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UK winner of the Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup announced

Published:  15 June, 2016

Wines of South Africa have praised the role sommeliers have played in driving 9% in the UK on-trade as the winner of the UK leg of their triennial Sommelier Cup is announced.

Erik Simonics, sommelier at The Savoy, has won the UK round of Wines of South Africa's triennial Sommelier Cup competition.

At the final, Simonics will join the winners from eight other key growth markets for South Africa: Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, USA, Canada, Asia, Kenya and Ghana, to compete to be the overall winner.

Jo Wehring, UK market manager for Wines of South Africa, said that South Africa has seen strong growth in the UK on-trade, up 9% (CGA Strategy MAT to 19/03/16) by value.

Part of this success, she says, is enthusiastic sommeliers and independent wine merchants driving excitement.

She said: "The off-trade is often driven by commercial realities, but in the on-trade there's a real engagement with South Africa via sommeliers and merchants in the independents as well. Their enthusiasm really translates."

"The sommelier community is vital to developing the reputation of our wines and their direct influence with consumers is helping to cement South Africa's image as one of the most exciting and innovative wine producing nations," she added.

Wehring also says that sommeliers are growing South African wines at the higher end of the spectrum.

"South Africa are known to be food friendly, with flagship varieties like Chenin providing a lot of variety. All New World wines have to justify their place in the upper echelons, so when you've got someone driving forward your product then it really helps," she said.

Wines of South Africa have also seen in bottles over £10 in the off-trade, with strong sales between £12 and £20 and also a growing trend in consumers willing to pay over £20 for a bottle of wine.

Greg Sherwood MW, one of the judges at the UK final, said the competitors were some of the "most distinguished group of on-trade sommelier professionals" he had seen, adding: "I think this is symptomatic of the high esteem in which wine trade professionals now hold premium South African wines in particular. South African fine wine is well established in the merchant / off-trade sector, and now I believe this is yet another pointer that South Africa's finest wines are starting to cement their place on the best wine lists across the country."

The UK round of the Wines of South Africa's Sommelier Cup was held at 67 Pall Mall, London with 29 sommeliers competing for the UK title.

The two runners up were Yoel Abarbanel, sommelier at The Ledbury and Dorian Guillon, assistant head sommelier at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.

Simonics will travel to South Africa later this year to represent the UK in the global final, held on Friday, September 23.