Moët Best Sommelier 2018, Jo Wessels. Picture by Danie Nel Photography.

Jo Wessels, from Bloemfontein has claimed the title of the prestigious Moët Best Sommelier competition 2018; a competition held by the South African Sommelier Association (SASA). 

Dedicated to the discipline, art and love of fine beverages, SASA and Moët & Chandon’s aim with the competition is to acknowledge and empower professional sommeliers.

Speaking to the 32-year-old from Bloemfontein but who is currently based in Germany, he says a career in wine was never top of mind while growing up.

“I have family members who appreciate and are involved with wine — my father is an avid wine collector and one of my older sisters is a qualified winemaker, but I had no idea what a sommelier was back then! 

I was only truly introduced to all the possibilities in the wine industry when I moved to Stellenbosch in the heart of our winelands and wanted to learn more about the industry my sister is involved in,” says Wessels.

Moët Best Sommelier 2018, Jo Wessels. Picture by Danie Nel Photography.

Asked about the competition and how he best prepared for it, Wessels says the competition was truly tough and the scores were very close, which shows the immense talent there is.

“I feel immensely proud, having been crowned Moët Best Sommelier and look forward to showcase our country's hospitality to the world,” he says.

“My happiest moments as a sommelier are being part of creating great and memorable dining experiences for my guests. It requires great teamwork between chefs, management and service staff; when all the parts are working well together, the machine purrs beautifully, which is a joy for both guests and me, “he added.

Wessels is a BSc student completing a course in International Wine Business at HGU (Hochschule Geisenheim University). He is also enrolled at DWS (German Wine and Sommelier School) completing his WSET Diploma and works part-time as a Commis Sommelier at Michelin stared ENTE Restaurant in Wiesbaden.

He will be representing South Africa at the ASI Best Sommelier of the World Championships in Belgium in 2019, including a trip to visit the Moët & Chandon Maison in France.