Zimbabwean somms triumph in first African derby

A team of Zimbabwean sommeliers has won the first Stellenbosch Wine Routes Ubuntu Sommeliers Trophy against their South African counterparts.

The winning team: (L-R) Job Jovo, Joseph Dhafana, Carey-Ann Brown, chairwoman of the Sommeliers Association of Zimbabwe and Tawanda Marume

The competition was held at the Lanzerac wine estate in the Cape wine region on 7 December.

The derby between the two neighbouring countries was organised by Jean Vincent Ridon of the Sommeliers Academy after many other sommelier competitions around the world were cancelled due to the global pandemic.

In addition, the new Sommeliers Association of Zimbabwe needed to choose finalists to represent the nation at any competitions due to be held next year.

After attracting 18 finalists, the Zimbabwean team whittled them down to three; Tawanda Marume, Joseph Dhfana and Job Jovo to take part in the Ubuntu Trophy, with Marume also being selected to represent Zimbabwe at the ASI Best Sommelier of Europe & Africa competition in November 2021.

The three went head to head with a South African team composed of Laurie Cooper, Tayla Kirschner and LeRoi van der Vyver.

Organised by Jean Vincent Ridon of the Sommeliers Academy, flying in international judges was going to be impossible so the event was instead live-streamed and judged remotely – also a world first – with Michèle Chantôme, Giuseppe Vaccarini, Julie Dupouy-Young and Jeff Thomé making up the panel.

Although Cooper, the current holder of the Best Young Sommelier of South Africa title, had the highest individual score of the six finalists, the Zimbabwean team won overall.

Both teams received prizes provided by Stellenbosch Wine Routes, LAPD wine distributor, Great Domaines, Reciprocal Wines, Coravin, Riedel, Creation Wines, Distell, the SA Brandy Foundation, Richard Kershaw wines, Aqua Panna, San Pellegrino, Klein Constantia and Sommeliers Academy and were invited to a dinner afterwards.

It is hoped that the competition between the two teams will become an annual fixture.

Stellenbosch Wine Routes general manager, Elmarie Rabe, said: “The sommelier is at the intersect of the restaurant and wine industries and this inaugural event re-affirms the essential role they play.

“As wine ambassadors, their ability to share the story of South African and especially Stellenbosch wine is crucial to growth.

“Furthermore, the hosting of this competition at Lanzerac Wine Estate in Stellenbosch took place on the eve the Stellenbosch Wine Routes’ 50th anniversary in 2021 and represented a golden opportunity to showcase our region’s reputation as South Africa’s premier gastronomic destination.”

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