Education, as ever, is key to promoting and selling wine

Monday, 4 June, 2018
Judy Brower -
The Sommelier Association of South Africa (SASA) is slowly but surely making inroads in the education and hospitality sector

On Saturday 25th May, L'Avenir hosted the 2nd #SommelierSessions as part of the Rootstock initiative, which gets people in the wine industry together on relevant issues . Rootstock is currently being driven by Wineland magazine.
The gathering focused on the issues sommeliers face in the trade; buying, education and cellaring.

The South African Sommeliers Association (SASA) was established 8 years ago in 2010, in order to uplift and promote the service of wine in South Africa and is a non-profit organisation, offering its services to local and international sommeliers
Education is key, and perhaps more important than ever, as the number of South African wines produced have nearly doubled in the last 10 years, which is very challenging for experienced sommeliers, never mind the newbies.

I was encouraged to see a number of young PYDA Wine Tourism students attending. These are also the change-makers slowly but surely transforming the industry, alongside the SKOP, Wine Training SA and the SA Cellarworker Study Group programs.

How do Somms keep up with knowing what to put on their wine lists?  Is it really worth while for wineries to fork out huge sums of money to take 'influencers' out to lunch or would it be better to arrange more focused educational tastings to these critical gatekeepers - both in Cape Town and Gauteng?
Xolani Mancotywa, SASA Board member in Joburg, reminded us that Gauteng covers the major metropoles of Joburg and Pretoria and is occasionally a neglected market by the wine industry.  With the majority of the moneyed populace residing in the north, education is absolutely key for their almost non-existent sommelier community and hospitality industry.

SASA has created courses to educate and train and in fact examines 3 courses which the recently formed Somm and the Sommeliers Academy run under licence.  SASA does the examinations, and Somm and Sommeliers Academy prepare the students for the exams.

There are 3 levels of education offered and since 2016 have had 17 pass their exams:

  • SASA Level 1 Junior Sommelier Examination (usually examined annually in July)
    • 8 examined and passed
  • SASA Level 2 Sommelier Examination
    • 7 examined and passed
  • SASA Level 3 Advanced Sommeliers / ASI International Sommelier Diploma
    • 2 passed - Joakim Hansi Blackadder (recently crowned Gaggenau Top Somm) and Jean Vincent Ridon

The Sommeliers Academy is currently training 300 young people all around South Africa, and 50% of them are female, slowly sorting out the gender imbalance in the industry. The course will culminate in them writing the SASA Level 1 Junior Sommelier exam, really upping the level of education in the hospitality sector.

We encourage the entire wine industry to engage with SASA - they offer opportunities for engagement, education and tasting, and ultimately of course selling more wine and selling wines at a higher price.

The wine industry will definitely benefit from better education, so there should be nothing stopping every winery, restaurant and hotel from joining to support SASA.

Look out for the next #SommelierSessions and #RootstockSA events.


Judy Brower

Judy has been running alongside her hubby Kevin Kidson since 1996. She takes photos, attends functions, writes occasionally, sells services, is Mrs HR at the company, cooks yummy lunches from time to time and generally is the glue at

The SASA Board: Barry, Joakim, Spencer, Xolani, David
The SASA Board: Barry, Joakim, Spencer, Xolani, David

The PYDA Wine Tourism students
The PYDA Wine Tourism students

Rootstock #SommelierSessions crowd
Rootstock #SommelierSessions crowd

Xolani Mancotywa
Xolani Mancotywa

more news