The French have had enough shocks this morning, with Marine Le Pen – one vowel away from being a great garagiste Merlot – emerging as the Joan of Arc de nos jours. Marine Merlot, a grand cuvée for sailors. Now it turns out that the SA Sommelier of the Year Competition, sponsored last year by Bollinger Champagne, is a fizzer because it appears that SA fine dining restaurants have no stomachs for sommeliers. Just as well WOSA failed to train 2010 sommeliers in the Fundi Fiasco for the Soccer World Cup in 2010 and caveat emptors to those signing up for Cathy Marston’s WSET courses. It’s like my doctorate in medieval baton twirling – great fun to study for, but totally useless in practise. There are no jobs.
Recently spoke to a European sommelier (Michelin ***, great pecs) seeking a year-long sabbatical in SA and was told “they only want you for the summer season and on days when their restaurant is full. It’s not a full-time job. They say it would be better to make your own wine and earn money in other ways. But you can’t be a part-time sommelier. Setting up a cellar takes years and you need to keep tasting your wines on a continual basis to advise your patrons.”
So rather than training sommeliers for non-existent jobs, perhaps the SA industry should train restaurateurs? There were recently some grandiose schemes floating around the spittoon, driven by an unspent R1 billion in government training funds at the Department of Trade and Industry. Plans to turn Quoin Rock into a University of Wine along the lines of UCT or Stellenbosch were floated by the usual entrepreneurs and chancers. Perhaps a humble hotel school would be more appropriate. After all, Basil Fawlty, of Fawlty Towers fame, is a frequent visitor to the Cape and he and John Cleese just love SA wine.