South Africa’s Best Sommelier for 2018

Thursday, 13 September, 2018
South African Sommelier Association
Meet Jo Wessels. Bloemfontein born, currently studying and residing in Germany and recently crowned SASA, Moët & Chandon, Best Sommelier in South Africa 2018.

Jo Wessels (32) is currently based in Germany, where he is a BSc student completing a course in International Wine Business at HGU (Hochschule Geisenheim University). He is also enrolled at DWS (German Wine and Sommelier School), completing his WSET Diploma and works part-time as a Commis Sommelier at Michelin stared ENTE Restaurant in Wiesbaden. This is the fourth award to be added to his list of accomplishments in 2018. After winning the Rolling Pin Awards' Sommelier of the Year 2018, being named the 'Best Young Sommelier' in the Meininger Nachwuchssommelier 2018 awards and placing first in the DWI (German Wine Institute) Sommelier-Cup 2018.

Dedicated to the discipline, art and love of fine beverages, the South African Sommelier Association (SASA) and Moët & Chandon aim, with this exciting competition, to acknowledge and empower professional sommeliers who share the joy and energy of wine and spirits.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the sommelier profession is not only growing but also advancing in South Africa,” says Higgo Jacobs, Founding Member and President of the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA). “This is only the second time that we are staging our national contest with the support of Moët & Chandon after the first one in 2016, and already we have a pool of semi-finalists of great calibre with plenty of candidates that could have taken the title. Standards have been incredibly high this year.”

Winner Jo Wessels and runners-up Jean Vincent Ridon of France and Joakim Blackadder of Sweden endured three rounds of rigorous tests and were judged by an expert panel in their ability to taste and identify spirits as well as standard service tasks and theory.

Wessels, Ridon and Blackadder displayed excellent overall wine knowledge of South African and international wines in terms of region, viticulture and vinification, as well as knowledge of beers, ciders, spirits, water, coffee and tea. 

Questions included topics such as wine styles, regions of origin and terminology, wine label information, wine regulations and wine storage. Competitors were also tested on social skills as well as their ability to interact with the patrons by judges including: 

  • Higgo Jacobs: Founding Member and current President of the South African Sommeliers Association
  • Neil Grant: Co-founder & owner of Burrata and Bocca restaurants as well as former president of SASA
  • William Wouters: Vice President for Europe of the ‘Association de la Sommellerie Internationale’ (International Association of Sommeliers)
  • Malika Van Reenen - Executive Chef, Cape Grace Hotel

Jo Wessels will represent South Africa at the ASI Best Sommelier of the World Championships in Belgium in 2019, including a trip to visit the Moët & Chandon Maison in France. And of course, by claiming the title of Moët Best Sommelier, Jo has won a magnum of Moët & Chandon to toast to his celebratory #moëtmoment!

Celebrating the winners in a true #moëtmoment

At the end of the challenging final day of the competition Jo, Jean-Vincent and Joakim were toasted in a true #moëtmoment of celebration, proving that, to celebrate extraordinary accomplishments, it Must be Moët!


Jean Vincent Ridon (2nd), Jo Wessels (1st), Joakim Blackadder (3rd)
Jean Vincent Ridon (2nd), Jo Wessels (1st), Joakim Blackadder (3rd)

Patrick, Jean Vincent, Jo, Joakim & Higgo
Patrick, Jean Vincent, Jo, Joakim & Higgo

All the finalists
All the finalists

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