I’d like to remind you about the crowdfunding initiative we started last week, an attempt to drum up the money necessary to send four enterprising Zimbabwean sommeliers who have risen to the top of the tree on the Cape food and wine scene to the World Wine Tasting Championships in Burgundy in October. You can read more about their background in Erica Platter’s Zim’s Supersomms and more about the latest development in Tam’s impassioned plea in Zimsomms take on the world, with your help.
Team captain Tongai Joseph Dhafana (whose emails are signed off with the phrase ‘In water you see your own reflection, in wine you see the heart of another’) has been filling us in with a bit more information.
As was abundantly clear from Erica’s article last year about these four talented Zimbos, they have really had to work their socks off to get where they are. Arriving as economic migrants, they all started in extremely lowly circumstances, but have shown an extraordinary and entirely unexpected (by anyone who knows Zimbabwe) aptitude for wine.
According to Joseph, they have known each other less than five years but, he says, ‘we became best buddies. I taught/lectured Pardon, one of the team members, about wine from scratch when I was his manager in Swartland in 2013. It has been always my goal to groom young people and to encourage them as they are the future!’
It was his experience as a member of the South African tasting team in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 2015 that inspired him to try to enter a Zimbabwean team. His team coach, Cape somm Jean-Vincent Ridon, had been so impressed by Joseph’s waving of the Zim flag then that he helped with the Zimbabwean application. Just two weeks ago news came through via ‘JV’ that it had been successful.
Their first proper practice as a solid team was as recently as a week ago and they have agreed to train every second Sunday of the month initially. According to Joseph, ‘we are currently using wines from our personal collection to make things happen’ but I should imagine they would very much appreciate any wine that could be donated. It will surely be difficult for them to acquire a full range of the wines of the world in South Africa – although perhaps the competition, sponsored by La Revue du Vin de France, focuses on French wines?
Joseph admits they lack exposure to ‘international wines, but we are very confident about Rioja, Alsatian and German Riesling, Jura wines and other few regions. We all have weaknesses and strengths. I am good with south of France and Spain. Pardon is great with Riesling as he works for a German boss. Marlvin is good with old wines both red and white while Tinashe N is best with Jura wines. You can’t touch these guys. Our main weaknesses are mainly Chilean, Argentine, Australian, Italian wines and a few other countries.’ Can someone help them out?
According to Joseph, ‘I learnt hugely when I went to the championships in 2015. I had a picnic at Romanée-Conti and learnt about French culture. I plucked a leaf on how they make wine with different techniques from region to region. They respect the vines, and look after them as the wine is made in the vineyard. I pledge to give my extra effort as the team founder and first-ever captain. I will use the experience I acquired in 2015 to help us do better with team Zimbabwe.
'Everything we are doing is not about us but about the nation and Africa as a continent. I would like to see people being united by wine and this is going to happen. I would be super excited if we could have a handful of African teams participating in this competition by 2025. Jean Vincent Ridon, you're a legend, my brother. I will take you to Zimbabwe one day so that everyone will see and appreciate you.’
Provided they can get the money together for their flights and accommodation (and their employers say they will help), they intend to visit other French winemaking regions and hope to stay in France up to two weeks. Will anyone out there host them?
Tam asked Joseph whether he thought they could beat the South African team. Here’s how he answered: ‘Well, beating SA …sigh. Remember in a competition, anything can happen. I think we are very privileged as a team to represent our nation, Africa and of course SA since we all stay here in SA and our families are being fed from this wonderful country. So if we come to score better than them we will be happy and if they do the same we will still celebrate with them. They are part of us and we are part of them. We are a family together.
‘Go team Zimbabwe go. Tikaramba takashinga huye nokubatana tinokunda (Shona) meaning if we remain resolute and work together, we will be successful.’
You can make a contribution, large or small, here.
And we can put you in touch with Joseph and his team via our Contact form.