On Monday the 9th of May 2016 the WOSA Somm Cup round for The Netherlands took place in Amsterdam. The runner-up was the talented Richelle van Gemert – passionate about wines and eager to learn more about South Africa. We chatted to Richelle to find out more about why she loves being a sommelier and what excites her about South African wines.
Name: Richelle van Gemert
Working for: Hotel de Weverij | Restaurant Cordial* in Oss (1 Michelin star).
Has worked for: Restaurant de Negenmannen (Boxtel), Restaurant De Karpendonkse Hoeve* (Eindhoven; 1 Michelin star)
WOSA: What is so great about being a sommelier?
Richelle: It is a very diverse job. Apart from being a hostess, making sure my guests have the best possible experience in the restaurant, there is of course also everything that has to do with wine. It’s just great to surprise my guests (and myself) with the beauty of wine, and great fun to combine wine with food.
WOSA: Do you see being a sommelier as your long term profession?
WOSA: Have you ever been to South Africa?
Richelle: Not yet, unfortunately. So far I have had to listen to guests and fellow sommeliers telling me how beautiful South Africa is. I did do a little bit of virtual experiencing via Google Earth…;-)
WOSA: What springs to mind immediately when you think of South Africa?
Richelle: Wine, Pinotage, Steen, Eben Sadie, Rosa Kruger, stunning nature.
WOSA: What are the most interesting cultivars and regions at the moment in South Africa, according to you?
Richelle: At the moment these are Chenin Blanc and Syrah/Shiraz. I love the style in which some producers make a very pure and unfiltered Chenin, that has aged for extensively on the lees. Or a Syrah/Shiraz in that style. Pinotage also fascinates me, but I haven’t figured it out yet. A cultivar that gives many different styles and qualities of wine, very good ones but also some bad ones.
WOSA: Which South African wines do you work with?
Richelle: At the moment we have two South African wines in our wine menu, the Orange Picked Roussanne from Mountain Soils by David & Nadia Sadie and a Newton-Johnson Pinot Noir. Furthermore we work with wines from Chris & Suzaan Alheit, Jurgen Gouws, Eben Sadie and Craig Hawkins.
WOSA: How do you get to know new South African Wines, were do you get inspiration?
Richelle: Last year I was invited to The Beautiful South tasting in London, there I picked up so many new ideas and I tasted so many great new wines. Of course there are also importers that introduce new wines, and I go to tastings organized by NGS (Dutch Association of Sommeliers) or Perswijn Magazine.
WOSA: What is your opinion on pairing South African wines with food? How do they compare to other wines from the Southern Hemisphere?
Richelle: South African wines are gastronomically very interesting and versatile. And in my opinion there are also wines from other countries of the Southern Hemisphere that go well with our food. I think that people tend to think of wines from the Southern Hemisphere as wines from very hot climates and also as bulk wines, full-bodied and high in alcohol. Wines that are difficult to pair with fine cuisine. By selecting producers with vineyards closer to oceans or higher up mountain slopes, we go for fresher, more elegant wines, that are easier and more versatile with food. South Africa has many of those perfectly placed vineyards now, for example in Elgin or in the wards of Walker Bay. At the same time, Australia has great Riesling from Eden Valley, and Sauvignon and Chardonnay from Leyda Valley in coastal Chile can also be great with food.
WOSA: What is your opinion on the availability of good information in Dutch on South African wines?
Richelle: The website of WOSA Netherlands (www.wosa.nl) provides really good information on the South Africa Wine Industry. Good articles on grape varieties, on soils, etc. Personally I study at the Court of Master Sommeliers, so I usually look for information in English. That source is just bigger and provides even more in-depth material. And it is nice that the original WOSA site (www.wosa.co.za) offers an online course, for free!
WOSA: What was the most difficult question of the test?
Richelle: Honestly I don’t remember very well, what I know is that the theoretical questions were alright, I was well prepared for them. The tasting I found challenging, I was very surprised to learn the first wine was not a Chenin