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  • Writer's picturemommyincapetown

On cloud wine with Penelope Setti

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Penelope is the first lady I am featuring in my Women in Wine series.

Meet Penelope Setti

Born in Zambia, studied in Grahamstown and now based in Cape Town, Setti has completed her level 3 of the internationally-recognised Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) in Africa and is currently on her way to acquire the flagship WSET level 4 Diploma. Setti has been featured in She has been featured in several publications that include Taste Magazine, South Africa Winelands, and the Star Wine list. She was recently appointed as a wine judge for Platter’s by Diners Club South Africa Wine Guide.

Penelope . Photo by @clairegunnphoto

For my readers, could you give me a brief description of what a Sommelier does?

Well, a general definition of a sommelier is that of a trained and well informed professional specialising in all aspects of wine and this can include food pairing if they are working in a fine dining for example. For me, it’s helping to guide and elevate someone’s dining experience based on their existing preferences

What drew you to a career as a Sommelier?

As most of us do, I started off by working as a waitress and bartender to make ends meet while studying. When I moved to Cape Town in 2010, I worked at an upscale fine dining restaurant called Savoy cabbage. My daily exposure to fine wines in combination with fine dining helped me to develop a passion in wine. At that time, Wines of South Africa (WOSA), a non-for-profit industry organisation, run an initiative to introduce women into the wine industry. Under the wing Alex Dale, Founder & Managing Director of Radford Dale, I Participated in this initiative and officially started my wine WSET studies.

What do you like the most about your chosen career path as a Sommelier and General Manager of Chefs Warehouse?

Very simple coming into work and nothing ever being the same, because you come across people from all walks of life. You have the type that come in and are happy to order anything pink, or a Sauvignon to the type that want to know every single aspect of what they are eating and drinking. Simply amazing!

In a male dominated industry what has been your biggest challenge?

Having to work twice, three times as much to be taken seriously.

What advice do you have for young women who want to pursue a career as a Sommelier?

Be passionate. This type of job requires that. Smell things, flowers, spices, dirt, rocks... etc. It builds up a library in your head where your descriptions like forest floor or freshly licked hot stone come from.

What are the qualities to look for when purchasing a wine?

Wine is a personal thing. For me personally it’s the occasion that will drive me to buy certain wines. Not all expensive wines are good and not all cheaper wines are bad.

An after work drink for me is an easy going chenin or a lighter style red. I want something balanced and well made without having to think about it. If am going to a tasting with people in the industry we go for more funky obscure varieties to learn more and discuss.

Have you noticed any trends emerging in the wine industry that you would like to mention? (canned wine, recyclable packaging etc)

Canned wine has definitely blown up, it’s easier to package and easy to recycle.

Personally I prefer stylistic trends like the way Pinotage is starting to be appreciated as a grape varietal that comes from delicate parents namely Pinot Noir and Cinsault.

What is your favourite “everyday drinking wine”?

Radford Dale Vium Chenin Blanc, Natte Valleij Cinsualt

Do you have a favourite “celebratory” wine that you would buy for a special occasion?

Ohhhhhh lord that is a tough one. Every day is a special occasion. If I had to really pick Pieter Ferreira Blanc de Blanc fondly made by Mr Bubbles himself. Who is Mr Bubbles? Don’t assume everyone knows what you talking about.

South Africa has a rich wine heritage. Which wine pops to mind when we talk about a proudly South African wine?

When I think about South African heritage, Pinotage and Chenin Blanc come to mind as proudly South African grapes. Immediately I think of Ken Forrester wine and Beyerskloof Pinotage.

Find out more about Chefs Warehouse Canteen by visiting their website below:

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Join me every Wednesday as I feature a woman working in the wine industry. We talk about why they love wine and look at different career options in the wine industry

Do you know a wonderful women in wine that you would like to be featured?

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