Cheers to wine­maker Nt­siki

Vuk'uzenzele - - Women's Month - Hlengiwe Ngob­ese

Nt­siki Biyela made head­lines in 2004 as the first black wine­maker chal­leng­ing stereo­types about this in­dus­try and prov­ing that it is a woman’s world too.

This ru­ral girl from Mahla­bathini in KwaZulu-Natal is the owner of As­lina Win­ery a com­pany based in Cape Town that pro­duces Chardon­nay, Sauvignon Blanc, Caber­net Sauvignon and Bordeaux blend.

She ex­ports about 23 000 bot­tles of wine on an an­nual ba­sis to the United States of Amer­ica, Ger­many, Tai­wan, Den­mark and Ghana.

As­lina wines named af­ter her grand­mother is avail­able in four wine bou­tiques in Cape Town and in two bou­tiques in Jo­han­nes­burg.

Biyela says when she started the com­pany it was not easy to crack it into the mar­ket. “I had to prove my­self that as a woman I am ca­pa­ble.”

Biyela told that as a young girl a ca­reer in win­ery was not in her plans.

“I al­ways dreamed of be­com­ing a chem­i­cal en­gi­neer but due to a lack of fi­nances at home af­ter ma­tric, I ended up tak­ing em­ploy­ment as a do­mes­tic worker to make ends meet.”

In 1999, her big break came when she re­ceived a schol­ar­ship from South African Air­ways to study oenol­ogy and viti­cul­ture at the Univer­sity of Stel­len­bosch.

Oenol­ogy is the sci­ence and study of wine and wine­mak­ing and viti­cul­ture is the sci­ence, pro­duc­tion, and study of grapes.

Af­ter com­plet­ing her de­gree she joined the wine pro­ducer Stellekaya in the Stel­len­bosch dis­trict as a wine maker.

“When I tasted wine for the first time at univer­sity I didn’t like it. The love for wine grew when I be­gan learn­ing more about it. Wine­mak­ing de­mands a lot of pas­sion and chem­istry,” says Biyela.

She says when she worked at Stellekaya she was an all-rounder, which helped her to gain ex­pe­ri­ence in ev­ery­thing re­lated to wine pro­duc­ing. This led to her start­ing her own wine­mak­ing com­pany in 2012.

Biyela en­cour­ages women to start their own busi­nesses just like she did.

“As women let's show the world that we are ca­pa­ble of do­ing great things. We need to see more women in wine in­dus­try or in any other ca­reers that are known to be male ca­reers,” she said.

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