InterView – George Young

To many of you, George Young is no stranger in The Tasting Room. He has very recently been promoted to our new Head Sommelier and this past month he was awarded an incredibly prestigious accolade in that he was selected as one of WineLand Media’s 30 Under 30 movers and shakers in the South African wine industry.


George has had quite the remarkable journey up until now, from being unfamiliar with wine to attaining such an esteemed award. In discussion with George, he reflected on his initial lack of knowledge about wine admitting that he had been an exclusively Brandy and Coke drinker most of his life in the Bush. However, once he got exposed to the world of wine, his interest was ignited, and he found it difficult not to pursue it further. He credited Oldenburg Vineyards for being the first estate to recognize his potential and support his ambitions, which allowed his passion for wine to continue growing.


When asked about the moment his interest in wine grew, George recalled a visit to a farm where he went for a tasting without many expectations, but the person conducting the tasting explained the intricacies and effort that goes into creating wine. This realisation, that wine is more than just grapes grown on vines, deeply resonated with George and intensified his fascination with the world of wine.


George remembers getting bitten by the wine bug, whereafter he took small steps to learn more. He conducted Google searches, watched YouTube videos, particularly blind tastings, which helped him develop an understanding of wine language. Eventually, he discovered Wine Folly and the various courses available, such as WSET (Wines and Spirits Education Trust) and Sommelier-ing. He knew making wine a part of his lifestyle required acquiring qualifications and therefore chose to start with WSET Level 2 and, eager to continue his learning journey, immediately proceeded to Level 3 after receiving his results. He also enrolled in the Diploma program at the Cape Wine Academy. Looking ahead, George intends to pursue the Cape Wine Master qualification when he successfully completes his current course.


However, even after his qualifications, George could not find any meaningful work in wine as he opted for a career change from rugby and personal training to the world of wine in the height of COVID. He was determined, however, to make it happen and eventually found himself pruning vineyards in Stellenbosch to get his foot in the door. Reflecting on his personal career change George emphasized the significance of taking a leap of faith, even during challenging times, and building a foundational understanding of wine through theoretical knowledge.


Now, George not only manages The Tasting Room team but also strives to ensure exceptional service and cultivate a culture of knowledge, passion, and professionalism among his fellow Sommelier team. He believes in the value of continuous learning and encourages his team members to pursue qualifications and courses to enhance their expertise.


George’s commitment to the wine goes beyond traditional methods of training. He encourages blind tastings, recognising their value in honing the team’s skills and promoting a deeper understanding of wines. Additionally, he engages the team in quick quiz questions between tables, not only to test their knowledge but also to keep himself up to date.


George’s achievements extend beyond the confines of his role as Head Sommelier or being recognised as one of the 30 Under 30. Placing second at the Best Young Sommelier South Africa competition highlights his exceptional skills and confidence, both in theoretical knowledge and in providing a top-notch experience to guests. He attributes his success to his ability to approach competition tasks with the same mindset as serving guests at The Tasting Room – to always ensure an exceptional experience for his guests, no matter the circumstance.


He believes in creating an environment that welcomes everyone, regardless of their background or level of knowledge. To make wine more approachable, he simplifies the concept, emphasising that at its core, wine is just grape juice. This perspective fosters a sense of fun and encourages newcomers to embark on their wine journey with enthusiasm.


George’s journey from a novice in the wine world to where he is now, is a testament to his passion, dedication, and continuous pursuit of knowledge. His story serves as an inspiration to aspiring Sommeliers and demonstrates the possibilities that can be achieved with determination and a genuine passion for wine. We are incredibly proud of him and would like to congratulate George for his achievement as one of WineLand Media’s 30 Under 30, and we look forward to watching him grow into his new role.

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