One of South Africa’s most exciting sommeliers, Taryn Nortjé, from the esteemed Pretoria-based, Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient Hotel, chats to us about all things wine. Well recognized as one of South Africa’s top sommeliers today, Taryn shares her journey into the world of wine with us.
Taryn, being in the industry for a few years now, we would firstly like to congratulate you on building such an extraordinary reputation for yourself. What does it feel like being regarded as one of SA’s most exciting, and highly respected Sommeliers?
I truly feel honoured and humbled by this remark. However, I have yet so much to learn still.
When did you really become passionate about wine?
I recall the first time the wine bug bit me, it was whilst waitressing in the Hemel & Aarde Valley, near Hermanus. I quickly realised my passion for wine and thereafter decided to pursue a career with this newly discovered desire of mine.
Tell us a bit more on what you have studied, wine wise?
I am currently a student at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and I am also in the process of completing my Diploma at the Cape Wine Academy.
What was the biggest challenges you faced when you first started your journey as a Sommelier?
The biggest hurdle I faced starting my journey as a Sommelier, was getting people to take me seriously. The majority of people I get into contact with about wine have been drinking wine for longer than I’ve been alive! That’s why it’s so important to completely immerse yourself in your studies and taste as much as you can. I firmly believe trust in your abilities and have confidence in yourself.
Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient Hotel, is the first restaurant from SA (and the African continent) to be awarded the 2018 Grand Award by US publication, Wine Spectator for your incredible wine list. Out of more than 3 500 global restaurants that have earned Wine Spectator awards for their wine lists, your restaurant is one of 85 restaurants from across the globe that holds this honour. Regarded as one of the country’s premier dining experiences, tell us a bit more about your responsibility & role as Sommelier at this highly esteemed brand?
Our team mainly consists of three sommeliers. It’s our job to make sure that our guests receive top notch wine service and to find those exemplary wines, creating an unforgettable experience. In doing so, we delve rather deep into our cellars to select the perfect wine for each of our wine pairing menus. Furthermore, we have a lot of fun, after all, wine should be fun.
When you dine out, what do you look for on a wine list of a restaurant and what do you believe makes for a fine wine?
I definitely always look for a great wine by the glass selection.
A fine wine in my opinion is a well-crafted wine, but with character – something that tells me “hey, this is what I am”.
How did you come to know of De Toren’s wines?
The first time I came to know of De Toren’s wine was during my first, big break as a Sommelier at the Saxon Hotel in Sandhurst, Johannesburg. I recall how my guests at the time admired the bespoke Book XVII and The Black Lion’s suave cage that encases it.
We are honoured to have our wines listed at Restaurant Mosaic. Which De Toren wine is your favourite & what on your menu does it pair perfectly well with?
De Toren Délicate, a medium-bodied red blend, is the perfect accompaniment to Chef Chantel’s cherry blossom dish, of which duck, cherries and star anise are the main ingredients. The softened velvety tannins and red juicy fruit notes, works really well with this gamey meat and cherry star anise sauce.
Any wise words to promising sommeliers and aficionados?
Study! Study! Study! Keep trying out new wines and cultivars. Travel to the wine estates, talk to the people who grows the grapes and makes the wine.
It seems your career is going from strength to strength, so where to next for you as esteemed SA sommelier?
I am loving every minute of my journey here at Restaurant Mosaic, it is truly a sommelier’s dream job! Under the wing of our Cellar Master & Chef Chantel, I can’t imagine being anywhere else in the world.
Taryn, thank you for chatting to us and we wish you all the best with your future endeavours!