On Oct. 4, it is time to celebrate the great wine lists of South Africa for the first time. Sommelier Tawanda Marume, Best Sommelier of Zimbabwe 2020, joins the jury panel for the upcoming Star Wine List of the Year South Africa event.
"It feels really great and quite an honour. I have always wanted to contribute to our growing wine industry, and I feel this is an opportunity to add my contribution. It also is very exciting to be in the same judging panel as some of the best sommeliers in the world," he says.
The very first Star Wine List of the Year South Africa event will be held in Stellenbosch on October 4 - in cooperation with the South African Sommelier Association. The international jury members are Piotr Pietras MS, Heidi Mäkinen MW and the 2019 Best Sommelier of the World, Marc Almert. The awards are open to all South African wine lists - read more and apply here before the September 4 deadline.
Tawanda Marume got into the wine business around 2010 while working at a Cape Town restaurant. But the interest in wine started earlier, when he still lived in Zimbabwe.
"I was tasked to source wines for an office party, before I drank wine or even knew what it was. Later, when I moved to Stellenbosch to stay with my sister, I decided to enrol into the Cape Wine Academy program to learn more about wine."
In 2020 he won Best Sommelier of Zimbabwe, and today he lives in Johannesburg, where he founded a wine sales and distribution company: Expression Wines Africa.
"Currently, we have ten producers on our portfolio."
Now Tawanda joins the Star Wine List jury panel as the local expert jury member for the first-ever Star Wine List of the Year South Africa. He says that he is looking forward to the task and that the exciting thing about judging wine lists is that there is a lot to learn from looking at different formats used to compile a wine list.
"It is also an opportunity to know other wines out there that may not be in my scope of knowledge. It is especially exciting for a market like South Africa to compare most of the wine lists with other international wine lists and understand the philosophy behind the compilation."
There is a hunger to learn more about wines and a willingness to try new spots and new wines
What is the definition of a great wine list, in your opinion?
"A balanced wine list in terms of grape varietals, wine regions, wine styles and countries. A wine list with a good spread in pricing and one that is easy to read and comprehend relevant to the market the establishment operates in."
"A great wine list should also showcase new trends in the market while educating the market of such. There should be a relationship with the food menu, not necessarily a pairing menu but styles of wine that compliment the cuisine. I think it should also have a decent number of wines by the glass and now, where possible, a selection of high-end wines sold by the glass with a Coravin."
What is your general opinion about the wine scene in South Africa as of today?
It is an exciting time. There is a hunger to learn more about wines and a willingness to try new spots and new wines. In the past, the scene was characterised by almost generic wine lists, with mainly mainstream brands and very few small producers. It made sense then, as most patrons asked for mainstream wines. The wine market is still young but shows immense potential."
Any specific trends right now?
"Trends do not last long here. There has been a trend towards Rieslings, but it didn't last. We have had a trend toward low-alcohol wine that also did not last. To generalise, Sauvignon Blanc is the most consumed white wine in the country, but there seems to be a trend towards Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay."
"Champagnes are doing exceptionally well, well above the local Methode Cap Classique - something attributed to an association between wealth and international brands."
Which South African wine region is the most exciting right now in your opinion, and why?
"I have always viewed the Swartland region as the most exciting. Most of the producers came together and agreed on the styles of wine to make, permitted grape varietals and viticulture. Tasting through the wines from the region, one can taste the thread between them - well, at least I do - and for me, the more they focus on their identity as a wine region, the better they will improve, and the wines get better."
Name one of your most memorable wine experiences?
"Too many to mention... Two stand out, the first one was when I visited Joubert Tradauw Family wines in the Karoo and the owner took me down to their cellar. He drew from a small barrel a taste of their fortified wine, Joubert Muscat d' Alexandria. The barrel had been in the same place since the 1920s, topped up yearly when they drew out just enough to bottle two bottles every year."
"The second experience was a bottle of Chateau Petrus that I shared with a client when I worked in Tanzania. My guest bought it and shared it with me before his dinner."
Anything you want to add?
"I think this celebration will be a great opportunity for South African restaurants. Having access to wine lists from other countries and comments from some of the best sommeliers in the world can only improve wine list offerings. As an industry in a growing phase, it is important to have exciting wine lists that are also progressive."
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