What made these three women fall in love with winemaking?

White-winemaker, Elmarie Botes
White-winemaker, Elmarie Botes

Founded in 2006, a company called Women in Wine, is a black owned wine producing company that is owned and run entirely by women. 

More recently, in 2016, Ntsiki Biyela, South Africa's first black woman winemaker, started her own label called Aslina. And more women are following in their footsteps as the industry to turn grapes into one of the country's favourite things to drink becomes more inclusive.

Who are they?

We did a quick roundup of women like Ntsiki who are breaking new ground.

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Ntsiki Biyela

According to Mail & Guardian, Ntsiki made waves in 2004 after becoming the first black female winemaker in South Africa.  

Ntsiki initially thought of pursuing a course and career in chemical engineering, however this didn't work out. Her introduction to winery came, as Stafford Thomas reports, when she received an SA Airways scholarship to study oenology and viticulture at Stellenbosch University. It is here that her love for wine and the processes involved with making it came to be. 

“I started my wine brand as a way of giving back to my community through mentorship in the wine industry,” she told Mail & Guardian.

Ntsiki’s ambition to create her own wines grew following a collaboration with Californian winemaker, Helen Kiplinger. She is the proud owner of Aslina wines, and she was listed in the world's top 20 most Innovative Women in Food and Drink by Fortune’s Food & Wine for 2017. She was also voted Woman Winemaker of the Year in 2009 and she really has been going strong ever since.

READ MOREWhat it’s like to be a young black female commercial farmer in SA 

Elmarie Botes

31-year-old Elmarie Botes is the newest member of the Nederburg winemaking team. Responsible for its white wines, she is currently completing her first harvest for the famous Paarl winery. Elmarie fell in love with the idea of winemaking while on a cellar tour as a grade 11 learner. “My senses were instantly awakened and that was it. Then and there I decided to enrol for the BSc Viticulture and Oenology degree programme offered at Stellenbosch University,” she says. 

After completing a three-year internship with the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) as part of its Protégé Programme - during which she made 43 Bush Pinotage, the first wine she could call her own, and a highlight of her career thus far - she joined Fleur du Cap in Stellenbosch as assistant white-wine maker in 2013. She was appointed white-wine maker in 2016, and held the position until assuming the role of white-wine maker at Nederburg in late 2017.  

Elmarie admires the females in the wine industry who went before her to forge a path and place for other women winemakers in the country. “This has made it far easier for us, the next generation, to take up positions in the South African winemaking industry and make our mark.” 

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Natalie Stanley

Natalie is currently working in wine marketing for Steenberg Vineyards and her interest in wine peaked whilst studying law at Stellenbosch University and it was mostly as a result of increased exposure. What she enjoys most, she tells us, is the artistic interpretation, working with a natural product and creating something for everyone to enjoy.

Natalie admits that though it is a pleasurable career, it is as taxing as any other profession.

"There is no such thing as a 9 till 5, more like a 5 - 9," she says. "All of my experiences in the wine industry have been varied. There are very high highs and equally low low points. Wine making is an emotional roller-coaster especially during harvest time."

With regards to working in a male-dominated field, Natalie says "I think initially there was some resistance because of the large physical and practical implications of making wine, but once you are given the change to prove you are just as capable as a man would be then the perception changes."

READ MORE: Meet 5 of South Africa's successful black women in science - and they're under 35 

While winemaking may be a male-dominated field of work, we are proud to start seeing women represent and thrive in that space. Cheers to them!

Are you a woman winemaker? We'd love to hear from you so we can grow this list. Write to us here.

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