Explaining his love for wine is no simple matter for our Food and Beverage Manager, Robin Hyde. Robin is a man who’s passion becomes clear from the moment he speaks. Those who have attended our Thistle Thursday Winepairing Dinners will be familiar with the delight Robin takes in explaining the particular pairing, detailing the wine in exquisitely refined detail.
However, something that the average guest may not be aware of, is that Robin is the man who is responsible for curating our award-winning Thistle Restaurant’s wine list.
After leaving school and completing his military service, Robin’s dream was always to go to hotel school. However, as the fourth child in his family, this presented an enormous financial challenge. “A family friend suggested that I go to the South African Railways, so I applied and was successful so off I went to learn how to work on the trains,” Robin explains.
He began working as a Second Cook where he found himself completely in his element, where he was able to begin learning cookery.
“It was a lot of fun, but also incredibly hard work. I also began to notice that the people working in the dining cars were earning a lot more through tips, and so I started to move that way.”
He began working as a Steward in the dining cars where he began to absolutely flourish. Within just 2 years he became one of the youngest Chief Stewards ever when a highly sought after position on the Blue Train became available which he then successfully applied for. “I worked there for three years and I absolutely loved it. I learned so much from the chefs there and I was exposed to people from all over the world.”
Eventually, the constant travel became a bit tedious, and Robin desired to broaden his horizons. “I applied for a job at the Mount Nelson Hotel where I met Garth Stroebel who really ignited my passion for fine dining and the of the finer side of life, and my love of wine just grew from there.”
From there Robin spent the next 12 years at a hotel in Constantia, first as manager of one of the two on-site restaurants and then as Hotel Manager, overseeing both restaurants as well as the 15-room hotel.
“This was where I really got to know wines intimately. I was lucky enough to spend time in the vineyards and in the cellar with Andre Roussouw, who was our local Winemaker and Vineyard Manager. I got to learn about the whole process of winemaking and it was absolutely amazing.”
Impassioned by his newly extended knowledge, Robin started attending as many wine tastings as he was able to.
“Then Distell opened something called the Distell Sommelier’s Circle, which was a group of Restaurant Managers, Sommeliers, people who worked with wine, and every week we would go to different wine farms, tasting different wines, some very old wines. That was it, I was hooked on wine.”
“When we look for wines for The Thistle we look for some specific things; a compiled wine list has to have a broad range of wines across a broad range of price bracket, taste bracket, and then, of course, you have to have some really special wines for a special restaurant like The Thistle.”
At least once per year, Robin takes a guided tour of the Cape Winelands in search of special wines which are well-made and unique, and wines which will complement the food served in our restaurants.
One of his particular favourites was a visit to Diemersfontein Wine & Country Estate in 2019. “One of the highlights for me was tasting the Diemersfontein Sweet Sue, an absolutely amazing dessert wine, they also have some really great Pinotages, and of course an outstanding wine called the Malbec, which is just an incredible red varietal.”
Robin at Diemersfontein Wine & Country Estate
“I have a great love for sparkling wines such as Methode Cap Classique, I love Sauvignon Blancs as well. A well-made Chardonnay is also a thing of beauty, especially for food and wine pairing. Chardonnay really has a beautiful ability to stand up to a lot of flavours.”
“On the red side, I really do love blended red wines. You’re able to get the best characteristics of a well-made red wine.”
For passionate wine lovers, Robin dropped a promising hint of a sparkling occasion for Valentine’s Day 2021 with Simonsig Wine Estate. “It’s going to be a really amazing five-course dinner paired with some vintage Cap Classiques which are not readily available, it’s going to be really special.”