winemakers to learn more about the wines they’ll be working with.

Regional cook-offs will be held in the first half of June, followed by the finals in Cape Town on 18 and 19 June. The winners will be announced at a black tie dinner, showcasing all 21 teams at the Mount Nelson in Cape Town on 25 July.

The wine industry has come on board with not only sponsorship but prizes as well. The winners’ three-week working visit to India’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and its three top restaurants in Mumbai comes with return flights courtesy of Cape Legends. Besides the awards for Best Chef, Best Wine Steward and Best Table, there is a new award for Best Team, instigated by Stellenzicht winemaker Guy Webber.

The Cape Wine Academy is offering bursaries worth more than R35,000. The most promising wine steward candidate will win a 12-month membership of the South African Sommelier Association. (The winning wine steward will be mentored by the top sommeliers at Tsogo Sun’s properties in all three major cities on separate work stints.)

Wine and food lovers will be able to sample the various competing food-and-wine pairings at each of the 21 participating hotels during the first two weeks of July: look out for the Candidate Menu Showcase.

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