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SASA Year in Review 2023: Celebrating Achievements and Milestones

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

As we bid farewell to 2023, the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA) reflects on a year filled with triumphs, partnerships, and the growth of our passionate community. Join us as we recap the highlights that shaped our journey.

A note from our chairperson, Spencer Fondaumiere:

“I am very proud of all that we have been able to achieve this year. The highlights are far too many to list but most significant are the strides that we have made in certifications. A massive thanks to all our sponsors, most notably our partners Stellenbosch Wine Routes; without their support, none of our achievements this year would have been possible. We have some incredible plans for 2024 building further on the foundations that we have laid. I look forward to my last year as chairperson with great excitement. ”

February - A Global Triumph: Jo Wessels Secures 7th Place in Best Sommelier of the World ASI Contest

In a remarkable achievement, Jo Wessels proudly clinched the 7th position in the prestigious Best Sommelier of the World ASI contest held in Paris, France.

Every three years, ASI holds the Best Sommelier of the World contest. After the contest in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2019, the next edition will take place in Paris from 7th to 12th February 2023.

In 2018 Jo won the SASA Best Sommelier of South Africa.

About ASI Best Somm of the World competition

The Union de la Sommellerie Française (UDSF) is proud to welcome the ASI Best Sommelier of the Word contest in Paris.

Get ready to immerse yourself in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a true journey into the fine French wine and dine culture.

At least 3,500 professionals will join the amazing show on the 12th of February and participate in one of the most epic events in the hospitality world.

To rewatch the final at the ASI Best Sommelier of the World Competition please click here.

April - SASA's Promising Future with Colectivantage

SASA stepped into a promising future with the invaluable support of Colectivantage. The Annual General Meeting in April ushered in a new era with the introduction of our esteemed board members:

Spencer Fondaumiere (Chairperson)

Erica Taylor (General Manager)

Laurie Cooper (Treasurer)

Tawanda Marume

Roxan Waldeck

Shane Mumba

Additionally, our new office bearers include Jo Wessels (Head of Education), Le Roi Van der Vyver (Events Committee), and Dani Brown (Administrator).

To read the full AGM minutes, please click here

May - Strategic Partnerships and Bursaries in addition to welcoming SASA Introductory Certified Sommeliers, 15 new Junior Sommeliers and 1 SASA Certified Sommelier

An exclusive partnership with Cast-A-Way Africa Cruise & Resort Hiring Agency

SASA and Perron X teamed up to offer 100 Introductory Sommelier Certification Bursaries

SASA and Apeirogon Youth Development Academy (AYDA) joined forces to bring the SASA Introductory Sommelier Certification Nationwide, 250 students nationwide wrote the SASA Introductory Sommelier Certification in one month in five different locations across South Africa.

SASA expanded its sommelier family in June, welcoming 15 new SASA Junior Certified Sommeliers and celebrating Luke Erickson as the newest SASA Certified Sommelier.

June - Loire Valley Chenin Blanc Masterclass

Ina Smith hosted an enlightening Loire Valley Chenin Blanc Masterclass at Culture Wine Bar, The Wine Library in Cape Town.

July - SASA Launches Johannesburg Chapter

A pivotal moment for SASA as we proudly launched the Johannesburg Chapter, further expanding our reach and influence.

The SASA Johannesburg chapter will organize a series of engaging events, including tastings, workshops, and seminars, providing valuable insights into various wine regions, grape varieties, and winemaking techniques. Members of the chapter will have exclusive access to educational resources, mentorship programs, and networking opportunities with leading industry professionals.

August - Exclusive Partnership Brings Court of Masters Sommeliers to Stellenbosch

In a groundbreaking collaboration, SASA partnered with Chenin Noir to host the Court of Masters Sommeliers courses in Stellenbosch, providing an opportunity for sommeliers to elevate their education and skills.

September - Star Wine List and Jean-Vincent Ridon Crowned Best Sommelier of South Africa

SASA celebrated the remarkable achievement of Jean-Vincent Ridon, who claimed the coveted title of Best Sommelier of South Africa in partnership with the Stellenbosch Wine Routes.

The semi-finalists for the Best Sommelier of South Africa 2023 were:

~ George Young

~ Georgio Meletiou

~ Jean-Vincent Ridon

~ Laurie Cooper

~ Ralph Reynolds

~ Stefan Reinmuth

~ Tapiwa Jamu

~ Victor Okolo

The judges included were:

~ Chef Callan Austin – DUSK Restaurant

~ Wikus Human – Reigning Best Sommelier of South Africa and Head Sommelier at Marble Restaurant

~ Jo Wessels – Ranked the 7th Best Sommelier in the World

~ Wayve Kolevsohn – Beverage Director at The Royal Portfolio

This year’s competition also introduces for the first time the Michael Ratcliffe Award for the Best Sommelier of South Africa. The Michael Ratcliffe Award will be an R50,000 donation that will be used for travel and upkeep for the South African representative at the next ASI global competition and ASI training bootcamp. The donation will be awarded annually.

World Champion Sommeliers Join Star Wine List South African Jury:

Marc Almert - As the ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2019

Julie Dupouy - With an impressive background as Ireland's best-known female sommelier

Tawanda Marume - Best Sommelier of Zimbabwe 2019

October - Sharrol Mukendi-Klaas Shines at ASI Sommelier Bootcamp Americas

Sharrol Mukendi-Klaas attended the prestigious ASI Sommelier Bootcamp Americas in Quito, Ecuador, representing SASA on an international platform.

November - New Junior Certified Sommeliers Join the Ranks

November saw the addition of 6 new SASA Junior Certified Sommeliers, further enriching our growing community.

December - Ubuntu Sommelier Trophy Triumph

The fourth edition of the Ubuntu Sommeliers Trophy took place on December 11th, with Team South Africa emerging victorious for the third consecutive time. Congratulations to George Young, Juliet Bowley-Urquhart, and Laurie Cooper.

Exams and Achievements

We are extremely proud to announce that, Sharrol Mukendi-Klaas is the first African to pass the ASI Certification 2 Exam.

Throughout the year, SASA hosted Junior Sommelier exams in May and November, proudly introducing the new 2023 SASA Junior Sommeliers. Notably, Luke Erickson of La Colombe Restaurant in Cape Town passed the SASA Sommeliers Exam, the highest accolade SASA offers.


On the 22nd of May, at The Wine Library in Cape Town and the Swiss Hotel School in Johannesburg SASA hosted the Junior Sommelier exam of 2023. The second exam took place in November in CPT.

We are proud to announce the new 2023 SASA Junior Sommeliers:

Alba Mutandwa: Cellar Door Ambassador at Groot Constantia, Cape Town.

Aleksandr Pshenichnikov: Restaurant Manager at The Red Room by Chefs Warehouse

Anika de Jong: Food and Beverage manager at the Silo Hotel.

Artwell Chatsika: Wine Ambassador at Creation Wines.

Danaë Uys: Junior Restaurant Manager at Birkenhead House, Hermanus.

Dillon Davids: Wine Steward at La Residence, Franschhoek.

Elvis Sigidi: Wine steward at Culture Wine Bar

Jenean Booysen: Wine Ambassador at Creation Wines

Patience Vimbai Mtandwa: Tasting room ambassador at Klein Constantia and Cellar door ambassador at Steenberg Vineyards.

Pieter Bekker: Working in Dubai.

Ross Channing: Work for Spirits & Bubbles.

Sandile Mnyuka:

Sasha van Zyl: Avid winelands explorer for Sipper Club

Sharrol Mukendi-Klaas: Works at Culture Wine Bar

Siyonela Mntonga: Cellar Door Ambassador at Boschendal Estate

Tadiswa Chikwanha: Assistant Bar Manager at Culture Wine Bar

Tapfuma Chikwanha: Uber Driver

Tapiwa Junior Chirume

Theo Jeftas: Waiter at The Royal Portfolio Royal Malewane Waterside

Tinashe Dhafana

Zolani Dantile

As we reflect on 2023, SASA expresses gratitude for the unwavering support of our community. Here's to another year of passion, growth, and excellence in the world of sommeliers.

"As we say goodbye to 2023, SASA proudly reflects on a year filled with remarkable achievements and passionate growth. From Jo Wessels securing 7th place in the Best Sommelier of the World ASI contest to strategic partnerships, bursaries, and expanding our sommelier family, our accomplishments in 2023 have set a solid foundation for an even more extraordinary year ahead." - Erica Taylor, General Manager, South African Sommeliers Association

For more information about past events or to hear what we have in store for 2024, please contact Dani Brown at

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