Sommelier Sessions with Luvo Ntezo

06 Apr 2018
4 min read
FOUR speaks to One&Only Cape Town’s head sommelier to find out about boutique South African wines, and the rise of young winemakers. 

Where did you grow up?

I spent a few years of my young life living in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, where my father was born, but I’ve lived in Cape Town for as long as I can remember – it has always been my home.


How did you find your way into the world of viticulture?

I guess it’s a calling… viticulture found me. My heart fell in love with it; it is more than just a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s what I continuously strive to do every day. The day I discovered the beauty of wine and its intricacies was when I worked as a pool attendant. I remember waiting on an English family; at that time, most of our guests would just order a glass of wine from the bar but this particular family ordered a bottle. I had never opened a bottle of wine before and after trying repeatedly, I finally had to ask the family for help. The next day I went to winemaker John Loubser – I wanted him to teach me all there was to know about wine. Under his wing, and together with Cellarmaster Herman Hanekon, I gained an understanding of both the production and the tactical side of winemaking. From there my passion for wine grew and in 2006 I studied at the Cape Wine Academy in Stellenbosch while working as a sommelier. In 2008 I took part in the Young Sommelier’s category in the national Chaîne des Rôtisseurs competition in South Africa – which I won.


What does your job entail as a Sommelier at One and Only Cape Town?

I am exceptionally passionate about wine and I spend much of my time exploring the lesser-known wine producing regions of the Cape in search of new offerings to add to One&Only Cape Town’s impressive collection.

When at the resort, I oversee the entire wine programme and keep the wine loft stocked. This magnificent tri-level wall of glass and steel commands the entrance to celebrity chef Reuben Riffel’s restaurant. The moment guests step inside, the complex aromas combined with the depth of flavours takes them on a tantalising journey of the Cape winelands. When creating the list, emphasis was placed on terroir and regional styles. One&Only Cape Town features one of the most balanced and diverse wine collections on the continent with over 5,000 bottles and up to 700 references. Oenophiles can delight in prestigious vintages as well as discover up-and-coming South African boutique wines. The mezzanine tasting room offers an exceptional introduction to the region’s vineyards, including rare South African wines such as Warwick Trilogy, Meerlust Rubicon and Kanonkop Paul Sauer. The cellar also offers rare and sought after vintages from producers such as Meerlust, Vergelegen, Kanonkop, Warwick, Thelema and Eben Sadies Columella and Palladius.


What do you think makes a good sommelier?

Wine cannot just be about taste, colour and texture, it must also tell a story and a good sommelier is a great storyteller – there are some truly amazing wines with stories of the South African people behind them. Passion is crucial and my passion is to discover new wineries and emerging terroirs from South Africa.


Do you think that more people are venturing into the wine industry and why?

I see more and more young people venturing into the wine industry with an interest and eagerness to learn and they do it seamlessly, without needing any encouragement at all. Being a sommelier is an exciting career, it is a career that gives you exposure to the world through a liquid form. It is this job that has made me understand the world and want to explore it further. I travel the world now and I was only inspired to want to see the world because of wine; I recently visited Italy because of my fascination with Italian wines.

I sit on sommelier boards and I nurture a lot of young people and lead them along the path to understanding wine. It is vital that they understand that it is not about drinking wine, it is about the beauty that we find in wine by breaking it apart and reconstructing it in words for our guests to understand and enjoy.

The South Africa Sommelier Association creates an element of awareness about wine and encourages young people to be responsible and to be more enthusiastic and understand that wine is much more than just a beverage to be consumed around a dining table.


What do you make of the current wine & spirit scene in South Africa?

The wine scene in South Africa is incredibly exciting and fun. It is ever growing and forever recreating itself within our historical wine landscapes of South Africa. There has been a recent rise of young winemakers, who are making accessible wines that show more purity of fruit structure. It is very exciting to see tasting rooms now with interesting wines and wine awarenesses everywhere.

I have also recently discovered the vodka scene in South Africa, as well as the craft gin surge – which is taking South Africa by storm amongst both young and old.


What are your 4 favourite wines.

Castello Di Ama in Gaioli-In-Chianti counts as my all-time greatest wine. I’ve been there and tasted the wines with the owner and her winemaker husband, an experience I shall treasure for life. Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon counts as by far my greatest, most favorite South African wine – simply because it was the first ever wine I served to my father. As a non-wine drinker, with no knowledge whatsoever, he found it extremely accessible. Dr Loosen Riesling Kabinett is the greatest Riesling I have ever tasted, with its clean, fresh, pure characteristics – it’s a rare gem. Beeslaar Pinotage by the hugely celebrated Pinotage King, Abrie Beeslaar, is definitely one wine of Cape Wine Royal Status.


What do you think is next for wine trends or themes?

It is not a matter of trends or themes, it is a matter of winemakers becoming true to terroir – making wine that is original and unique to the terroir where the grape is oh so patiently grown. I see South Africa really showing great potential in the rise of terroir driven wines, we’ve seen it with the wines of Swartland – where they are very famously known for a style that is unique to the region and the market has reacted very well to this style. For example, Walkerbay in Hemel en Aarde Valley, within the greater Overberg region, which is home to the great Burgundian inspired wines of South Africa, makes amazing Pinot Noirs in abundance and great Chardonnays that compete with some of the best of Burgundy. This area is famous for its identity, which shows similar characteristics to that of Burgundy, but is more fruit driven.


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