3 October 2013
Xolani Mancotywa, sommelier at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg, has been named South Africa’s Best Young Sommelier 2013 and will be flying to Washington, DC to compete with 11 other national finalists in the International Chaine des Rotisseurs Young Sommelier Competition.
The contest will take place at the Fairmont Washington, DC Hotel in Georgetown on 18 October, with the winner receiving the gold medal and trophy at a dinner at the French Embassy in Washington, DC on the same day.
The national and international competitions are similar in format to those of the Court of Master Sommeliers, involving a day-long exam which tests the sommeliers on theory, practical skills and blind tasting.
Originally from Cape Town, Mancotywa became sommelier at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg in November. He holds the rank of Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers in the United Kingdom.
Mancotywa became interested in wine as a career when he attended a series of wine appreciation lectures at the Warwick’s Chef School near Hermanus in 2008.
“I was intrigued by the other learners being able to associate freshly cut grass with Sauvignon Blanc,” he said. “In that moment I knew I had a lot to drink and subsequently learn. This was with the hope of also enlightening those that were as lost as I was when it came to wine.”
On his work at the Saxon, where 60% of the clientele is international, he comments: “Pinotage and Chenin Blanc are favorite choices for travelling guests staying at the hotel. These are the bedrock of the South African wine industry. For an international traveler, it is always great to taste the local produce. Areas like Stellenbosch are producing phenomenal wines that have guests shipping cases back home.”
Given his extensive experience and expertise, how did Mancotywa prepare for his South African exam and the international competition in Washington, DC? “Study, study, study. Taste, taste, taste. Do service training daily. Eat, live, and breathe it.
“It is surreal to compete at this level,” he says. “As a lover of our beautiful country, it is with pride one can compete and expose the world to what we do.”
The Chaine de Rotisseurs is the world’s oldest and largest gastronomic society, with 25 000 members in over 70 countries.