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The finalists of The International Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2018

Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2018

Ancient and modern Chinese architecture

Beijing, a wine destination

The exponential rise of viniculture in China has been underscored by the choice of Beijing as the venue for The Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2018.

Winemaking in China stretches back millennia, the country is currently one of the top five markets and most tellingly, Hong Kong has long since overtaken New York and London as the largest market for fine wines. China could be said to represent the past, present and future of viniculture.

The announcement of the winner at the Gala Dinner

A space for change

The Sommelier final was held during a Gala Dinner at Beijing’s Red Brick Art Museum. Guests enjoyed a six course menu created by the esteemed Michelin starred chef, André Chiang.

The Red Brick Art Museum is a venue that subtly exemplifies monumental transition. Traditional shapes and materials are dynamically manipulated and reinterpreted for a futuristic, yet involving, aesthetic. Created by Architect Dong Yugen, the museum is widely regarded in China as a piece of art in itself.

The grand final

Following a series of national heats, six sommeliers progressed to the final in Beijing. Competitors from France, the Greater Region of China, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, joined Gaggenau in Beijing to vie for the opportunity to be named winner of The International Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2018.

These final six candidates endured a series of tasks and tests agreed upon by our illustrious judging panel: Annemarie Foidl, the President of the Austrian Sommelier Association and judge of ‘Best Sommelier in the World’ for the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI); Sarah Abbott, Master of Wine, internationally recognised wine consultant, judge, writer, and speaker; Mr Yang Lu, the world’s first and only Chinese Master Sommelier, Corporate Director of Wine for Shangri-La Group, and founder of Grapea & Co Institute and last but not least; Sven Schnee, Head of Global Brand Gaggenau.

Kai Wen Lu, in Shanghai having won the Region Greater China contest

Kai Wen Lu, in Shanghai having won the Region Greater China contest

Mikael Grou, winner of the French heat

Mikael Grou, winner of the French heat

Emma Ziemann of Sweden, the first of the national winners

Emma Ziemann of Sweden, the first of the national winners

The Swiss champion, Davide Dellago

The Swiss champion, Davide Dellago

Winner of the competition in London, Zareh Mesrobyan

Winner of the competition in London, Zareh Mesrobyan

Joakim Blackadder, victorious in Cape Town

Joakim Blackadder, victorious in Cape Town

The judges: Yang Lu, Annemarie Foidl, Sarah Abbott and Sven Schnee

The judges: Yang Lu, Annemarie Foidl, Sarah Abbott and Sven Schnee

View of the the Forbidden City

View of the the Forbidden City

Chef André Chiang

Chef André Chiang

Gaggenau South Africa Sommelier Awards winner, Joakim Hansi Blackadder is ready to take on Beijing

The winner of the South African leg of the Gaggenau International Sommelier Awards 2018, Joakim Hansi Blackadder, is a Swedish-born sommelier who has found a home here in South Africa.

Joakim will join talented sommeliers from Switzerland, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sweden, France and the UK, who will all demonstrate their expertise in front of renowned viticulturists and the international media in Beijing in October.

The International contest will give Joakim the opportunity to take his career to the next level. “There is no doubt that competitions like this give you a little bit more confidence in what you do and being assisted and encouraged by your peers and judges from within the allied industries is fantastic,” he says.

Joakim, who was born and raised in Sweden, completed his studies in his home country where he studied to become a sommelier at Restaurangakademien in Stockholm. He worked at a number of Michelin-star restaurants in Sweden before moving to South African in 2008 where he has been making a name for himself on the local sommelier scene ever since.

In 2011, while working at The Roundhouse in Camps Bay, Joakim won the first Bollinger Wine Service Award and later in the year the Service Excellence Award from the Eat Out Magazine, an accolade he was to go on and win for three consecutive years.

After his stint at The Roundhouse Joakim moved on to the beautiful Rust en Vrede wine estate as sommelier and while there he was awarded the inaugural Wine Service Award from the Eat Out Magazine along with the award for the Best Wine List in Africa and the Middle East by The World of Fine Wine Magazine. “I also completed my WSET Diploma while at Rust en Vrede and was appointed to the board of the South African Sommelier Association, and inducted as Chevalier of the Ordre des Coteaux du Champagne, in 2013,” he says.

Keen to experience as much of his chosen industry as possible Joakim left Rust en Vrede to move into the import and distribution side of the wine world, managing sourcing and supply chain for Vinovation, before venturing back into hospitality a year later to join forces with a group of friends and start their company Somm Hospitality Enterprises. “My main client is the Hoghouse Brewing Company, where I manage the beverage programme for their restaurants,” he explains.

With such a wide range of experience and so many accolades under his belt Joakim is well positioned to take on the contest in Beijing with confidence.

Sven Schnee commented:

“We are proud of our contestants and their achievements so far and we are especially delighted to have been given the opportunity to showcase these great talents here in China – a country which lays claim to an opulent history in the art of wine making.”

And the winner is…

Mikaël Grou of France won The International Gaggenau Sommelier Awards 2018 in Beijing. In a thrilling final at the imposing Red Brick Museum, Mikaël fought off challenges from the five other national champions.

While the Judges were treated to six exceptional performances, Mikaël’s was simply flawless. Emma Ziemann of Sweden came second and won the coveted People’s Choice Award, as voted for by the audience of influencers and industry luminaries, while Davide Dellago won bronze.