Barry Schofield – from barman to chairman

Barry Schofield is Chairman of the South African Sommeliers Association and co-owner of Somm Hospitality. He was also one of this year’s judges for the Sommeliers Selection competition, the only local contest judged solely by a panel of South Africa’s best sommeliers, in categories fashioned around the perfect varietals for a restaurant’s ideal wine menu. Wines of different varieties, blends and pricing, but stylistically similar, stand alongside each other. 

This year more than 400 wines from the country’s top estates were entered into the contest, with the winning wines, beers and gins coming from more than 60 farms with stand-out wines including the Glen Carlou Chardonnay 2018, Plaisir de Merle Grand Plaisir 2014, Idiom Bordeaux Blend 2015, Villiera Wines Tradition Brut NV, Peter Falke Wines Méthode Cap Classique 2013 and, in the craft beer category, the Cape Brewing Company’s Mandarina Bavaria IPA.

These – and many more – can be sampled at the Sommelier Selection 2019 tasting evenings being held this month. 

Schofield answered a few questions ahead of the tastings: 

What attracted you to the profession?

I’m really just another geek who likes nerding out over fact sheets and technicalities. The intricacies of wine combined with the cultural heritage and obvious social pleasures were an immediate hit.

How long have you been in the industry and where have you worked?

Oh, I’ve been in the industry forever. I started off as a barman after school before moving abroad to pursue a career in the oil industry. But no matter what, I always found myself back in a restaurant or bar. So, about 10 years ago, I got into it fulltime, worked my way up from high street restaurant to hotel, a wine estate and everything in between. All while studying obsessively and before I knew it, I was the head sommelier for a prestigious fine dining restaurant. Fast forward three more years, a lot more studying and I’m now the Chairman of the South African Sommelier Association, running my own consultation company and opening two local food and wine outlets.

What does the training involve and what are the attributes needed to become a sommelier?

Sommeliers vary in their skill set. Some are more technical while others are more people-driven but a love of wine and the hospitality industry is a must. What many people coming into the industry don’t realise is that once you have achieved the SASA Level 1 Junior Sommelier Accreditation the hard work really starts. Becoming a SASA Level 2 Certified Sommelier will take at minimum three years of work, whether that’s actively studying, working on the floor or preferably a combination of both. Passing the exam requires up to date knowledge of cocktails, cheeses, cigars, bottled water, tea coffee, not even mentioning service standards … and the list goes on. Then there’s still the annual ASI exam which takes this all yet another step further with up-to-date market-related knowledge.

What are some of the tips you can give wine lovers?

The last time I thought I knew a lot about wine is the day I passed my WSET L3 exam. I learned soon after that once you really scratch beneath the surface wine becomes an inexhaustible topic. Have fun, keep learning, share, don’t take it to seriously and remember to keep trying new things. Wine affords us an opportunity to see the world, its heritage and its terroir through a wine glass.

Why do you think Sommeliers Selection is an important wine event to attend?

It gets down to the important question of not ‘is this wine better than that wine’ but rather ‘at this price point and in this style would you stock it and is there a market for it?’

Your favourite food and wine pairing?

Peanut butter and a crisp, crunchy cool-climate Pinot Noir.

The Sommeliers Selection tastings take place this month at the following venues:

JOHANNESBURG

  • Venue: Pool Deck, Tsogo Sun Hyde Park
  • Date: Wednesday, 16 October
  • Times: 16:00-18:00 – trade only.
    • 18:00 – public admitted
    • 21:00 – doors close

DURBAN

  • Venue: The Beverly Hills Hotel, uMhlanga
  • Date: Thursday, 31 October
  • Times: 16:00-18:00 – trade only.
    • 18:00 – public admitted
    • 21:00 – doors close

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