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Equality in the SA wine industry takes leap forward

Published:  20 July, 2020

Equality in the South African wine industry has taken a leap forward with 94 students from disadvantaged backgrounds having passed their exams to become qualified sommeliers.

The development follows a government sponsored programme launched in January 2018 to create opportunity and build inclusivity in the wine and hospitality trade.

The programme saw 282 students from across the country embark on a two and a half year, intensive work and training schedule, culminating in taking the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA) Junior Sommelier exams.

A total of 212 reached the Junior Sommelier exams stage, with 94 being successful.

Coming at a time when there is little to celebrate in the SA wine industry, the development is good news for a beleaguered hospitality industry struggling with the impact of Covid-19, said Neil Tabraham of the Sommeliers Academy, which developed all the training material.

“This is a fantastic outcome for students in unique and often difficult circumstances. Much of the success can be attributed to paying extra attention to soft skills to help build self-confidence and presentation skills in the workplace,” he said. 

Most of the students had been provided with work placements to practice their skills during the programme, with many having already moved into full-time positions as their employers recognise their talents, he added.

“We are immensely proud to have been involved in changing people’s lives. but we must not detract from the hard work and effort from the students to better their chances in a highly competitive employment environment.” 

The nationwide programme, which was administered by Tourism World Academy and paid for by the South African Department of Tourism, hand-picked students from hundreds of applicants in the youth unemployment sector, with many living in communities with little knowledge of wine and no access to wine skills training, especially in areas far from the winelands.

It included a focus on discovering the principles of winemaking and viticulture, including visits to vineyards and wineries. It also looked at South African wine and its regions, as well as the major wine regions of the world, accompanied with tasting of some of the best examples available locally.