Food and Drink

Published on December 11th, 2010 | by thevyne

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Woman to Watch: Ntsiki Biyela

Occupation: South Africa’s first black female winemaker

Hometown: Born in rural northern KwaZulu Natal, in a village called KwaVuthela, 800 miles from the vineyards of Stellenbosch. Ntsiki’s grandmother, Bathabile Sibiya, raised her.

Education: Received a degree in Oenology, the science and study of wine, from University of Stellenbosch. She attended the school on a full scholarship from South African Airways.

Career: Ntsiki began to put her studies to practice through an apprenticeship at Delheim wines. When she graduated in 2003, Ntsiki took a job with boutique wine producer Stellekaya, in the heart of the Cape Winelands. When she joined Stellekaya at the beginning of 2004 she was a junior winemaker. In 2005, she visited Bordeaux in France to gain experience working during harvesting season. “My highlight was the first time I gave my grandmother a bottle of wine I had made,” she told CNN. “It was my first wine. It had won gold from Michelangelo and I brought it home and told her to taste it. You could see in her face she thought, ‘this is terrible,’ but you could also see that pride that she was drinking the wine her granddaughter had made.”

Awards: Ntsiki’s first award was a gold medal for her 2004 Cape Cross wine. She was named South Africa’s 2009 Woman Winemaker of the Year, a sign of just how far the industry has come since the end of apartheid. Since breaking into the wine industry, Ntsiki has nurtured to perfection four prize-winning wines.

Ntsiki’s Wines: Ntsiki makes two lines of wine for Stellekaya winery; the Fusion Collection and the Eclipse Collection. She also makes the Cape Cross, which is her favorite blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a small percentage of Pinotage.

Fun Facts: Ntsiki is one of only 15 qualified black winemakers. She initially wanted to study chemical engineering, but her mentor, wine connoisseur Jabulani Ntshangase, encouraged her to opt for viticulture. Ntsiki revealed in an interview with Mariette Le Roux that at first she didn’t care for the taste of wine. She said “The first time I tasted wine, in my first year at university, it was horrible… I learn[ed] to appreciate and understand red wine and now I really love it!”

Quotable: In an interview with CNN, Ntsiki had this to say of her status as South Africa’s first black female winemaker, “I was the first but not anymore. Now I’m just a winemaker…There was a lot of pressure being first. You feel like you aren’t just representing yourself but a whole world of people who want to follow you. “It’s pressure, but a good pressure. It keeps you pushing for what’s next.”

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