A glass of rosé nearly 12 years ago changed the life of Restaurant Mosaic’s Moses Magwaza, who this week took the coveted Wine Service Award at the 2017 Eat Out Awards, beating out strong competition from sommeliers at South Africa’s top restaurants.
Thirty-six-year-old Magwaza – who was born in Kwa-Zulu Natal – started off 11 years ago as a gardener at the acclaimed restaurant which this week was voted the second best in the country and follows on its culinary prodigy Chantel Dartnall being named the world’s Best Female Chef at The Best Chef Awards 2017 in Warsaw.
Magwaza progressed to becoming a porter in the Orient Hotel where Mosaic is situated then a waiter in the restaurant.
“I don’t remember all the details about my first glass of wine except that it was a rosé and that it captured my imagination. I didn’t realise then that it would change the course of my life,” he says.
Encouraged by the close-knit restaurant team, Magwaza was introduced to the wonderful world of wine. He completed his Certificate Course at the Cape Wine Academy as well as his South African Brandy Course and began undertaking tours of the South African winelands.
Mosaic’s owners took him to France last year to expand his knowledge and his palate with another trip planned next year. He is currently completing his Level 3 at The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), a British organisation which is regarded as one of the world’s leading providers of wine education.
He has also been mentored by renowned French sommelier Germain Lehodey who has been at the restaurant since 2013 and retires from service on the restaurant floor at the end of December.
“Moses has an excellent palate and thoroughly deserves this recognition,” says a delighted Lehodey. “I believe that he is the South African sommelier with the widest knowledge of international wines and that makes him stand out. At Mosaic, we work closely with Chantel when she devises her seasonal menus and so Moses has a great understanding of ingredients and food and wine pairings.”
It is a view echoed by Dartnall: “I firmly believe that success comes with hard work but you also have to be passionate about what you do. Moses is passionate about wine and it’s as simple as that. It has been an absolute pleasure watching his journey.”
Says Magwaza: “I am delighted with the win. It is all important at Restaurant Mosaic that the wine enhances the food and vice versa.”
So what are some of the tips he can give wine lovers when it comes to food and wine pairing: “You must take the food first and work out its profile – is it sweet, acidic or salty?
Then find a wine that balances the food. For example, curries don’t go with dry wines, you have to look for something sweeter. Don’t be varietal specific when it comes to wine. You need to explore. People often say that they don’t like chardonnays but perhaps they just have not tasted the right one.”
Restaurant Mosaic has one of the most comprehensive wine cellars in South Africa, comprising more than 75 000 bottles of wine under 5 500 different local and international labels. The selection of brandies, including an extensive range of Armagnac and Calvados, are unmatched anywhere else in South Africa.