“Ellerman House is a place that I’ve aspired to work my whole career. This is the perfect place for me. After this, when it comes to wine cellars, there is nowhere else to go,” says Wayve Kolevsohn, our new Sommelier. With an impressive CV and a true passion for wine, we are delighted to have Wayve join our team under the guidance of Manny, who has recently been promoted to Operations Manager of Ellerman House. Learn more about this rising star in the world of wine in our Q&A with Wayve.
What first sparked your interest in making this your career?
After studying hospitality, I started my career as Restaurant Manager of The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français. As one of the top 50 restaurants in the world at the time, it was an incredible place to work with an amazing team of inspiring chefs. However, it was here that my passion for wine started to supersede everything else. They didn’t employ a sommelier, so I assumed the role and realised I had found my calling. At the insistence of my General Manager, I entered a wine service competition which was the first of its kind in the country. I was so lucky she did, as I ranked second best young sommelier in South Africa. And that was where it all began… As good fortune had it, the first prize winner later offered me his position at The Roundhouse – my first formal position as a sommelier.
What was your journey to get to where you are today?
After The Roundhouse, I was offered a position at the Test Kitchen as Head Sommelier. I stayed there for three years before I travelled abroad. I lived and worked in the Maldives at Cheval Blanc, where I got to meet the most amazing guests with incredible experience in wine. Very high expectations equaled very good products, and this afforded me exposure to benchmark wines. I was presented with unbelievable opportunities to taste premium champagnes, such as Dom Pérignon from the seventies and first-growth Bordeauxs, including all of them from my birth year!
When and where did your love of wine first begin?
A long time ago, when I was working in the UK. I was based in London for a 6-month internship as part of my studies and stayed on for another two and a half years working Front of House. This experience really opened up the world of wines to me. Based in London, considered as one of the ‘wine capitals’ of the world, provided access to wines from almost every producer available. But what I love about South African wine is that it’s such a small industry and tight-knit community, where the wine maker becomes your friend. It’s not just about opening bottle of wine and enjoying a glass, it’s the whole culture and lifestyle that goes behind it. In Cape Town, we’re so lucky as the majority of our wines are produced in the Western Cape, so we’re a lot more involved in the process. Compared to a lot of other cities in the world where the access to wines may be amazing, in Cape Town you get to experience wine at its source.
Any words of advice for aspiring sommeliers?
Your qualification is important, but as with everything in life, your success depends on how much work you put in. It’s a continual journey to become the best. There’s so much to learn out there, and with wine, it keeps changing every year. Taste as much as you can. Take notes. Study your theory in your spare time. Being a sommelier is also not just about having a good palate, but also about how you work on the floor – soft skills are equally important. Passion is key. The hospitality industry is not always easy, it involves long hours and working on weekends. You must genuinely enjoy people and sharing your knowledge with others. Being a sommelier really is the epitome of personalised service. It’s about recommending the best possible wine to suit that particular person’s preferences, which works well with that specific dish, depending on their mood on that specific day of the year.
You’re incredibly humble, but if we had to twist your arm, what would you say you are most proud of?
This year I was fortunate enough to be voted on the board of the South African Sommelier Association. I am proud to be a woman in the world of wine and one of our main goals on the board is to promote diversity broadly across the wine industry.
What makes Ellerman House’s wine cellar so special?
I have been in a lot of amazing cellars, but I have never seen anything like this. Especially not in a 13-bedroom boutique hotel. Ellerman House has an impressive collection of just under 9000 bottles of wine – I just did my first stock take and if you had to ask me the worst part of my job, it would be that! At Ellerman House we have a long-term vision for our cellar. We have a strong programme of maturing wines, so we are always looking for ageable wines. Once again with everything in life, we’re also looking for balance. We choose wines whose flavours and aromas are well balanced with each other. Over and above the wine itself, the Wine Gallery offers a beautiful space that integrates contemporary design and sculptural works of art that celebrate the country’s wine heritage through a high-tech experience.
Is there one wine everyone should try when visiting Ellerman House?
I’m personally a big fan of Burgundian style wines – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – and there are some prime examples of these varietals in our cellar that are being produced in South Africa at the moment. However, it’s impossible to single out one specific wine. Rather join us for a tasting in our Wine Gallery. We make a selection of wines based on your personal preferences, so you can enjoy variety of choice in an interactive experience, guided by our knowledge of South African wine and complemented by background information shared via visual videos of each estate, bringing you even closer to the wine.
What wine should you not only experience in our cellar, but venture out to see with your own eyes?
It depends what experience you are after. For a beautiful winery, visit Delaire Graff Estate, another Relais & Châteaux property that offers a breathtaking setting to simply sit back and enjoy a glass of award-winning wine. To get into the more rustic side of wine making, take a trip out to the Swartland. Here you’ll find small producers, often just a husband and wife, so you do need to make an appointment, but the wines are well worth tasting because they’re very unique. This is where a lot of the natural wines in South Africa are being produced. If you’d like to make a trip out of it, combine a couple of regions such as Elgin and the Hemel-en-Aarde, which offer a wonderful meander to wine your way through over a few days.
What are you currently working on at Ellerman House?
We have recently launched a new menu at Ellerman House with Peter Tempelhoff and we’re currently focused on finessing our wine pairings – matching beautiful dishes prepared by Exec Chef Rudolph Blaauw and his team in the kitchen with exceptional wines from our cellar. Peter has a fantastic palate and extensive experience in pairings, so I’m really looking forward to working on this together. We are also busy building a talented sommelier team at Ellerman House, where we’re certifying our wine stewards through SASA with a level one qualification.
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