Josephine Gutentoft is new sommelier at Majeka HouseAugust 17th, 2012 by Susan Reynard | Categories: beverages, food, hotels, industry, people, restaurants, tourism, training
Josephine Gutentoft, an accomplished and experienced sommelier, has been appointed by Majeka House to oversee the front-of-house and wine service in its flagship restaurant, Makaron. Makaron is headed up by chef Tanja Kruger and features a sophisticated, fine-dining menu. Gutentoft brings her vivacious, service-orientated approach to the establishment, heading up the food and beverage team for the five-star, small luxury hotel in Stellenbosch. She is looking forward to collaborating closely with the chef to create opportunities for memorable food and wine pairings complemented by highly personalized service.
Gutentoft is originally from Sweden, where she completed a degree in culinary arts before embarking on a career as a sommelier. In the past 10 years her passion for wine has taken her from Sweden to France, Australia and South Africa, gaining experience along the way in top-end restaurants, hotels and wineries. Most recently, she worked at Grande Roche in Paarl.
At Majeka House, she is responsible for the day-to-day running of Makaron restaurant as well as M Bar, a cocktail bar with tapas food menu accompanied by a varied drinks menu, including local wines by the glass. She has already revamped the winelist, increasing and refining the current offering while working closely with wines of Stellenbosch origin.
“The winelist at Makaron has 150 wines of which 90% are South African. Of these wines, 75% are from Stellenbosch. Most of our guests really think that local is lekker, which is why we focus on Stellenbosch,” explains Gutentoft. “Most visitors to South Africa love our wine, and if they happen to be particularly choosy and haven’t yet discovered the quality and creativity of local wines, then it’s my job to select and serve an outstanding wine that they won’t forget – there is so much choice, it’s not difficult to make a good impression! When in doubt, Chenin Blanc is the most versatile food wine. Our local Chenin has fruit, body and complexity with high acidity that is not too sharp; it complements a wide variety of different foods.”
Ten years ago, a sommelier was practically unheard of in local restaurants unless one was dining in a five-star hotel. She adds: ‘South Africa is simply following the rest of the world. In Europe it’s considered strange if a decent restaurant doesn’t have a sommelier. As the local food and wine culture continues to improve, and as the wines become better and more expensive, having an experienced sommelier on the restaurant floor is almost essential. I love the interaction with guests and believe that being on the floor with my staff is my most important duty.”
Training and educating her front-of-house team is a priority in the busy run-up to the summer season. She notes: “Varietal tastings play an important part to assist my staff in understanding the difference in character between, say, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. They also need to know which foods pair successfully with a particular varietal or wine style, and here we are going to be working closely with the kitchen. Educational trips to farms for tastings and to give staff an understanding of how wine is made is an important part of the learning curve. A lot of people work hard to produce a bottle of wine and that is something that we, who serve the wine, must always respect and acknowledge.”
Commenting on the growing status of quality South African wines, Gutentoft says: “I think a great wine is made in the vineyard, but the viticulturist and winemaker play a big role in the quality of the wine when it comes to the decisions that they make. I believe in lower alcohol, less oak-aged wines and wines with a true sense of terroir.”