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"Love and respect has been the key. It brings with it the passion and drive of everything I have touched."
Q&A with Ntsiki Biyela
Growing up in Mahlabathini, you’ve mentioned that you never dreamt of being a winemaker. Tell us how your company Aslina Wines came to be.
It all began with a life changing recruitment and scholarship from SAA to study winemaking at Stellenbosch University. After graduation, I worked as a winemaker at Stellekaya Wines for 13 years. I did harvesting in other countries such as France and Italy. I collaborated with a Napa Valley winemaker Helen Kiplinger. The funding for the project was from Wine for the World, Mika Bulmash which assisted in the first steps towards starting Aslina Wines.
What are some of the financial aspects or challenges of wine making? How tough is it to break into this industry?
Upfront investment in winemaking as a start-up is very difficult if you don’t have back up. The cost especially on red wines which can only be sold after two years of production is tough to swallow. It is tough to break into the wine industry especially if you do not understand it. The industry is quite a closed community.
In terms of lessons learned, what has been the most important one for you?
Love and respect has been the key. It brings with it the passion and drive of everything I have touched.
As South Africa’s first black female winemaker, you stand as an icon of shattering stereotypes. How does it feel to be a trailblazer and what is your advice to other young women looking to enter the field?
Being a trailblazer means understanding and taking on the responsibility for paving the way and assisting those following to be even better than you are. For young women and men out there, I will say, it is important to be grounded and not allow anything to stop you from reaching your goals. Do everything with love.
What’s next for Aslina Wines?
Aslina needs a home to be able to do the work that is destined for both here and on foreign soil.