As soon as I mention the word “wine” at family gatherings, tensions rise and moods become serious as people grapple to remember their swanky wine jargon.
To really enjoy wine, do you need to know the pH level, the residual sugar, the acidity levels and the tannins?
“All that clutter is for you to sound clever at the expense of my pleasure,” my dad would say. He’s a veteran wine drinker, albeit he can’t even pronounce “cabernet sauvignon” and you know what? He doesn’t need to.
Wine enjoyment is relative. Through years of using my dad as a guinea pig, I’ve learnt to appreciate the most simplistic approach to wine: choose a bottle to drink and hope that you enjoy it. If you find yourself cruising through a second bottle, then that must be the wine for you. Once you’ve discovered what it is you like, you can then begin to experiment with savouring it alongside some of your favourite dishes. You will see that food changes the dynamics of wine, hopefully transforming it into something extraordinary.
Do not be intimidated by the tasting notes a sommelier gives. “English gooseberry”, “cat’s pee”, “limestone minerality”, those are flavour profiles experienced completely subjectively depending on who is doing the tasting. I’ve never owned a cat, so can’t say what it’s pee would taste like and I’m not one to go around sampling limestone either. The only gooseberry I know is the Cape gooseberry, which is markedly different to the English variety.
The reality is, someone might enjoy an aged shiraz with a medium-rare fillet steak, but there is also nothing wrong with one preferring a dessert wine, whose residual sugar sits at 300g/l, with a T-bone prepared well-done, all topped with a similarly sweet gravy. Food and wine pairing isn’t a science or a matter of right versus wrong, but rather an experimental fusion of flavours for the purpose of creating a sensational, joyful experience for you, the diner. In a nutshell, it is hedonism.
When it comes to enjoying wine, one might ask if it is wrong to add ice? The answer is simple, as it is your wine after all. For anyone who says it is not ok, what they have is not wine knowledge, what they have is audacity. As a sommelier, there’s much I have seen and have never taken offence to… an exception to this is when I once gifted my brother a bottle of 1986 Meerlust Rubicon, the year of his birth. His swift dunking of a Berocca tablet into the magnificent vintage is still, unfortunately, something that irks me to this day.
About Luvo Ntezo, head sommelier, One&Only
Internationally recognized as the Best Young Sommelier in South Africa, Luvo Ntezo has emerged as the international wine community’s shining star, heralded as one of the best sommeliers in the world.
Born in 1983, Luvo grew up modestly in a small town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The middle child in a family of three, Luvo’s first introduction to the world of wine was as a pool porter at the Steenberg Hotel in Constantia. “I didn’t have any interest or knowledge of wine. My family had never been big wine drinkers. I just needed a job,” says Luvo. After six months working there, a guest ordered a bottle of wine. Luvo at that point had never opened a bottle of wine before, and after trying repeatedly, he had to ask the guest for help. Following the experience, Luvo went to winemaker John Loubser, and asked him to teach him all there was to know about wine.
Under Loubser’s mentorship, the young porter gained a comprehensive understanding of both the production and the tactical side of winemaking. In 2003, Luvo left the Steenberg Hotel to accept a job as a glass washer at the Twelve Apostles in Cape Town. During a chance encounter, and while polishing wine glasses at a wine seminar, the winemaker offered Luvo a taste of the wine. While everyone else gave positive feedback on this wine, Luvo stated that he believed the bottle to be corked. He was right. The bottle was in fact corked. So impressed by his knowledge, understanding and inherent talent for tasting wine, the general manager offered to send Luvo to school and become a certified sommelier for the hotel. From 2006-2008, he studied at the Cape Wine Academy in Stellenbosch, while continuing to work at the hotel. In 2008, he agreed to participate in the prestigious Young Sommelier’s category in the national Chaîne des Rôtisseurs competition in South Africa. He won first place that year, and in the years following. Luvo went on to compete in the international competition held in Vienna in August 2008, and was placed an impressive fourth in the world.
While training for the competition, Luvo was exposed to thousands of wines from across the globe, and enjoyed regular trips to High Street Kensington in the UK to study with some of the best sommeliers in Europe. He soon developed tastes for wine outside of South Africa, including New Zealand, Australia and Canada. While he grew a strong affinity for the Sparkling Wines of West Sussex, his favourite international grape remains the pinot noir from Oregon.
Luvo’s appointment as head sommelier at One&Only Cape Town in June 2011 came after his mentor, Clive Bennett, joined the prestigious hotel as managing director in December 2010.
His passion remains embedded in new wineries and emerging terroirs from South Africa. Luvo spends much of his time exploring the lesser-known wine producing regions of the Cape in search of new offerings to add to One&Only’s impressive collection of 5000 bottles – one of the largest collections in Africa. Visitors to One&Only Cape Town have the opportunity to interact with Luvo in The Wine Studio, a sleek and sophisticated space where key resort wine experiences such as the Sip & Savour and Wine Blending masterclass are held.
Created exclusively for the ultra-luxury market, One&Only is conceived as a hallmark of excellence. Set in some of the most beautiful locales in the world, each award-winning resort offers guests a distinctive style and personality borne of its local culture, a genuine hospitality and a lively energy that is unrivalled. The exclusive collection includes One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives; One&Only Le Saint Géran in Mauritius; One&Only Royal Mirage and One&Only The Palm in Dubai; One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico; One&Only Cape Town in South Africa; Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley in The Blue Mountains in Australia; and One&Only Nyungwe House and One&Only Gorilla’s Nest in Rwanda. As part of the new portfolio, One&Only will be opening One&Only Desaru Coast in Malaysia, One&Only Portonovi in Montenegro and One&Only Mandarina in Riviera Nayarit in Mexico in 2020. Additional resorts in development include One&Only Kéa Island in Greece, One&Only One Za’abeel in Dubai as well as communities of One&Only Private Homes around the world. More information on One&Only is available at oneandonlyresorts.com