East of the Norm
Even so, Ntsiki often found it difficult to break into industry cliques. Since she didn’t exactly fit the profile of the typical winemaker, she had to work extra hard to build bridges and forge relationships – but the effort she invested in this area was well worth it. “I think that we have preconceived ideas about people, and these make us look at our lives in a different way. But the reality is that you need to get past these ideas. Some of the friends I have made in the industry are extremely different from me, but when you listen to them and get to know them, you find they have hearts of gold.”
Ntsiki believes that women’s natural ability to create friendships in this way is an asset, regardless of their industry. “I think that we get intimidated because we think that people know more than we do. We forget that we are also experts in our own right. The key is to listen to what everyone has to say; talk to them, get their advice.”
Collaboration of this nature is also what led her to establish Aslina, her own wine brand, earlier this year. Ntsiki says that she had always wanted to own her own business, even as a student. So when an importer in the United States invited her to join forces with a winemaker in California, she used this as a stepping stone towards creating her own legacy.
Named after the grandmother who raised her – a woman who embodied love, a nurturing spirit and faith, the very qualities Ntsiki wants to see entrenched Aslina – the label has already experienced significant success with its 2017 releases of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Umsasane, a Bordeaux blend. Ntsiki chose these four as her debuts because, having had extensive experience in reds at Stellekaya, she wanted to try her hand at whites too. The Chardonnay was a nod to her personal preference for big, bold flavours. She is currently at work on her next vintages, which will be released shortly.
What’s next for Ntsiki? Development is her next big focus and she’s currently a board member of the Pinotage Youth Development Academy, which provides training for previously disadvantaged youth. She’s also involved in a number of other initiatives which allow her to “give back”. Cheers to that!