We chat to Ntsiki Biyela, the owner of Aslina Wines and South Africa’s first black, female winemaker, about the art of winemaking.
By: Fundiswa Nkwanyana
1.To be an accomplished winemaker, you need to be passionate in order to produce great wines. You also need to be a good listener; you have to listen to the people who drink your wine.
2. The winemaking process entails a harvest and out-of-harvest season. The harvest season involves checking on the grapes, pressing and crushing them. The out-of-harvest season includes blending, bottling and labelling the wine. I enjoy the overall process because it feels like a festival during the harvest season. I get to play around with my artistry during the blending phase.
3. My wine range is named after my grandmother because I wanted to pay tribute to her. I wanted to show my gratitude for all that she has done for me. My wine is currently on sale in Germany, and will be available locally next year.
4. I have learnt that when a great opportunity presents itself, you have to take it and see where it leads you. When I was awarded a bursary to study winemaking, I did not have a passion for it. But, over the years, I have fallen in love with winemaking. I also learnt that where you come from does not determine your future. I grew up in a rural village in KwaZulu-Natal and at some point, worked as a domestic worker to make ends meet. Today, I am a respected winemaker because I worked hard despite the odds that were stacked against me.
5. My advice to aspirant winemakers is to research the industry they want to be a part of. Also, think of ways to make it better. Be aware of all the various internal and external factors.