Best Sommelier in South Africa 2023
Jean-Vincent Ridon from the Sommelier’s Academy has been honoured with the esteemed title of Best Sommelier of South Africa 2023. This illustrious event unfolded on 16th September at the magnificent Hazendal Wine Estate.
Throughout the finals, the proficiency and expertise showcased by every participant were truly remarkable. With each passing year, the bar has been set increasingly higher. It’s truly commendable to observe participants meeting these elevated standards, signifying a marked enhancement in talent and capability, thereby uplifting the overall benchmarks of excellence.
The outcome encapsulates not just unparalleled skill and knowledge but, perhaps more pivotally, poise amidst pressure. The role of a sommelier in a dining establishment can be rife with unpredictability. To excel in this vocation, it’s imperative to maintain concentration in the face of sporadic challenges, attentively discern the requirements of patrons, and exhibit both humility and adaptability. A smooth performance on one evening doesn’t guarantee a similar outcome the subsequent night: adapting to the situation is vital in elevating the craft to an art form.
The competition was intense, with Laurie Cooper from Abingdon Wine Estate in KZN clinching the second spot, followed closely by Tapiwa Jamu of Ivory Manor Boutique Hotel in Pretoria in third place.
SASA’s Chairman, Spencer Fondaumiere, remarked, “This is a significant milestone. Jean-Vincent’s triumph, after numerous endeavours, stands testament to resilience, determination, and unwavering self-confidence. His substantial contributions to our sector will undoubtedly galvanise many. Our warmest congratulations extend to him, the semi-finalists, and the other two finalists, each with their unique narrative. My gratitude is also directed at the SASA team for orchestrating an exemplary event at such a distinguished location.”
The panel of judges comprised eminent personalities like Jo Wessels, ranked as the seventh-best sommelier worldwide; Wikus Human from Marble and Saint Restaurants and the 2021 Best Sommelier of South Africa; Wayve Kolevsohn from The Royal Portfolio; and Chef Callan Austin from Dusk Restaurant.
SASA’s General Manager, Erica Taylor, who orchestrated the occasion, noted, “The prowess showcased today was undeniably of international calibre. This contest not only spotlighted individual brilliance but also underscored South Africa’s ascending stature in the global wine and hospitality arenas.”
The unwavering support from Stellenbosch Wine Routes, a longstanding collaborator, has been pivotal to the event’s triumph. Elmarie Rabe from Stellenbosch Wine Routes expressed, “It’s a privilege to be associated with such a landmark event. This competition transcends a mere contest; it venerates the unparalleled excellence our nation proffers in wine and hospitality.”