Friday, June 01, 2018

Competition for the title of Gaggenau Sommelier and Ambassador South Africa at the Gaggenau Studio

This competition and resulting awards ceremony were held over two days last week. On the first day, the Sommeliers who were finalists had to do a service test and a food pairing at The Test Kitchen. The second part of the competition was at the amazing Gaggenau BSH Brand Experience Centre in New Church Street, which we were invited to attend. This is the first year that Gaggenau have sponsored this competition in South Africa
The judges were JP Rossouw, publisher of the Platter Wine Guide, Restaurateur Neil Grant, Michael Crossley of Reciprocal Trading, the distributor of Riedel glasses and Higgo Jacobs of the South African Sommeliers Association
They were assisted by Eben Bezuidenhoud, also of the SASA
We arrived early to find that there was coffee and some croissants
muffins with interesting toppings
and fruit kebabs
Glasses were arranged for the first test: a blind tasting of wines and other beverages
This is a demonstration kitchen
and there are two floors of showrooms with the most magnificent and tempting kitchen appliances from Gaggenau, Siemens,and Bosch
An innovative way to decorate a wall
The event was organised by Elizabete Nelson (Gaggenau Communications Manager)
The judges tasted all the test beverages before the competition began
and then they were poured for the first contestant
The first contestant was Joakim Hansi Blackadder. Contestants had to talk about and describe in detail what they are tasting, where it might come from and then make a final conclusion. They each had 15 minutes to taste the five beverages
The judges marked as he gave his conclusions
Next came James Mukosi
then Juliet Urquhart
Marine Point came next
and, finally, Wikus Human
His proud parents had come down from Pretoria to watch the competition
We were a little distracted during the tasting by heavy rain which made huge waterfalls appear through the clouds and cascade down the side of Table Mountain
And then it was time for lunch. Chicken on bagels with a fruity onion jam and a vegetarian option
Filled wraps
Chicken nuggets with a dip
and chicken pieces coated with sesame seeds and a different dip
And a plate of small dessert bites: Koeksisters, carrot cake, almond cake and chocolate brownies
These were the wines (and other beverages) which the contestants had to taste and identify blind. Sauvignon Semillon white blend from Trizanne; Breton 17 Cabernet Franc from van Loggerenberg, a Cluver and Jack Cider (which really had the contestants puzzled), Rum from Durbanville and Pisco from Peru which also had everyone, including us, really confused. We could taste these when the competition was over and we all tried to guess them, with varying success and failure!
The afternoon session of the competition consisted of two quick-fire rounds. First, on the television screen, it was “spot the mistakes on the wine list” (two to a page) and then name the personalities and places. They were given 90 seconds to guess 14 slides
Then Neil Grant fired off 30 wine related questions, also in a very short timed session
Then the next challenge, the last round, which would require them to pour from a magnum of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Mèthode Cap Classique into an unspecified number of glasses, ending with as near as possible the same volume in every glass, and finishing with no wine left in the bottle. Not an easy task. Many Riedel champagne glasses were unpacked
and Eben brought out the ice buckets. They would all do this leg of the competition simultaneously
Onto the ice went the magnums of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut, the first Champagne method wine to be made in South Africa
and, for this test, they were required to fill 14 champagne glasses evenly to the same level
The judges took some time before this round to do some marking
and engage in some discussion
Neil Grant read the contestants the rules
and they were off. One test was to correctly open the bottle and to pop the cork quietly
Judging how much to pour is always difficult and one of the main rules is that once you have poured a glass, and moved on to the next, you may not go back to top it up
You need a very steady hand
and you need to get it right, checking that the level of each glass poured is the same
There were different ways of laying out the glasses
The concentration in the room was intense
The levels in the glasses differed from contestant to contestant
and, quicker than expected, it was finished
The contestants were nervous and we waited in anticipation. We knew we were going to get a glass or two of the bubbles
The judges inspected and marked
Some different levels would lose marks and so would short pours, or wine left in the bottle
And then it was all over and the contestants could relax. Here is Wikus Human with his parents
And some canapés were served for us to enjoy with the Kaapse Vonkel while the judges totted up the scores to see who had won
Two cups, gold for First and Silver for Second
More canapés,
lots of chicken
and smoked salmon on beetroot bread
Mini filo pastry quiches
 Enrico Hoffmann (MD of Gaggenau SA) welcomed us and the other members of the media who had arrived for the final stage and the prize giving
Neil Grant announced the winners and told us about the winner’s prize, which is a fully paid trip to China to take part in the International Gaggenau Sommeliers’ competition later in the year
The contestants wait in anticipation
Higgo Jacobs talked about the judging and how the South African Sommeliers’ Association appreciated Gaggenau’s help, involving them in this competition
Second prize went to Wikus Human who also won some Le Creuset cookware
and the winner is announced
Congratulations to Joakim Hansi Blackadder who took first place. He is looking very happy indeed. He had a good competition; now he looks forward to the trip to China and the international competition

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