South African Airways (SAA) celebrates 30 years of offering the best South African wines on board

SAA sparkling wines on offer in Business Class

South African flag carrier, South African Airways (SAA) celebrates the 30th year of offering the best South African wines on board with the announcement of the winners of the 2016 wine listing.

SAA started the rigorous wine selection process in October 2015.

“Wine makers from across the country participated in the process and we have received a considerable number of entries as in previous years. The SAA wine selection process, now in its 30th year, is an eagerly anticipated event on our annual calendar.

“The selection is an integral part of our overall customer experience and unique value proposition of promoting South African wine exclusively to our worldwide passenger base,” says Kim Thipe, SAA Head of Marketing.

SAA traditionally selects 24 white and 24 red wines from amongst the thousands of wines submitted, to be served on board SAA flights and in its Business Class lounges.  Wines are scored and the results compiled with both internal and external auditors.

Once done SAA allocates the wines for service in a particular month and a particular class of travel. For the 2016 SAA Wine Selection year, more than 730 wines were submitted by South African wine producers. A panel of the most distinguished, independent, local and international judges assessed the wines over a period of three days of blind tasting sessions.

“South Africa is ubiquitously known for its quality and diverse wine offering. It is not hard to imagine how challenging it was to arrive at naming the winning wines to be served to our esteemed passengers on-board SAA flights, marking the 30th anniversary of selecting the best-of-the-best wines for the airline. As SAA we would like to congratulate and recognise the winners for their efforts and for the amazing quality of wines submitted,” says Thipe.

Miguel Chan, Tsogo Sun’s Group Sommelier, facilitated this year’s judging which was done in partnership with Tsogo Sun.  Miguel Chan hails from Mauritius and is Group Sommelier for Southern Sun hotels, with overall responsibility for the group’s beverage and food standards. Miguel represented South Africa in 2007 at the Inaugural Concours International des Jeunes Sommeliers in Frankfort, where he reached the finals. He has been a taster for Platter’s South African Wine Guide, Old Mutual Wine Trophy and other competitions.

The category winners, who received trophies for having the highest score across the board from all 8 judges, were:

White Wine of the Year

  • Winery: Orange River Cellars
  • Wine Description: Orange River Colombard 2015

Red Wine of the Year 

  • Winery: Kranskop Wines
  • Wine Description: Kranskop Merlot 2013

Methode Cap Classic of the Year (Joint Winners)

  • Winery: The Avondale Trust & Simonsig Estate
  • Wine Description: Armilla Blanc de Blanc 2009 & Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel 2011

Port of the Year

  • Winery: KWV SA
  • Wine Description: KWV Cape Tawny N/V

Chief Executive Officer Award (joint Winners): Accolade Wines SA and KWV SA

Chairperson’s Award: The Cape Wine Company

SAA Gold Class

The judges for the 2016 selection were:

Yegas Naidoo, Nomonde Kubheka, Luvo Ntezo, Laurie Smorthwaite, Tatiana Marcetteau, Wellington Melo (Brasil), Christopher Bates, Master Sommelier (USA); and Richard Kelly, Master of Wine (UK). This year’s selection panel is a combination of both previous and new judges with the international judges representing three of the seven continents SAA flies to.  Several of this year’s diverse panel of judges, hail from the travel and hospitality industry with expertise in catering to both domestic and global traveller tastes and expectations. The judging were done at the Cullinan Hotel, Cape Town.

Judges profiles:

Tatiana Marcetteau
was born and raised in the heart of the French wine region, Bordeaux. , She studied hotel management and then realised that as she is from Bordeaux she should know about wine and discovered a passion for this amazing beverage. She worked in England for a couple of years, was then offered a position in SA at the Marine hotel (part of the McGrath Collection), She stayed on in South Africa and has worked for foremost hotels such as the Liz McGrath Collection, Westin Grand, Winchester Mansion, and the Taj Cape Town. She is the Food and Beverage manager for The Cellars Hohenort hotel in Constantia and has judged for SAA in previous years.

Richard Kelley, Master of Wine. Richard first entered the Master of Wine programme in 1993 and was part of the first student intake to prepare a dissertation as part of the syllabus. He chose the subject ‘the importance of temperature in red wine making’ which took him to the Southern Hemisphere, with South Africa as his final choice. He was accepted into The Institute of Masters of Wine on 17 July 1995. After this he worked for Vinimark, the largest independent wine wholesaler in South Africa, with the task of developing international markets, representing the interests of both Robertson Winery, the second largest wine facility in the Cape, and (at the time) a new and completely unknown wine farm in Franschhoek – called Boekenhoutskloof. He returned to the UK in 2002, joining Richards Walford, before taking over the long-established Dreyfus Ashby company in July 2014.

Christopher P. Bates, Master Sommelier
, has spent his entire career in various aspects of the Hospitality industry giving him a deep understanding of the wine industry, with the last seven years as General Manager of small hotels, first The Inn at Dos Brisas, Relais & Chateaux and later the Hotel Fauchere, Relais & Chateaux. He is also the executive chef of the Hotel Fauchere, and maintains his ties to the sommelier community. As a sommelier he passed his Master Sommelier exam in 2013 and holds the titles of both Certified Wine Educator and Certified Specialist of Spirits. He competes often, and has won TopSomm 2013 and Best Young Sommelier in the World 2012 from the Chaine de Rotisseur, and was placed third in TopSomm 2012 and The Best Sommelier in America 2011. In 2010 he won the World Cup of Wine, beating competitors from 12 other countries around the globe. He writes and teaches about wine and is a regular teacher for the American Sommelier Association and has also taught for the American Wine Society.

Wellington Melo, is the Sommelier for the Unique Hotel in Sao Paulo Brasil.

Nomonde Kubheka, is Soweto-born but now a proud Capetonian who obtained her BSc Agriculture degree in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Stellenbosch. A former winemaker at KWV, Nomonde now works as a freelance facilitator for the Pinotage Youth Development Academy, which is based in Stellenbosch. She has tasted for other wine competitions, among them Diners Club Winemaker/Young Winemaker of the Year. Nomonde has judged for SAA in previous years.

Luvo Ntezo, sommelier, is a young star, who eight years ago was working as a dishwasher. Now, as Cape Town’s most trusted authority on wine, he’s a symbol of South Africa’s distinctive post-apartheid viniculture. As sommelier at Cape Town’s One & Only hotel he not only helps diners sift through a selection of varietals and vintners, present and serve the chosen wines with precision and care, his role is wider as a wine educator for wine drinking novices.  He previously won South Africa’s best young sommelier competition, and went to Vienna in 2008 to vie for the world championship. He came fourth and returned home with the skills to measure South Africa’s wine against the best in the world. Luvo has judged for SAA in previous years.

Yegas Naidoo [AIWS], is one of SAA’s frequent flyers and a Voyager Lifetime Platinum member. She is the founding director of Miles for Style and a regular member of the SAA wine selection panel. She also judged the annual International Wine Challenge (IWC) in the UK, the India Wine Challenge, the Calyon Trophy Bordeaux Blend Challenge and Berlin Wine Trophy Competition. She has a Diploma in Wines and Spirits from WSET [UK]. Currently she is a judge [African and IOI] for the Diners Club World’s 50 Best Restaurant. Yegas is also a co-director of Miles For Style, an exclusive online Shop, providing premium aspirational brands from wine to home decor, accommodation and experiences, to the general public and proudly to members of the SAA Voyager programme. Over 70 premium wine estates are listed on Miles For Style and carefully curated by Yegas.  SAA Voyager Members can now redeem an unlimited amount of SAA Voyager miles into StyleMiles for a great shopping experience on Yegas has judged for SAA in previous years.

Laurie Smorthwaite, is an  accredited Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET®) educator and director of the KZN School of Wine. She is also a WSET diploma graduate and winner of the Codorniu Raventos scholarship for achieving top marks worldwide in the sparkling wine tasting and theory modules.  Laurie is assistant winemaker at Abingdon Wine Estate, a boutique family cellar in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands that offers unique single vineyard estate wines. In 2007, Abingdon Wine Estate made history by producing the first certified Estate wine in KwaZulu-Natal with a further 48 certified wines to date. Laurie runs WSET wine courses from levels one to three and international wine tastings at Abingdon Estate, giving students an added advantage of hands on experience in a working vineyard and cellar.

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