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Taj Cape Town head sommelier serving wine with ardor

Taj Cape Town recently received a Lilizela Tourism Award for 'Best in South Africa: Accommodation and Service Excellence'. Says Sanjay Sood, general manager of Taj Cape Town, "our reputation for offering international and local visitors an authentic experience coupled with warm and dedicated service, stems from our team of exceptional staff and passion for excellence." The hotel's head sommelier, Pearl Oliver, fits this description perfectly and we spoke to Oliver to find out more about being at the helm of this five-star hotel's wine offering.

Pearl Oliver
Pearl Oliver

BizcommunityThey say you are recognised for your driving passion for wine in the hospitality industry. Where did this passion come from?

Pearl Oliver: I am generally a passionate person - I take every task I get and confront it with a serious attitude and always try to give my best. I am most passionate about ensuring that those on the receiving end can feel the warmth and care when they are served and this is honestly where it all comes from. Being able to work with amazing produce from the lands of those who had toiled in it before us and being an ambassador in so many ways is a duty which calls for such ardor.

BizcommunityHow did you become head sommelier at Taj Cape Town – tell us about your wine journey

Oliver: I discovered my love of wine early on and enrolled in the Cape Wine Academy in 2008. I won the Best Wine Steward of the Year Award from the Diners Club wine list challenge in 2009. I accrued a wealth of experience from some of Cape Town’s top hotels and apply this to my role at the Taj Cape Town.

I've served on exclusive wine panels such as the SA Top 12 Shiraz, the Ultra liquor Best Value, Amorim Methode Cap Classique 2015 and judged for the Winelands magazine and Garagiste wine. I joined the RECM wine tasting panel with Neil Pendock appearing on season 3 of Master Chef SA as a Sommelier judge. Most recently, I was selected as one of the top 15 finalists of the South African Wine Tasting Championship.

It has been quite a journey, but what I can say is that I worked hard to get to where I am today and I have not done half of what I need to do yet, to get to where I am heading.

BizcommunityWhat does the day-to-day of Taj CT’s head sommelier look like?

Oliver: Diverse. What I like about being sommelier at Taj is that it’s not like other hotels. Here we all push hard and we push each other even harder. We thrive on the success of one another and work towards a common goal of exceeding guests' expectation. I have a medley of things I do, from serving wine to channeling business. Counting stock, training staff, tasting wine. No day is like the other as some days you do get involve in things which are not Food or Beverage related, but these are the days that we learn and grow.

Taj Cape Town
Taj Cape Town

BizcommunityWhat is your favourite thing about being the head sommelier at Taj Cape Town?

Oliver: Lamb Shank at Bombay Brasserie! The scope of wine opportunity that there is - the cuisine is absolutely intriguing and encourages creative and out of the box pairings.

BizcommunityWhat has been your top achievements in the industry, the highlight of your career?

Oliver: I have always been proud of being named wine steward of the year with Diners Club 2009, however, going to the UCT, Executive School of Business and doing my postgraduate diploma in wine business management practice helped me understand the value of the trade and also our growth as a wine country. I also feel like my best achievement is yet to come!

BizcommunityTaj Cape Town recently received the Lilizela Tourism Award for ‘Best in South Africa: Accommodation and Service Excellence’. What role did you, and Taj CT’s wine offering, play in this achievement?

Oliver: I would like to believe that as a Food and Beverage team we collectively contributed to this award, we constantly strive for excellence in our department and improving our beverage offering.

BizcommunityIf you had to choose just one bottle of wine that you had to drink for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oliver: I love Champagne. A good gracious Blanc De Blanc or Vintage Blanc De Blanc often gets me all tingled up, however, my response is based on my mood and my mood today has decided that I should drink Gamay – Pinot Noir from Louis Jadot 2014 Coteaux Bourguignons.

For my choice of SA wines, I would drink Touch Warwick Cabernet Sauvignon, because I can see it bring me through any winter, happily.

About Cari Van Wyk

Cari Coetzee is a contributor to Bizcommunity Tourism, Agriculture and Lifestyle.
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