Interview: Ralph Reynolds – Bar Manager, Karibu Restaurant

By , 17 July 2015

Ralph Reynolds.

Ralph Reynolds.

How did you become interested in wine?
I began working in a restaurant with an owner who was always keen to share his wine knowledge and in turn I would share my knowledge with others. As their questions grew in complexity so I started reading and tasting more as I always wanted to be able to give a correct answer.

Where did you study to become a sommelier?
Cape Wine Academy. Although I am pausing for now, it will never end.

What do you love most about your job?
Being able to enlighten random strangers of the endless wonders of South African wines.

Which wine do you think is most versatile with food?
With South African food… Chenin Blanc. For everywhere else… Chardonnay. Well, almost.

What is your favourite food and wine combination?
Three parts wine, four parts friends, three parts food, one part cheese. Allow to simmer for 4 hours.

How many wines do you taste on average per day?
Trick question? I don’t keep track, but I do spit a lot.

Do wine ratings and scores matter?
To me? Not as much as it used to. For the people who don’t know much about a region or a wine style, it really does help to give people an indication of what to expect.

What’s the most rewarding part about interacting with customers?
That look in the guests’ eye of joy, excitement, satisfaction once they realise what they are experiencing. Be it the wine, the food or both that I have recommended to match their tastes.

And most frustrating?
When a guest thinks I am only going to suggest the most expensive wines.

Relate your most embarrassing moment on the floor.
Selling a Pinot Noir to a guest hosting a small business dinner, who turned out to be the winemaker.

Which variety or style of wine do you think is most underrated?
Chenin Blanc. Its versatility alone should be enough to get people to drink it more often.

How important is the glass you drink from?
The glass I drink from? Not really that important: I will drink from a teacup if need be. The glass I taste from? Insanely important.

If you are not drinking wine, what are you drinking?
Sometimes a beer, sometimes a brandy, sometimes a single malt, sometimes a bourbon. Hell, sometimes even a gin. I’m also game for the odd cocktail at the Orphanage.

Who do you especially admire within the wine industry?
All of those who follow their passion. Be it the garagiste, the family-owned farm with the fifth generation winemaker, or the doctor in the middle of nowhere sourcing grapes from miles away to make one barrel.

How do we get more South Africans to drink wine?
To get South Africans to view wine as a condiment to every meal and not just for celebrations.

Any interest in owning your own vineyard and winery one day?
My own vineyard? No. My own winery? No. My own wine? Maybe…

What has been your best wine experience/fondest wine memory?
Standing in the cellar of Champagne Diebolt-Vallois in the heart of the Côte des Blancs, tasting the stars, at nine it the morning.

Ralph Reynolds is bar manager at Karibu Restaurant in the V&A Waterfront Cape Town and a member of the South African Sommeliers Association (SASA).


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