Jo Wessels of Bloemfontein has claimed the title of the prestigious Moët Best Sommelier competition 2018, brought to you by the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA).
Jo Wessels (32), currently based in Germany, is a BSc student completing a course in International Wine Business at Hochschule Geisenheim University (HGU). He is also enrolled at German Wine and Sommelier School (DWS) completing his WSET diploma and works part-time as a Commis Sommelier at Michelin-starred ENTE Restaurant in Wiesbaden. This award 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 German Wine Institute (DWI) Sommelier-Cup 2018.
Dedicated to the discipline, art and love of fine beverages, 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 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 on 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 president of the South African Sommeliers Association;
- Neil Grant: Co-founder and owner of Burrata and Bocca restaurants, former president of SASA;
- William Wouters: Vice president – Europe for the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (International Association of Sommeliers);
- Malika Van Reenen: Executive chef at Cape Grace Hotel.
Jo Wessels will represent South Africa at the ASI Best Sommelier of the World Championships in Belgium in 2019, including a visit to 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!