In this interview, we chat to Lloyd Jusa, Head Sommelier of Johannesburg’s luxurious Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa, well recognized as one of South Africa’s top hospitality and culinary experiences. Best known for his wealth of knowledge and regarded as one of SA’s leading sommeliers, Lloyd shares his journey with us…
You’ve been working in the wine industry since 2006 and have amassed a wealth of knowledge travelling through various countries abroad. Tell us a bit more about these experiences?
I have been very fortunate to travel around the world and taste a lot of wines. Despite all the rich experiences that I have been through, I have grown to realise that the more one learns about wine, the more there really is to learn. I guess my curiosity has been my greatest asset in terms of my journey. I have researched nearly every wine region in the world and developed a liking for wines that reflect classicism and a sense of place. I am fascinated by traditions that define regions and the vignerons that challenge them, for me that is what makes the wine world go round.
You were named the winner of the Wine Service Award at the Eat Out Restaurant Awards just a little over two years ago. What did it feel like achieving this honorary title and what did this mean for your career?
It was such an honour to be recognised as such. The South African Sommelier industry is very much developing and the award gave me the platform and a wider audience to share my passion for wine.
The Saxon Hotel is regarded among SA’s most prestigious culinary experiences, consistently receiving world-wide acclaim. Tell us a bit more about your responsibility and role as Head Sommelier and Wine Director of the Saxon Collection Wine Programme?
Other than the traditional sourcing and listing of all beverages, my role has morphed into consistently ensuring that The Saxon Hotel Villas & Spa is a gateway to the world of fine wine, a kind of academy for those who want to understand wine in all its manifestations.
When you dine out, what do you look for on a wine list of a restaurant?
I look for balance and suitability. Moreover, there should be a decent attempt to make every wine style available. A local pizzeria for example will carry a few bottles and the wine list will only be a few pages. A Michelin star restaurant on the other hand, will have an impressive variety and a list with noticeable collectable vintages and regions.
How did you come to know of De Toren’s wines?
It was in 2007 in Mpumalanga, I had a private tasting with the owner, Emil Den Dulk. At the time I was working at the Cybele Forest Lodge.
In your opinion, what are the 4 things that one should consider when selecting a South African wine?
Producer, region, varietal and vintage – in that order.
We are honoured to have our wines listed at The Saxon Hotel’s restaurants. Which De Toren wine is your favourite and what does it pair best with on your restaurant menu?
It has to be the 2004 De Toren Fusion V. It is quite remarkable how this wine has evolved – time has tamed the tannin structure and the acidity or freshness is still holding up. The dominantly earthy flavours work beautifully with the Steak Diane, a classic flambéed fillet steak served with a creamy mushroom sauce.
Any wise words to the young and aspiring sommeliers out there?
Wine should be a fun thing, don’t be intimidated by it. Study as much as you can, but don’t forget to taste.
A man on a mission and one with a clear vision… Lloyd, we wish you all the best with your future endeavours and may your career go from strength to strength.