Moët & Chandon Best Young Sommelier 2019 Winner, Laurie Cooper. Picture: Danie Nell Photography

Laurie Cooper, a winemaker and sommelier at Abingdon Wine Estate in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands has claimed the title of the prestigious Moët & Chandon Best Young Sommelier of the year 2019. 

This competition is held annually by the South African Sommelier Association (SASA), and is dedicated to the discipline, art and love of fine beverages, and to empower professional sommeliers.

Cooper was judged by an expert panel on her ability to taste and identify wines and spirits as well as social skills, the ability to interact with the patron, standard service tasks, such as decanting service or sparkling wine service.

Cooper said her wine journey began in London where she enrolled on the WSET wine courses and fell in love with the world of wine. 

“I decided to move back to South Africa and make wine a full-time career. Winning a scholarship for sparkling wine was a defining moment as it was the precise moment when one realises both passion and talent. It cemented my love for the wine industry and more specifically for bubbles,” she said. 

“There are so many inspiring sommeliers in SA and the industry is incredibly supportive. I am lucky to be able to learn from the best and absorb as much as I can from the SASA members. I have been accepted into the Master of Wine programme this year. 

"This will be the focus of my career in the coming years. My biggest passion is to get KZN on par with the rest of SA in terms of wine knowledge and service. I would love to train an army of certified sommeliers, added Cooper. 

By claiming the title of Moet Best Young Sommelier 2019, Laurie has secured a coveted all-expenses paid trip to France to visit the Moët & Chandon Maison in Champagne, followed by a week-long visit to Barolo in Italy during July 2020 and participation in the Collisioni Festival Progetto Vino.