The South African wine industry, like the country itself, has lived through political turmoil and a fair amount of negativity with regards to its history. However, through radical transformation and a number of innovative projects, this perception is gradually changing as the industry is remade from within. By means of continued dialogue with all role players, authentic transformation and a commitment to grassroots development, the modern South African wine industry is taking its rightful place on the world wine tourism stage, to the benefit of all.
The wine industry boasts a large number of education and upliftment programs for the children of farm workers, especially in rural areas. There also numerous private initiatives developed and supported by the farms themselves, offering primary education, creches and after-school centers for at risk children of farm workers. Farms like Zevenwacht, Delheim, Kaapzicht, Simonsig and Villiera to name but a select few, have creches on site, offering much needed early education for youngsters. Many of the wine farms go beyond just providing a basic creche, but also create an opportunity for early education, after-school clubs and involvement in sporting events. Education and training of parents and adults is also a priority, with sustainability and personal development an important theme.
Delaire Graff’s FACET initiative
These projects and initiatives are fuelled by a genuine involvement in the local communities in which these farms are embedded, and a desire for positive social change and upliftment, to the future betterment of all. It really would be a pity not to mention all the good work that is being done in the winelands today, but one blog post would not be enough, so we encourage you to read more about the various projects here and here.
There has also been a growth in investment from black business, with a number of black-owned brands making waves in the national arena and producing exciting wines. Thandi was South Africa’s first agricultural BEE project and is owned by 147 farm worker families, who hold a 62% stake in the company. In 2003, Thandi also became the first wine brand in the world to receive Fairtrade accreditation, much to the pride of the wine industry as a whole.
The South African wine industry, as part of the government’s overall AgriBEE programme, has also developed a workable charter that aims to ensure more representative ownership structures within the industry in the foreseeable future. There are currently a number of black-owned wine brands, with the number growing, including well-known names such as Bosman Wines, Compagniesdrift and the royal Bayede! Please click through to this link for a more comprehensive list, and do make a point of visiting these exciting wine producers.
Many women are also breaking into the formerly male-dominated industry. Founded in 2006 by a group of 20 women, Women in Wine partners with existing cellars and bottling companies to produce its wine. The Women in Wine label produces six wines which is sold in the USA, China, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Denmark, and in South Africa at Makro stores.
A number of programs that have been developed to promote inclusion and allow the wine industry to be used as a platform to give previously disadvantaged youth the tools to show their personal potential. Ntsiki Biyela holds the distinction of being South Africa’s first black female winemaker and is a groundbreaker in her field. Biyela began her career in 2004 at the Stellenbosch vineyard of Stellekaya, where she is currently head winemaker. She recently started her own Aslina wine brand, and is set to make her mark on the national and international wine scene.
Carmen Stevens is South Africa’s first coloured female winemaker and has been the winemaker at Amani’s Stellenbosch vineyard since 2005. At Amani, Stevens makes a range of wines, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage, Cabernet Franc and a wine named I Am One, a Bordeaux/Shiraz blend. Stevens recently started her own wine brand, Angel’s Reserve, with the help of angel investors. Her wine can be purchased online at Naked Wines.
Although there are big campaigns and small personal projects encouraging transformation throughout the wine industry, we are especially excited by the education initiatives currently making such a difference in young lives. Launched in 2006, the Cape Winemaker’s Protégé Programme gives aspirant winemakers the rare opportunity of working side by side with members of the Guild, all masters of their craft, during a three-year internship. This hands-on experience allows them to enter the wine industry equipped with the tools to guarantee success.
The Pinotage Youth Development Academy believes that a unique combination of personal development, vocational skills and practical work experience lead to work-ready young professionals who are able to bring sustainable change to the industry. In light of this, they offer education to talented youth from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, facilitating employment in the wine sector and related industries, once the students have graduated.
The South African wine industry is an exciting place to explore at the moment. The diversity and beauty of its landscapes, wine routes and wines is rivalled only by the diversity and friendliness of its people. Reflecting the multicultural melting pot that is South Africa, the South African wine industry is ready to make a difference and make its mark on the world.