“I started my journey in a winery in Zimbabwe, of all places!” chuckles Gregory, down the line from Cape Town’s 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, where he’s Head Sommelier. “Zimbabwe has only two wineries, so it was highly unlikely that I’d end up in the wine industry.”
Nonetheless, he found himself working as a Cellar Assistant at Mukuyu Winery, the oldest winery in Zimbabwe, situated in Marondera, east of Harare.
His work in the cellar soon sparked a fascination with wine. “I had to ask questions to learn more about winemaking, which led to me wanting to know more” he says. But he soon realised that the cellar wasn’t for him.
Instead, he began training with the Cape Wine Academy and racking up experience at on-trend Johannesburg restaurants and Cape Town’s acclaimed Vineyard Hotel. In 2011, he joined the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, in the shadow of Table Mountain, as Head Sommelier.
“In the cellar, you spend your time tasting and blending, and you taste what you’re making,” says Mutambe. “But a sommelier is surrounded by a plethora of wines from countries around the world.”
Along with continually broadening his wine knowledge, interacting with local and international guests is one of Mutambe’s favourite aspects of the job.
“I love pairing wine with food. You can see how wine really improves the experience of dining, and how it makes the tasting experience better,” he says, adding that passion and confidence are key when working the floor. “The guest needs to feel they can trust what you’re telling them.”
That trust comes from walking the talk, and even when Mutambe’s not at work, you’ll likely find him with a glass of wine in hand, exploring the winelands, or seated at the judging table for prestigious wine guides and competitions.
“What we do is a lifestyle, it’s not a job. Whenever I’m not at work, I’ll be somewhere with a glass of wine,” laughs Mutambe, who is also the Chairperson of the Black Cellar Club – a group of sommeliers and industry insiders working to raise awareness around wine consumption and careers in the wine industry, particularly among the black community. Visit: 12apostleshotel.com