The winner of the inaugural Green and Blue Sommelier Scholarship to London was announced at an awards ceremony held at Spier. [August 6, 2007]
The winning candidate was Thandisizwe (Tyson)Meyi, an applicant from Spier.
Thirteen finalists were chosen from Spier and from the Provincial Government of the Western Cape who partnered with London's Green & Blue Wines to launch the initiative.
‘The aim of the scholarship is to instill a passion for and knowledge of wine in young previously disadvantaged South Africans and to grow the role of sommelier into a recognised profession in this country,' said Kate Thal, owner and founder of Green & Blue Wines who is sponsoring the scholarship.
A former South African who learnt to love wine while growing up in Stellenbosch, Thal said: ‘More importantly, cultivating homegrown talent is the essence of this project, with the intention being that owners and managers of South African restaurants draw on this talent rather than recruit sommeliers from Europe.
'Even in restaurants that do not have sommeliers, this scholarship aims to eventually provide a real wealth of properly trained people in this country who are passing their knowledge on at all levels.'
Spier's human resources director, Heidi Newton-King, said there was a field of strong contenders and that she was ‘overjoyed' with the results.
‘Tyson is a motivated young man with a passion to be the best he can be. We will welcome him home after his year abroad to share his knowledge with us all,' she said.
Tasneem Essop, minister for environment, planning and economic development with the Provincial Government of the Western Cape, said: 'This sommelier scholarship, initiated by South African-born Kate Thal and supported by the Spier Group, presents a unique opportunity for her compatriot Thandisizwe not only to work in a highly competitive international environment but also to be a wine ambassador for our country.
'We must ensure that young people across the country aspire to becoming world class sommeliers! It is a highly respected profession but remains a tough job that requires patience, tenacity and a deep love of wines. After all it is the sommelier who brings our great cuisine, unique wines, terroir and our special floral heritage together in the opening of a South African bottle of wine.'
Thandisizwe will fly to London in early 2008 where he will start his training. As winner he receives a return ticket to London, and complete help and support with settling in courtesy of Green & Blue in the UK; six months' paid work at Green & Blue during which time he will complete the 12-week Green & Blue School of Wine course.
Thandisizwe also wins a wine-tasting/educational trip to Europe, and six months' paid work with a professional sommelier at one of Gordon Ramsey's London restaurants.
Contenders for the prize were Mawethu Mqabo, Michelle van Rooyen, Colin Baker, Faldiel Sulliman, Siyabonga Jaca, Tania Klink, Thandisizwe (Tyson) Meyi, Arlene Stilwaney, Boy-Boy Siyenga, Kaite Vuyiseka, Delores Jagers and Richard Ncqongwa.
Spier had nine finalists in the competition, while the Provincial Government of the Western Cape fielded three contestants.
About Green & Blue Green & Blue is a leading London independent wine merchant which combines its dedicated wine shop with a deli range and two wine bars and a programme of fine wine courses. Visit www.greenandbluewines.com
A sommelier is a trained and knowledgeable wine professional, commonly working in fine restaurants, who specialises in all facets of wine service. These range from the commercial such as wine selection and procurement to advising customers and staff training.