03 August 2012 by Denise Slabbert

SA’s young wine sommeliers

Meet 3 of South Africa’s top young sommeliers, who make knowing the best local and international wines their business.

Local sommeliers: making a lasting impression

Our local sommeliers are making waves in their own special ways. In June it was announced that Jeff Lopes, from the Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas and Spa in Sandhurst, Johannesburg, was the winner of the national leg of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeunes Sommeliers Competition.

The competition offers young wine experts (under the age of 35) the opportunity to present their sommelier skills under some pretty challenging circumstances – and 27-year-old Lopes took the honours with flair. This is the third year running that the Saxon has won the Jeunes Sommeliers national competition – Francis Krone and Gareth Ferreira did the honours in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Jeff Lopes and Saxon MD George Cohen

Another local sommelier to keep an eye on is the very charming Luvo Ntezo, who is head sommelier at the One&Only Cape Town.

He began his working life in the hospitality industry as a pool porter at the Steenberg Hotel in Constantia, and his career has grown in leaps and bounds since. He studied with the Cape Wine Academy in Stellenbosch while working as a sommelier at the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, and in 2008 won 1st place in abovementioned national sommelier competition.

Luvo Ntezo, head sommelier, One&Only Cape Town

His love affair with the wine industry began over 10 years ago, and he recently spent time in the United States, along with local ‘rock star’ chef Reuben Riffel, promoting the One&Only Cape Town and South African food and wine.

His love affair with the wine industry began over 10 years ago, and he recently spent time in the United States, along with local ‘rock star’ chef Reuben Riffel, promoting the One&Only Cape Town and South African food and wine.

He says of his chosen career: ‘Every day I discover new things and meet new people. I’m lucky, though – wine is a great unifier; it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if you can share and enjoy a bottle of wine, you’re halfway there.’

West Ngcwabe, Mount Grace

The Mount Grace Country House & Spa in the Magaliesberg also has a young sommelier who is gaining a notable reputation in the industry: West Ngcwabe is just 25 years old and is the restaurant manager and sommelier at the Rambling Vine restaurant.

Although he is enthusiastic about the well-known wines from the Stellenbosch region, he says it’s also necessary to look further afield.

‘I’m very interested in the wines of the Cederberg and Tulbagh area, and I’m slowly introducing some of my favourite finds from these regions onto the wine list,' he says.

These are 3 passionate young men who are taking the local wine industry to new heights. They are certainly the ones to watch.

Category: Food & Wine

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