Corks pop for KZN com­mu­nity win­ery

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

A KZN COM­MU­NITY views grapes in a new way thanks to a com­mu­nity win­ery that is em­pow­er­ing peo­ple and cre­at­ing jobs.

Wine vine­yards and the Cape are in­ter­twined but a KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) co-op­er­a­tive win­ery hopes to break this per­cep­tion with the in­tro­duc­tion of a fine coastal wine made with grapes grown in ru­ral vine­yards.

The 12 hectares of vine­yards are spread across the Ilembe District Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the ru­ral ar­eas of Man­deni, Nd­wedwe and Ma­phu­mulo. The project is run by a lo­cal Ilembe co-op­er­a­tive and sup­ported by the KZN De­part­ment of Co­op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs, which has in­jected R19,5 mil­lion into the de­vel­op­ment of the vine­yards and pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity.

Named Sev­en­teen 87 (the year in which Zulu King Shaka was born), the wine not only pays trib­ute to one of the prov­ince’s most leg­endary lead­ers but is a proudly KZN prod­uct, with all pro­cesses done lo­cally. Man­deni Ny­oni Ilembe Co-op­er­a­tive su­per­vi­sor Sipho Gumede is a mem­ber of the co­op­er­a­tive and said the busi­ness has changed the lives of peo­ple in Man­deni.

"We were sit­ting at home hope­less with­out jobs but now we are able to take care of our fam­i­lies. To hold this bot­tle of wine makes me emo­tional and proud at the same time since this is some­thing l was part of from scratch.”

“l now know how to plant, nur­ture and spray the crops. l am able to pass this knowl­edge to some­one else. I did know about the va­ri­eties of grapes but be­ing here l am able to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them,” said Gumede.

He said what he en­joys most about the project is that he is work­ing with mem­bers of his com­mu­nity and they are build­ing a busi­ness that be­longs to them.

Sev­en­teen 87 was in­tro­duced at Africa’s Travel Ind­aba held in Dur­ban re­cently.

The vine­yards in the Man­deni and Ma­phu­mulo lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties saw their first har­vest in Fe­bru­ary, with the test­ing of the win­ery equip­ment con­ducted by a viti­cul­tur­ist in the same month.

In the three months that fol­lowed, eight tons of grapes were pro­cessed and 8 000 litres of wine pro­duced.

Wine­maker Daniel Maerkl who was teach­ing the co­op­er­a­tive how to cul­ti­vate the wine ex­plained that the com­mu­nity owns the project and will be em­pow­ered to even­tu­ally man­age all the win­ery’s pro­cesses on their own.

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