Local Heroes: Tasting change

Inspirational stories about remarkable South Africans!

The Colour of Wine tells the remarkable story of South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy through the personal journeys of black winemakers. Woven through their stories are interviews with wine producers and politicians, chefs and sommeliers, connoisseurs and teachers, drinkers and tasters. Featured is winemaker Ntsiki Biyela...

"If someone had said when I was growing up that I was going to be a winemaker, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. I had no idea what it was, but growing up I knew that I could be anything. My grandmother, despite her financial struggles, made me believe I could do anything I wanted. I grew up in a village called KwaNondlovu in KwaZulu-Natal. My daily routine was to wake up, milk the cows, take the cows to the field and then head for school.

I went to Stellenbosch by chance, really. When we were in Matric we were given application forms to apply to Stellenbosch to do agriculture. A month later I got a call from SAA who offered me a full bursary. I cried... It was a huge break for me, a life-changing moment.

The Colour of Wine tells the remarkable story of South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy through the personal journeys of black winemakers.

In December of my first year, I got a job at Delheim in Stellenbosch, and that’s when I fell in love with winemaking. When I finished varsity, I was still working at Delheim part-time. I applied to a couple of wineries for a job, with no luck. I was told to send my CV to Stellekaya. In my interview, Dave Lello took me to the cellar and I remember thinking, Please hire me. This cellar is so beautiful. A few days later they called me to tell me I had the job. That’s how I started at Stellekaya, where I worked for 13 years.

The first award I got was in 2006 – the Michelangelo International Wine Award for my Cape Cross 2004. In 2012, I started my own wine brand, Aslina, named after my grandmother. She helped me keep my feet on the ground. I hope I can be half as strong as her."

"Winemaking is like life, everything depends on nature and you nurture that. Some things you have to guide and others you just have to let be." – winemaker Ntsiki Biyela

The Colour of Wine R450 (edited by Harriet Perlman, published by Bookstorm; DVD documentary included) in bookstores nationwide.