Wine Sommelier training becomes Tourism priority!


A new R11 million one-year Sommelier training program has been launched by the Department of Tourism in conjunction with the Cape Wine Academy.  It is apt that the program was launched in Franschhoek, which was described by Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk as ‘the best blueprint for wine tourism in SA’.

Launched at La Motte last month, the objective of the training program is to grow the skills of 200 learners in one of the identified ‘niche sectors being of particular importance for SA, wine tourism being one of them’, said Minister van Schalkwyk, reported the Franschhoek Tatler.  He added that there were good job prospects once the trainees have completed their program.  The new sommelier training program follows the Minister’s recent Youth Chef training programme.

Cape Wine Masters Lizette Tolken and Derek Ramsden are some of the lecturers involved in the Sommelier training program, which incorporates four six-week practical work segments in the wine industry. For the first practical, which has been completed, distributors and wholesalers such as Distell, Meridian and DGB, Vinimark, Smollens, Liquidity, Panniers, Wine Logistics, Swirls, NixAn Wines, Nicholson Smith, International Wines, together with Beyerskloof, Delheim, Simonsig, Vergelegen and Spier, all took in learners. The practicals will also include front-of-house training in restaurants, retail outlets and hotels such as Southern Sun, Ultra Liquors, Spar, Shoprite Checkers, The Butcher Shop & Grill, and The Baron Group.

Minister Van Schalkwyk has appealed to the private sector to support and enhance the programmes of his Department, and thanked it for the important role it plays in the development and promotion of tourism. “It is well known that the private sector bears the major risks of tourism investment, as well as a large part of the responsibility to satisfy tourists. Through its training programmes, government is committed to encouraging the further growth, development and profitability of the tourism private sector by providing already-trained staff, such as these sommeliers, who are immediately able to fulfil a productive role in the hospitality sector,” the Minister concluded.

While the Sommelier training program is commendable, one wonders why the South African Sommelier Association, under the chairmanship of respected Sommelier and Burrata owner Neil Grant, was not involved.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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6 replies on “Wine Sommelier training becomes Tourism priority!”

  1. Looks good on paper but if the industry doesn’t pay them properly and doesn’t respect their profession then it is a waste of time. In other words, if they are treated in the same way as waiters/waitresses they will give the same crappy service.

  2. Thank you for your comment Francoise.

    The industry will pay for quality, no doubt. The students look very young, and one hopes that they persevere and not drop out, and develop the confidence in their course to be taken seriously by the restaurant patrons once they ‘graduate’.


  3. The only way for the local guys to get proper training and education is to go and work in an overseas establishment. THe problem is that the Cape Wine Academy is not accredited anywhere but in South Africa. That means that the qualification will mean diddly squat for anyone wanting to expand their horizons and work overseas to gain experience. Its a noble effort, but until the CWA sorts out accreditation, it means little.

  4. Very interesting, but only after seeing the sylabus could the industry give real feedback and comment.

    From your article it seems the practicle suport is more retail and distributor driven, very little restaurant support????

    I agree with Johan CWA has no meaning outside of SA and to be honest anything below Diploma level means very little here… When the students finish this course they need to urgently look at WSET to give real meaning to there studies.

  5. Thank you Nigel.

    I worry about the lack of a restaurant culture and experience amongst the students – they need to be taught waitering and customer service skills too, and not just about the wine.


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