Unfiltered: Luvo Ntezo

Douglas Blyde talks to Luvo Ntezo about his journey from pool boy to overseeing 5,000 bottles of wine across five dining destinations at One&Only Cape Town.

What is your motto?

“Wine transcends boundaries, bringing people together in shared appreciation.”

What is your vintage?

I was born in Peddie, near Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape in 1983, a year from which the KWV co-operative still made most of the wine in South Africa, which was largely consumed locally.

What was your first job?

I was a pool porter at Steenberg Hotel, Constantia, a luxurious property with an 18-hole golf course and, more importantly for me, an award-winning winery. When the latter piqued my interest, I sought mentorship from Steenberg’s renowned winemaker, John Loubser. Under John’s care, I was able to master the art and science of wine and become a passionate sommelier. My greatest accomplishment was winning the national Chaîne des Rôtisseurs competition in 2008.

Where else did you work before joining One&Only Cape Town?

At the nearby 12 Apostles Hotel overlooking the Atlantic. I always love pairing local fish with the best South African wines. I also remember matching a creamy, spiced “melktert” tart with a glass of Joostenberg Estate Noble Late Harvest Chenin Blanc.

Describe your list?

It is broad, inclusive, and worldly, drawing on some 5,000 bottles, with a particular focus on South Africa’s vast winelands. We are proud to have some extraordinary, good quality, limited edition options available by the glass including Rijks Chenin Blanc and Kaapzicht Pinotage. I also enjoy offering comparative tastings, and if a guest enjoys Pinot Noir, they can discover examples from New Zealand, Oregon, and Burgundy.

Who is the head chef?

Henrico Grobbelaar (formerly of Hotel Sky) who happens to be a connoisseur of artisan coffee.

How many coffees do you drink per day?

Between eight and ten single espressos.

How are you working with local wine estates to form the One&Only Cape Town Wine Collection?

We’ve created a unique experience where we offer wines not available outside our resort thanks to our great relationships built with the owners and operators of leading, local estates. With Mischa Estate, for example, we created a bespoke blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and with négociant, Wade Bales, we were able to layer different Sauvignon Blancs resulting in complexity.

What are your finest pours via Coravin?

I am proud to pour the extraordinary wines of Philipp and Vanessa Axt, whose 4G has been called the first growth of the Cape. They have become such good friends that I went to their wedding. They are the kind of people who will give all the time they have to help you, and this is something I place high value on. Bold, rich, complex, powerful, and lingering, their wines drink beautifully in their youth, but with a remarkably long projected lifespan.

What is your favourite part of the property?

I am happiest when at our Wine Studio, which is a sleek space for a maximum of fifteen guests. From here, I perform such events as blend your own wine, and our very own resort wine tasting where guests can try our favourite local wines of the region, carefully paired with dishes.

What wine style could you happily live without?

It would be Sherry because of its oxidative nature, though I realise this answer may not gain me friends in the wine trade.

And what ingredients do you abhor?

Cinnamon and cloves.

What is the soundtrack at One&Only Cape Town?

Soothing jazz piano – I love the genre as a whole and it truly relaxes me.

What has been a tricky service issue?

Having to swallow my pride to replace a bottle which a guest insisted was corked when it seemed fine to me.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

Without question, an immediate access to knowledge. It is the most vital tool any of us could have and without it, we are lost. Knowledge diversifies our way of thinking. Knowledge gives us confidence in our abilities. Knowledge helps us become more efficient. Knowledge is enlightening. Knowledge gives us a comprehensive overview; it eliminates ignorance. And knowledge has the power to change one’s life. We are all in this life, in a continuous pursuit of knowledge – to better understand the world.

What do you do in your time off?

I train for marathons. For example, in January, I ran 31 half marathons for autism awareness. “INAM Foundation” is an Autism Advocacy group and I run as part of the Durbanville Athletics Club to raise awareness for them. It’s a personal cause for me and something close to my heart. I’ve also done the New York marathon. But one of my greatest achievements was finishing the Comrades Ultra Marathon, which is the Holy Grail of South African running events. I’ve done it three times, two of those times gaining the Bill Rowan medal.

Who, from the past, would you like to share a treasured bottle with?

I would enjoy sharing a bottle of wine with my late mother, Christina, whom I named my daughter after. I’ve never really grown to know her; we knew each other for only three and a half years. For her, I would open a bottle of Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon. And the reason I’d open this bottle is not about the wine but about people who love me as much as I love them. I’ve got so much respect for Thelema and they have become like family to me so it’s only fitting.

One&Only Cape Town – Dock Rd, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa; +27 21 431 5888; oneandonlyresorts.com

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