South Africa's got talent

Wednesday, 27 August, 2014
Jean-Vincent Ridon
The South African Wine Tasting Championship 2014 celebrated the 20 best national tasters in Cape Town on the evening of the 25th of August.

These Top 20 tasters participated in the blind tasting challenge and had to recognise 10 wines served from anonymous decanters, including wines from Italy and France to make it more challenging to the local palates.

Because the SAWTC was open to all, the Top 20 tasters came from various backgrounds, viz. wine writers, winemakers, sommeliers along with wine lovers and passionate amateurs. The purpose of the Championship was to offer all the chance to put their taste buds to the test.

Served in anonymous decanters were wines from some of the most innovative South African wineries, including Steenberg, Marianne, Creation, Lutzville, Jordan, Edgebaston, Beau Belle and Spice Route, plus a French Grenache and an Italian Pinot Grigio.
It goes without saying that it was a difficult task: finding out which wine was which requires a sharp nose, a precise palate and an incredible memory.
Out of these top tasters, the best ten qualified to be part of Team South Africa and will train together over the next weeks to send the best of them to the World Blind Challenge, organised in the heart of the Champagne region in France, on the 18th of October 2014.
The Mosaic Team South Africa, preselected to fly the South African colours at the world championship, was presented their awards by the consul of France in Cape Town, Mr Xavier d’Argoeuves, on behalf of the host country.

The top 10 tasters for 2014 are:

  • Johan Conradie
  • Chris Groenewald
  • Chantelle Johansson
  • Nicole Kuhnert
  • Lizé Oosthuizen
  • Ralph Reynolds
  • Jessica Saurwein
  • Samarie Smith
  • Anton Swarts
  • Gavin Whittaker

and congratulations go to Team Mosaic - the Top 5 (with four of them going to France):

  • Ralph Reynolds
  • Chris Groenewald,
  • Gavin Whittaker (2nd time in Team SA)
  • Samarie Smith 
  • Lizé Oosthuizen

Team Mosaic will train along with the other members of Team South Africa, but will undergo specific training during a team building exercise at the fabulous Mosaic restaurant at the Orient Hotel close to Pretoria.
The Mosaic restaurant, run by award winning Chef Chantel Dartnall, hosts the most comprehensive wine cellar on the African continent, with more than 3000 different wines. The cellar manager, Germain Lehodey, who was one of the finalists for the title of Best Sommelier of the World, will train team Mosaic and prepare them to face the 22 other national teams at the World Blind Challenge.

Team Mosaic representing South Africa is composed of four tasters and a substitute. Ralph Reynolds, Chris Groenewald, Gavin Whittaker, Samarie Smith and Lizé Oosthuizen will fly proudly the colours of South Africa and will attempt to de-throne the defending champions, Belgium, in a 2h30min competition where they will have to find out the country, region, cultivar, vintage and producer of 12 wines served to them blind. The team achieving the highest score will be crowned World Champion 2014. This is Team South Africa's second participation at the World Championship.

Their adventures will be followed weekly on

For more info:
SAWTC – Jean Vincent RIDON
T +27 21 4225206
C +27 83 6750280

The South African Wine Tasting Championship media partner is

Mosaic Team South Africa is proudly sponsored by Mosaic Restaurant at the Orient. Further details on

Picture caption, from left to right, Mosaic Team South Africa: Judy Brower(, Chris Groenewald, Jean-Vincent Ridon(Team SA manager), Lizé Oosthuizen, Xavier d’Argoeuves(Consul of France), Samarie Smith, Gavin Whittaker, Ralph Reynolds.