Gareth Ferreira has been named the country’s top sommelier, winning The Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Award 2014, on the eve of taking on a new position in London.
Ferreira, currently sommelier at Johannesburg’s Saxon Hotel, competed against this year’s regional finalists from KwaZulu Natal and the Western Cape – Angie Langland of The Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, and Cashias Gumbo of La Colombe Restaurant in Constantia, Cape Town – for the Riedel Glass trophy and a trip to France as guest of Champagne Bollinger.
The trio were subjected to a rigorous day of written exams, a blind tasting and a practical service assessment by a panel of three judges: Ginette de Fleuriot, marketing manager at leading SA wine distribution company Vinimark and a Cape Wine Master; Neil Grant, sommelier and co-owner of Cape Town’s Burrata Restaurant and chairman of the South African Sommelier Association (SASA); and Higgo Jacobs, founding member and general secretary of SASA, consultant sommelier, local and international wine judge, and taster for Platter’s Guide.
Ferreira began his food and beverage training with The Ritz-Carlton, working in Florida and Doha. He became a wine professional after joining the Saxon, representing South Africa at the international final of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Young Sommeliers Competition in Athens in 2011.
He subsequently furthered his specialist training with the Court of Master Sommeliers in the UK, obtaining an advanced level certification in 2012. During the same year, he did a stint at the luxurious Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai as a senior member of an international team of sommeliers.
Returning to SA as the Saxon’s head sommelier and beverage manager, Gareth served on the SASA board and as a wine and wine service judge at national and international events (including the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Young Sommeliers Competition, the WOSA Cup and the International Wine Challenge in London).
The Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Award was established in 2011 by Vinimark (importer of Champagne Bollinger) and The Reciprocal Wine Trading Company (importer of Riedel glassware). The intention is to bring focus and recognition to and incentivise the growing group of professional wine waiters in South Africa.
The Award is endorsed by SASA, which aims to provide training and mentorship to guarantee the development of professional standards of wine service to the highest level in South African food and accommodation establishments.
Previous winners to have earned sommelier positions at top restaurants include Kayetan Meissner (Bosman’s at the Grande Roche Hotel, Paarl), Wayve Kolevsohn (The Test Kitchen, Cape Town) and Joakim Hansi Blackadder (Rust en Vrede Restaurant, Stellenbosch).