Local and global achievements for South African sommelier

Miguel Chan
Miguel Chan

Mauritian-born South African sommelier, Miguel Chan, group sommelier for Tsogo Sun, has notched up two significant industry achievements recently and has been recognised both globally and locally by peers for his skills and his contribution. Earlier this year he won the 2015 Vinexpo Challenge in Bordeaux in France and he was last week inducted into the South African Brandy Guild.

The Vinexpo Challenge was ‘A Blind Tasting with Paolo Basso’. Basso is the world’s best sommelier (a lifetime title held by only 14 individuals throughout the world since 1969) and the challenge involved correctly identifying 10 great classic wines from around the world selected by him.

Says Mr Chan: “Vinexpo, as the leading international exhibition for the wine and spirits sector, is always a valuable and fascinating event, but this year was an amazing experience for me – not least because I managed to finish the Vinexpo Challenge against 120 wine professionals from around the world with the highest marks. It was a total and wonderful surprise to hear the announcement that ‘the winner is from South Africa’,” he adds. Mr Chan’s prize was an exclusive double magnum (three litre bottle) of Champagne Bollinger Rose.

Mr Chan represented Tsogo Sun as the African continent’s leading hotel group and had the opportunity to talk about his 12 years of experience working as a sommelier in South Africa and discussing the wine market evolutions.

A leading topic at the expo where Mr Chan was a panellist was Africa as the future destination for wines and spirits. This was the first time ever that Africa was a topic of discussion within the international wine and spirits sector.  Mr Chan discussed Tsogo Sun’s wine programme, the growth of the group’s wine sales, particularly in Gauteng and more recently in KwaZulu-Natal which has seen a tripling of consumption since 2009.

“We also discussed the African wine and spirits market as a whole, which is one of the most intricate in the world. Complicated, informal, and a difficult business environment with limited access to reliable market information,” he says, adding that more and more Africans are enjoying disposable income for the first time and with improving economic and political conditions, significant outside investment and better internal organisational structures have meant that Africa’s key markets now present one of the world’s biggest opportunities for medium- and long-term growth.

A strong message that Mr Chan shared with the wine world during Vinexpo was to encourage groundwork in Africa, engagement with African consumers, and training for sommeliers, food & beverage managers, and retail buyers. “We are at a turning point in the industry; it is fast emerging as one of the most dynamic wines and spirits market in the world. The new generation of young Africans is keen to learn more and are rather adventurous about the great wines and spirits of the world. They are experiencing them as part of their lifestyle. The global wine and spirit sector would do well to embrace this vast potential.”

Mr Chan’s most recent achievement – his induction into the prestigious South African Brandy Guild – took place in Johannesburg on 14 October, when he was presented with the Brandy Guild Medal of Honour.

“Membership of the South African Brandy Guild is by nomination only and acknowledges the efforts of respected individuals who raise awareness of our brandy’s global champion status,” says Christelle Reade-Jahn, director of the SA Brandy Foundation. The Guild comprises individuals identified by the South African Brandy Foundation and its partners for their enthusiasm and outstanding contributions in promoting the historical importance and world-class qualities of South African brandy.

According to the SA Brandy Foundation, brandy was first distilled on South African shores 300 years ago. It’s a mainstay of the wine industry and a significant contributor to the economy as South Africa’s most widely consumed and loved spirit. It’s also a consistent winner in annual competitions of global brandies.

Tsogo Sun’s portfolio includes more than 90 hotels and 14 casino and entertainment destinations throughout South Africa, Africa, the Seychelles and Abu Dhabi.