Christopher Bates, general manager and executive chef at Hotel Fauchère in Milford, Pennsylvania, was named winner of the Wines of South Africa Sommelier World Cup at the Grande Roche Hotel in Paarl, South Africa on Saturday, October 16.
The competition was the initiative of Wines of South Africa, or WOSA, as part of the drive to get South African wines better known in international hotels and restaurants; it was timed to capitalize on the FIFA World Cup and the worldwide publicity this event garnered for South Africa.
The semifinals were held in each of the 12 participating countries, including the U.S., between March and June 2010. In early October, the 12 finalists were flown to South Africa’s Cape winelands, spending a week visiting top wineries and restaurants in the build up to the final.
A seven-member panel of judges, consisting of internationally trained and certified sommeliers and wine educators, rated the finalists on both their theoretical and practical knowledge of South African wine. Bates emerged with the overall top score.
Although trained in hotel administration, Bates has worked primarily in the kitchen as well as front of house, but his main love is wine. He’s worked in wineries in Italy’s Valpolicella, Germany’s Mosel (Riesling is a particular favorite) and has a small winery in the Finger Lakes area.
“I enjoy competitions because it makes one learn,” Bates says. “I feel I’ve learned a tremendous amount about South African wine.”
The message he’ll take back to American consumers is “that the huge diversity of styles means there are opportunities for all palates. What stands out for me are the Cabernets and Bordeaux-style blends, sweet wines, wines from cooler climates—and South Africa shouldn’t give up on Pinotage!’
After the finals, WOSA CEO Su Birch confirmed “There has been huge interest from the international wine fraternity and judging by the level and extent of support, there is definitely the appetite to continue the competition.”