Saxon Sommelier claims 4th spot at Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeunes Sommeliers Competition
Epitomising the finer things in life, the Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas and Spa has pioneered in their food and beverage offering, becoming a constant beacon on foodie radars across the globe. For a third consecutive year, the hotel has proudly witnessed their in-house award winning Sommeliers take to the international stage with great success. This year, 27-year-old Jeff Lopes represented South Africa on home turf at the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jeunes Sommeliers Competition held in Cape Town on 21 September and made locals proud with an outstanding 4th place result.
The origins of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs international gastronomic society dates back to the 13th century, yet the culinary art at the core of its existence has been upheld in every form, evolving through the ages. Part of this evolution is the recognition of wine as an integral accomplice in the gastronomic experience, and as recently as 2007 this concept was further extended to include the annual Jeunes Sommeliers Competition.
After the regional selection competitions in June which sort out country winners, a total of 12 Sommeliers aged 21 to 35 years put their knowledge and experience to the test competing against the best in the world. The competition followed the same format as the regional competitions examining Sommeliers on their theory and practical knowledge.
A full range of knowledge was tested: from menu correction to ensure wines and producers from across the globe are accurately matched to a formal examination and then a service exercise testing champagne service, decantation of vintage wines, spirit identification and food and wine pairing. The competition culminated in a blind-tasting and description of the wines being tasted; which this year included a German Riesling, a Vin Santo from Italy, a 100% Cabernet Franc from Chinon in the Loire valley, France and a Gimblett gravels Syrah from New Zealand.
Jeff Lopes shares: “The most challenging aspect of the competition was undoubtedly the theory paper. A test unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. But just competing has been a very proud moment in my life, representing South Africa at home and the camaraderie and friendships developed have also been greatly rewarding.”
The Saxon sommelier team is very passionate about the results and aim to train up a South African winner. The trainee would be in excellent hands as the current Head Sommelier Francis Krone has also participated in this renowned global competition.
The art of the sommelier can be summed up to the service he or she offers patrons and how this enhances the overall culinary experience. Jeff says this can sometimes be a challenge, “You almost need to make a story out of what you know, expressing it in a way that is interesting for the guest and avoids coming across as arrogant or condescending. I love giving a guest a wine that they have never tried before and sharing with them why it pairs well with what they are eating and where it is from that excites me. It’s all about providing a professional and efficient service to our guests here at the Saxon hotel.”