Accomplished wine specialist Pearl Oliver-Mbumba is well recognised for driving a true passion for wine in the hospitality industry. Having done her time in five-star establishments such as One&Only Cape Town and Taj Cape Town, amongst others, she has successfully executed award-winning wine lists for Diners Club International and Platter’s wine list awards. She also serves as a wine judge for Wineland magazine, Ultra Value Wine Challenge, and Shiraz SA, amongst others. Pearl is an honorary executive board member of the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA), and a previous chairperson of the Black Cellar Club (BLACC). Want to get to know Pearl a bit better? Read on…
1. What was the motivation for you to become a sommelier? Tell us how it all happened.
After my father passed away in 2002 and I could not realise my dream of studying medicine, I started working at Steenberg Wine Estate’s renowned Catherina’s restaurant, known today as Tryn. I worked here as a waiter and had my first experience with wine there. I had a glass of Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve. Ultimately, it was the soil of the Constantia Valley that adopted me and made me want to do or become something, someone in the wine industry. I had no idea where I was heading at the time.
2. What has been the biggest surprise about your career as a sommelier?
Realising each time how little I knew the last time! In all honesty, there were never any huge surprises, rather discoveries. I always knew I would work hard, and long hours. I knew that I was being introduced to a world that I was not accustomed to, so I was always excitedly waiting in anticipation of new experiences.
3. What gives you the most pleasure of working as a sommelier?
My most pleasurable moments have been defined by the happiness of the guest I would serve by helping them find the best wine to complement their dishes. But it’s the journey we normally go on during the savouring of that wine, that’s most satisfying.
4. Which five words best describe you?
Zealous, courageous, articulate, funny, discerning.
5. What are five things you can’t live without?
Would I be judged for saying wine? Well, it’s certainly one of the things I struggle to live without. Other than that, definitely my amazing family, my wine decanter (I decant 80% of the wine I drink), black hair colour (for those who don’t know, I have a head full of grey hair), and my vintage wine opener which I seldomly use but just love to own.
6. What is your favourite meal to make in 30 minutes, which Nederburg wine would you pair with it, and why?
In a mere 30 minutes, I would whip up a quick hot curry dish for two, and serve it with Nederburg’s Heritage Heroes The Beautiful Lady Gewürztraminer 2019. I adore this wine. The fragrant aromas of rose petals, litchi, and Turkish delight are just beautiful on the nose, allowing the spice from the curry to intertwine well. My favourite part of this pairing would be to see how my overuse of bird’s eye chili is tamed by the sweetness of this style of wine.
7. What is your most hysterical or ridiculous memory, or the most trouble you’ve ever gotten into?
In an exhausted state, I once drove my bottle opener through a steel bottle cap and ended up laughing so loud that the guest realised what I was doing and ended up laughing with me, inviting me for a glass of wine later.
8. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
To fully comprehend the human palate, the influence of seasons on it, and the knowledge of what drives the wealthy to spend on wine. I might have some ideas but to comprehensively understand these forces and how they work together would help me in forecasting integral wine sales opportunities. This means I would be part of the solution to save our beautiful wine industry.
9. What are your interests beyond wine? How do you spend your time relaxing?
Family... there is just so much do to at home too, these days during lockdown I am busy with cooking, cleaning, reading and researching the market for opportunities in the wine industry. Assisting my children with their schoolwork also takes its toll. My nine-year-old daughter is distance learning, and my three-year-old son seems to think he’s in the same grade as her!
Pearl’s selection of Nederburg Heritage Heroes wines for welcoming spring in September are:
Pearl’s definite first choice of wine that forms part of our Heritage Heroes collection. She says: “As an avid Chenin blanc lover, I just love the aromas of stone fruit on the nose. Drinking wine with my husband used to be such a challenge as he prefers less dry and I normally drink bigger and bolder wines. The Anchorman with its stunning ripe fruits and notes of white peach and apricot has proved to be the best way to create the perception of less dry, while the creamy texture on the palate renders this wine suitable to serve with a range of dishes. The fresh and long finish of the wine is also very impressive.”
Pearl mentions that she fell in love with this wine during her service at the Taj Hotel, pairing a butter chicken curry with this showstopper. “The wine and the dish have since become regulars in our home. While I have experimented with the altering the dish slightly to suit my own palate, I have yet to find a better match in terms of wine.”
Pearl prefers Rhône-style blends to be driven by Shiraz, but this wine that leads with Carignan has her marvelling at its feet. With layers of complexity, this wine shows off on almost every angle, she says. “Expect an array of flavours on the nose including rose petals, dates, sweet spice and tobacco leaf. The palate of this medium- to full-bodied red blend boasts with all-encompassing black cherry and ripe plum fruit. Silky tannins bring the wine to a smooth and lingering finish with well-integrated oak notes leaving a balanced impression.
Available until 30 October, our special spring online deal features two bottles of each of these stunning wines, at only R1 030 (15% discount). Click here to purchase your six-bottle case.