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Jean Vincent Ridon

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I started as a sommelier in my father's restaurant in the 80s until he gained his first Michelin star, then I started my own restaurant in the wineland of Sancerre, at Bué. It was called Le Caveau, and I ran it as a wine bar for almost two year. At the same time, I started my own wine brokerage company and was very active in the Loire Valley and Burgundy; combining the tasting ability of a sommelier and the capacity to understand the client’s needs made me a successful wine broker.

I haved worked at great restaurants, such as Les Templiers next to Montargis, or La Cremaillere in Orleans; a good sommelier must have a solid background on food, I did an apprenticeship with Joel Rebuchon, then the best Chef of the world. It taught me humility and the respect of simple delicate flavours, flavours that wine must enhance, not overpower!

As a broker I was working close to the winemakers, and through this, I turned my hand to winemaking, working mostly in France.

As a sommelier, I went to work in Belgium where I started to import wines from France as well as South Africa. This was my first encounter with SA wines and it made me decide to move to South Africa as a consultant winemaker and wine trader.

Once in SA, I founded Signal Hill, one of the first emerging owner-winemaker operations in the country which focussed on exploring South Africa’s new frontier - being the first to offer Petit Verdot, Grenache or Ice wine to the public.

Through all this, my sommelier passion was strong and I couldn’t hide from the fact that wine is my culture. It made me want to contribute further to the rebirth of the SA wine industry. In 1998 I founded the Classic Wine Trophy, inviting sommeliers from France to reward South African wines according to classic standards. This event saw famous sommeliers such as Philippe Faure Brac, Best Sommelier of the World, Franck Thomas, Best Sommelier of Europe, and Dominique Laporte Best, Sommelier of France coming to South Africa.

In 2013, I created the South African Wine Tasting Championships, and I became the coach of Team South Africa, which participated for the first time in the World Championship in France in 2013.

I created the Extreme Wine Pairing video series for wine.co.za and had a lot of fun with that. 

I still work at Aubergine restaurant, as an "on the floor" sommelier, from time to time alongside resident sommelier, Khuselo Mputa. It is very important to stay in contact with restaurant patrons as well as give lectures or master classes to young sommeliers.

I strongly believe that wine is made to be enjoyed with food. Wine is a base of our culture, but not a holy relic we only talk about, it must be drunk and shared.

Jean Vincent was the 1st runner-up in the inaugural competition for the Best Sommelier of South Africa in 2016. 

Frenchman Jean Vincent Ridon passed his ASI Diploma (April 2017) (Association de la Sommellerie International) in Salzburg in Austria, and is one of only 16 in the world to qualify with a Gold distinction! He is the first in Africa to achieve the ASI qualification.
Jean Vincent is delighted: “I am so proud to the first sommelier in Africa to receive this international qualification. It is now my duty to help prepare SASA candidates to achieve this Diploma, and transfer my skills to the young upcoming generation of South African sommeliers”

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Zevenwacht Wine Estate

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