The Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Awards 2014: Meet the Finalists

We often hear of food service awards but not so much on wine service……


Background on the awards

The Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Awards is an annual competition, which is aimed at enhancing and recognising the calibre of local sommeliers and wine service staff, was launched in 2011 and proved to be a resounding success.

Champagne Bollinger is a proud sponsor of The Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Award.  The competition is a joint initiative between Vinimark The Wine Company (importer of Champagne Bollinger and South Africa’s largest independent specialist wine wholesaling company), and The Reciprocal Wine Trading Company, importers and distributors of Riedel Glassware.

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Ginette de Fleuriot, Marketing Manager at Vinimark The Wine Company and organiser of The Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Award comments, “This industry-wide initiative was established to advance the interests of all of the country’s fine wine producers, as well as those who make their living from the sale of wine in hotels, restaurants and wine bars.  The sponsors and organisers trust that this competition will continue to act as a catalyst for the hospitality industry to expand training facilities and support local sommeliers and sommeliers-in-training, in the interests of all those who enjoy dining out.”

Neil Grant, Chairperson of the South African Sommelier Association (SASA), states: “Wine service has a poor history in South Africa and only with incentives such as these will we find an improvement within the industry.  Chefs in South Africa over the past 10 years have proved how good they are and now wine stewards/sommeliers need to be part of this movement so we can challenge the international markets.” SASA has committed to mentoring the winning candidates to further assist in guaranteeing continued professional wine service of an international standard.


The competition entry criteria are:

  • Those currently employed in the service of food and wine and with a history of at least three years of such service.
  • Contestants are required to have substantial knowledge of the local wine scene and of the professional service of both food and wine.
  • An adequate knowledge of international wine appellations and styles of wine is also a prerequisite.
  • More importantly, however, the contest examines the ability of those selling wine in the hospitality industry to relate what is produced in South Africa to the expectations of international visitors more familiar with the major wine producing regions of the world.


2013 Winner:

Kayetan Meissner: Sommelier at Bosman’s Restaurant at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl at the time


Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Awards 2014


Three of the seven 2014 Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Award Semi-Finalists are through to the competition’s 2014 Finals: Angie Langlands, Sommelier at The Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu Natal;Cashias Gumbo, Sommelier at La Colombe Restaurant in Constantia, Western Cape, (at the time of the competition); and Gareth Ferreira, Sommelier at the Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa in Johannesburg, Gauteng; representing the three provinces with the highest concentration of fine dining restaurants in South Africa, see featured image.


On Monday 6th October the three Finalists met at Ellerman House in Bantry Bay to compete against each other for the Riedel Glass Trophy, and a trip to France to visit the Bollinger House of Champagne, including airfare and accommodation.

Organiser of the Award, Ginette de Fleuriot CWM, is very impressed with the high calibre of the 2014 Finalists, “This is the fourth year that we are staging this competition, and each year, it’s most gratifying to see such exceptional young sommeliers coming to the fore.  The Final will no doubt be a fiercely competitive contest for this prestigious Award!”

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2014 Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Awards Judges


The Finals were a testing day of written exams, blind tastings and a practical assessment. Finalists were judged on a wide spectrum of wine and food service and were tested on any number of the following:


  • wine styles and terminology
  • wine label information
  • wine regulations and regions of origin
  • major international wine regions and their wines
  • identifying wines in a blind tasting
  • service techniques
  • food and wine pairing
  • wine storage
  • social skills and ability to interact with the patron


Judges at all rounds of the annual competition include internationally trained sommeliers, Cape Wine Masters, and members of the hospitality trade.

The South African Sommelier Association (SASA) is fully behind The Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Award and some of its members are judges at the Semi-Finals and the Finals. The Association aims to provide training and mentorship to guarantee the continuous development of professional standards of wine service at the highest level.

The 2014 Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Award winner will be announced on the 5th of November at an exclusive Champagne event.  Until then, good luck to the three finalists.

For more information, visit the official website:


About Author


Thuli Gogela is a Food Technologist with 8 years of experience developing products in food manufacturing. She is dedicated to discovering wholesome traditional dishes and recipes with a distinctive taste from different parts of the African continent. Thuli is well known for her food blog, Mzansi Style Cuisine which was established in 2010. She saw a gap in the traditional food market that people were hungry for. From there, it didn’t take long to build her brand. In 2013, she started writing a recipe column for the Cape Times for and has collaborated with some of the biggest brands in South Africa namely, Knorr, Nedeburg Wines, First Choice and Spekko rice. Not only does Thuli feature traditional African dishes, she’s also open to developing recipes, food consultations and brand collaborations.

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