Meet South Africa’s First Black Female Winemaker


On a sunny afternoon in South Africa’s wine country, Ntsiki Biyela smiled as she remembered arriving here in the famed Stellenbosch region just east of Cape Town and seeing the strange “small trees” that lined the landscape.

“I never saw such short trees,” she told NBC News. “I asked what they were and they said, ‘grapes.’”

That was the first time Biyela had ever seen a vineyard — and her first step toward becoming a winemaker, the first black woman in South Africa ever to do so.

Ntsiki Biyela, first black female South African winemaker. Photo: Wines of South Africa/Youtube

From NBC News. Story by Edward Deitch.

It was 1999. Apartheid, the oppressive system of racial segregation that had governed life in South Africa for more than half a century, had ended only five years before. Nelson Mandela was the first post-apartheid president. And Ntsiki Biyela had recently finished high school in her rural village in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal.
She was earning money as a domestic worker when an opportunity came her way. She was told about an effort to bring more people of color into the wine industry through an initiative with Stellenbosch University, known throughout the world for its winemaking program.
Biyela applied. Not only was she accepted, she won a four-year scholarship. “Luckily,” she says, “the scholarship paid for everything because I grew up with my grandmother and she couldn’t afford all these things.” Biyela was one of four or five black students — in a class of 60.
Like most blacks at the time, she had no familiarity with wine. In her village they drank home-brewed beer and liquor. And if blacks and so-called “coloreds” — people of mixed race — had any involvement with the wine industry, it was as unskilled laborers (as it largely still is today).
Her first taste of wine “was the most horrible thing I had ever tasted,” she says, wincing. But that would change.
After finishing her studies and earning a degree in viticulture and oenology, Biyela was hired in 2003 as a junior winemaker by Stellekaya, a small, family-owned winery in Stellenbosch. Within a couple of years, she was put in charge of winemaking.
In her dozen years at Stellekaya, the wines, mainly Bordeaux and Mediterranean red varietals and blends, won prestigious awards and gained a following in South Africa and beyond. Biyela was named South Africa’s Woman Winemaker of the Year in 2009.
She recently left Stellekaya to develop her own label, Aslina, named after her grandmother. The wines, including a Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon, will be exported to the U.S. later this spring.
Today, Biyela is one of probably a couple of dozen black winemakers in a national industry — currently the world’s seventh-largest in production — that employs 290,000 people and has more than 550 wineries. Wines of South Africa, a trade group, says there are 37 black-owned wine brands.
Various “empowerment” and “transformation” initiatives in wine aim to increase ownership and employment in leadership roles among people of color. But many in the industry — black and white — admit the process has been slow. While winemaking in South Africa goes back to the late 17th century, the modern industry, now freed (officially, at least) of the burdens of the past, is still just over two decades old, having begun with the end of apartheid.
“It’s not going as fast as it should,” said Biyela of progress in an industry where ownership and leadership are still overwhelmingly white. “That’s my perception.” As she elaborated, she remained diplomatic, telling NBC News, “The wine industry is family owned, businesses are family owned. So when you talk about transformation and want to bring somebody in, it’s like, ‘I’m trying to protect my space.’ Hence, the transformation is going very slowly.”
“Step by step it is working, but it’s going to take a while,” she added.
For Biyela, at least, skill, drive, and luck have brought her national and international recognition. They have made her a role model and a leading symbol of change in her country’s evolving wine industry and beyond. And now, with her own label, Ntsiki Biyela begins the next chapter in her South African dream.


  1. I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one today..

  2. My spouse and I unquestionably enjoy your website and find nearly all of your blog posts to be just what I’m interested in. Do you offer guest writers to create information for you? I wouldn’t mind publishing a story relating to router options or perhaps on a number of the things you write about here. Nice place!

  3. It was actually great to read this and I think you are completely correct. Inform me if you are considering garageband download windows, this is my main competence. Hope to check back with you in the near future, be careful!

  4. You have some really good posts and I believe I would be a good asset. I’d really like to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an email if interested. Regards!

  5. Howdy, you’re absolutely correct. I frequently go through your site content carefully. I am furthermore fascinated with coloured upvc window frames, perhaps you could discuss that occasionally. Have a great day.

  6. By having a lot content do you have any issues of copyright violation? My blog has a lot of completely unique content I’ve authored myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any ways to help protect against content from being stolen? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  7. Hi, you are definitely right. I constantly read your site content closely. I am furthermore thinking about commercial real estate, maybe you could discuss that at times. I will be back.

  8. Good day I’m really grateful I found your webpage, I actually encountered you by mistake, while I was looking on Aol for how to buy twitter followers. Nonetheless I’m here right now and would really love to say thank you for a incredible blog post and the all around entertaining website (I also love the design), I do not have time to read through it all at the minute however I have saved it and moreover added in the RSS feeds, so whenever I have time I’ll be back to read a great deal more. Make sure you do continue the excellent work.

  9. Our LGV (Large Goods Vehicle) HGV training is based in East London, and our LGV/ HGV courses are taught by qualified DVSA LGV & HGV trainers. LGV was formerly known as HGV, where it used to be referred to as HGV Class 2 (now called LGV Category C) and HGV class 1 (Now called LGV Category C+E).

  10. I was discussing with a buddy of mine regarding this article and regarding free full movies as well. I believe you made a few good points on this page, we are excited to find out more stuff from you.

  11. Admiring the persistence you invested in the site and in-depth facts you provide. It is good to come across a site occasionally that isn’t the similar outdated re-written stuff. Great read! I have bookmarked your webpage and I am including your RSS feeds to my own injury attorney site.

  12. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa? My site discusses a lot of the same subjects as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other. If you’re interested feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Awesome blog by the way!

  13. Admiring the time and effort you invested in the blog and in-depth info you offer. It’s amazing to discover a website occasionally that is just not the similar expired rehashed content. Wonderful read! I have saved your site and I am adding the RSS feeds to my ethereum stock webpage.

  14. I am really loving the theme/design of your weblog. Do you come across any kind of web browser compatibility troubles? A few of my own website readers have complained concerning my heat pump site not operating the right way in Internet Explorer though seems great in Safari. Have you got any suggestions to assist correct the situation?

  15. You are certainly right and I definitely understand you. If you wish, we could also chat around canon printer and scanner, something that fascinates me. Your website is definitely great, take care!

  16. Hey there, I’m so thrilled I discovered your site, I basically encountered you by mistake, while I was looking on Bing for freight services. Anyways I am here now and would simply like to say thanks for a incredible blog post and the all round exciting site (I too enjoy the theme/design), I don’t have sufficient time to go through it entirely at the minute yet I have saved it and even added in your RSS feeds, so whenever I have time I will be returning to go through a great deal more. Please do maintain the amazing work.

  17. Many thanks for your excellent write-up! I definitely enjoyed finding out about it.I will make sure to bookmark this blog and will often come back very soon. I would love to suggest you to ultimately keep going with your wonderful job, even talk about teeth whitening dentist also, have a wonderful afternoon!

  18. The heart of your writing while sounding reasonable originally, did not really sit very well with me personally after some time. Someplace throughout the sentences you actually were able to make me a believer unfortunately just for a while. I nevertheless have got a problem with your jumps in assumptions and you might do nicely to help fill in all those breaks. When you actually can accomplish that, I could surely be impressed.

  19. Nearly all of the things you say happens to be supprisingly accurate and it makes me wonder why I had not looked at this with this light previously. This particular article truly did turn the light on for me personally as far as this specific subject matter goes. Nonetheless there is one particular point I am not too cozy with so whilst I make an effort to reconcile that with the core theme of your issue, let me observe what all the rest of the visitors have to point out.Nicely done.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here