Carrie’s Corner: Wikus Human, the unassuming, reserved – and very talented sommelier

Joining Carrie Adams in her naughty corner this week is Wikus Human, a young sommelier who our wine queen describes as “very talented and making a huge name for himself through sheer hard work and a long love affair with wine”. Wikus joins Carrie to discuss all things wine. – Jarryd Neves

Wikus Human on his passion for wine:

“I was working at the Forum Homini & roots restaurant. Someone asked me at the time, ‘Do you want to sit in a wine tasting?’ They were doing a food and wine event. I sat in the room and Stephan Schoeman was there. We just tasted wine and the chef started talking about food. The sommelier started talking about wine pairing with food. It just basically clicked from there.

Once the sommelier had left, they asked if I want to be a generalist or specialist? I said, I’m more of a person that likes to focus on one thing and be linear in what I do. I decided to take on the role of being a specialist. Wine was in front of me at the table at the time and that’s basically how it happened. I grabbed onto a bottle of wine and never stopped reading and learning about wines from there.”

On the Master Sommelier exams:

“I did an introductory in London about three years ago. Then two years ago, I did my certified examination in London – which I passed as well. Unfortunately, Covid happened, but the plan was to try and attempt the advanced course of the Court of Masters. There is no advanced course being presented in South Africa. It’s only in Europe at the moment. Hopefully next year – or towards the end of this year – there might be a chance to have a go at the advanced course, which is quite intense.”

On the training he provides to ensure a first-rate experience:

“I adapt the Court of Master’s standards in service when it comes to wine service on the floor. It’s important for me – as being a head sommelier for both restaurants – to make sure that any beverage service of my sommeliers – and even the waiters –  are basically on the same level. Everyone needs to be able to do proper drinks or beverage service. I try and put them through their paces when it comes to decanting wine, serving wine at the right temperatures and selecting the right glassware for certain wines – just small things.

Most of the stuff is competition orientated, like how we all walk clockwise around a table and the way we present ourselves at the table. It’s these very small kind of minor details – something as simple as wiping the bottle every time you’ve poured a glass of wine. There are many aspects that go into service, which I think many people or customers don’t realise once the bottle gets opened at the table.”

On selecting wine for the wine list at Saint and Marble:

“We do a lot of tastings. We get representatives from different farms to come sit with us. If we’re looking for something specific, we usually just put the word out there that we’re looking for some sauvignons or whatever it may be. Then I try and taste with a team. It’s very important to make sure that the team that’s going to be listing the wine – that’s going to be on the floor – have tasted the wine.

That’s the most important thing for me as well. It’s pointless having something on the list and these younger guys haven’t tasted the wine. They haven’t got a feeling for what the wine is. I tell my younger sommeliers, I can teach you how to do service and what a chardonnay tastes like. But the most important thing is self-study. You’ve got to look at the wines that you have on the list and you’ve got to go and read something interesting about the farm – who’s the winemaker and how long has the wine spent in oak?

There’s a lot of self-study that goes into being a young sommelier on the floor. I can pass on all the qualities in my competition, things that I’ve had and what I’ve been asked in the competition and what I’ve been asked in the Court of Masters. I can pass all of that on. But the most important thing for them on the floor is to go and self-study. I see that a lot, with all six members of my team – how they sit in their breaks and teach themselves.”

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