Growing demand for foundational training for young sommeliers and sommeliers-to-be has prompted the South African Sommelier Association (SASA) to launch its first locally developed course, Foundational Sommellerie.
First to attend the programme, held in Cape Town over three days, were Taryn Nortje (from Benguela on Main Restaurant), Job Jovo (Grande Roche), Luke Erickson (Balthazar), Chantelle Johansson (Steenberg), Marine Point (Cape Point Vineyards), Mercy Mwai (Nobu), Ralph Reynolds (Karibu) and Lara Farbinger (Hoghouse).
The group was instructed on practical aspects of the trade as well as the managerial back-of-house elements that are hard to acquire on the restaurant floor.
Instructors included Neil Grant, David Clarke, Higgo Jacobs, James Pietersen, Jörg Pfützner, Jean-Vincent Ridon and Joakim Blackadder, well-qualified sommeliers and hospitality professionals who also contributed to the course material.
For various reasons, including a growing appreciation of the sommelier’s contribution to a restaurant’s success, and tighter visa requirements for foreigners wishing to work in South Africa’s hospitality industry, demand for suitably qualified sommeliers has increased sharply over the past few years.
“But,” says Blackadder, “while there are a number of options available when it comes to wine education, there are none that address the rather unique combination of hospitality and beverage service that is crucial to the efficient and profitable functioning of restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels.
“Further, many of the country’s professional sommeliers are not active on the floor; they are involved in various wine- and hospitality-related businesses. This means that there is little on-the-job training and mentorship for youngsters who want to improve their skills.
“SASA believes its Foundational Sommellerie programme will go a long way to redressing this, and we eagerly await feedback from our first candidate participants and their employers at the end of the course.”
Foundational Sommellerie modules include wine list development, service training and wine faults. SASA believes candidates will benefit most if they have previous beverage training or a qualification in line with WSET Level 2 or the Cape Wine Academy’s Certificate Course or higher, plus a minimum of two years’ front-of-house experience. It is SASA’s intention to keep the size of the classes small.
Successful candidates are awarded the title "SASA Sommelier".