Meet The Winemakers

Ntsiki Biyela
Founder, Aslina Wines

First Black Female Winemaker in South Africa

Ntsiki grew up in Mahlabathini, a rural village in Kwazulu Natal, and matriculated from high school in1996. Having spent a year as a domestic worker, she was awarded a scholarship to study winemaking in 1999. She graduated in 2003 with a BSc in Agriculture (Viticulture and Oenology) at Stellenbosch University and joined boutique winery Stellekaya Wines the following year.

 

Ntsiki’s ambition to create her own wines grew following a collaboration with Californian winemaker, Helen Kiplinger, as part of Mika Bulmash’s

Wine for the World initiative. In addition, she has consulted in France, making wine under Winemakers Collection in Bordeaux.

 

Finally, she sits on the board of directors for the Pinotage Youth Development Academy, which provides technical training and personal development for young South Africans in the Cape Winelands, preparing them for work in the wine industry. The programme offers them the unique opportunity to emulate her own considerable success.

 
 

ILSE RUTHFORD
Managing Director, Compagniesdrift 

 

Ilse Anne Ruthford was born and bred in Pniel, a small village between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, matriculating at Bloemhof Girl's High in 1994.

She finished a diploma in Marketing, working in various fields within the Wine Industry since 1997, including 4 years in Exports. Involved since 2006 at Meerlust, she has been the Managing Director of Compagniesdrift as from 2012.

Says Ilse: "I am very grateful for this opportunity that has come my way, and 71 other farm workers, to become owners of a Company. It is my personal goal and heart’s desire to make Compagniesdrift successful on all levels and keep on uplifting as many workers as possible."

Carmen Stevens, grew up in the Kraaifontein and Belhar areas on the bleak Cape Flats, areas designated for so-called “coloured” people. As a young girl she read Mills and Boon novels, where most of the settings involved vineyards or cellars or wine. This sparked the idea of her making wine one day.
 

No-one in her community knew that you could study winemaking, but an uncle of a friend worked in the lab at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, and


 

he showed her around. He told her that to become a winemaker she would need to study at Elsenberg College or at Stellenbosch University.

The three years at Elsenberg were tough. There were only five women out of approximately 100 first year students. There were only two people of color, the other a man studying Pomolgy. Stevens endured racism, undermining and patronizing confrontations from students and lecturers alike.

Tough was an attribute she needed as she began work in the Distell cellars. Stevens, petite though she may be, loved the hands-on cellar work and after a few years working as an assistant winemaker for Zonnebloem white wines, she was asked to also take on the role of winemaker for the new Tukula brand, a Black empowerment project of Distell, and the first such wine project.


Two award winning top 10 Pinotages, a stint in California and representing Tukula abroad, all led her to believe she was ready for the job as the Zonnebloem white winemaker. But when she applied for the post, management told her she did not have the adequate skills for such a position. She resigned.
 

Since then Stevens has gone on to make wine at Welmoed for Stellenbosch Vineyards, and for eight years at Amani where she won the Decanter 2008 International Red Bordeaux Varietals Trophy for her Amani Cabernet Franc/Merlot 2006. But her big break came when Rowan Gormley called her one Friday evening at home with the offer to become a winemaker for Naked Wines. Stevens thought this was a prank call, thrown off balance by his posh voice and big promises. But when he persisted throughout the following week, she decided to go for it.
 

Her initial fundraising on the Naked website broke all records, raising £120,000 in just eight hours, as folk warmed to her personality and her story. Steven’ wines launched in 2011 and today are consistently among Naked Wines’ best sellers, both in the UK and the US. So successful, that in 2015 she was Naked Wines’ Winemaker of the Year, taking home a prize of R6 million to be spent on wine projects. Her challenge today is to find enough cellar space to rent!

Carmen Stevens
Founder, Carmen Stevens Wine

First Black Woman to Graduate in Winemaking in South Africa

 
 

Antoinette Vermooten
CEO, Bayede!

Antoinette Vermooten is the CEO and Founder of Bayede!. She is also the first to be appointed to an African Luxury African TM signed by HM King Goodwill Zwelithini. Antoinette developed the Bayede! Royal Signature brand in the wine, food, clothing and textiles ranges. The Royal signature brand was extended to the new Shaka Zulu wine brand and the development of Shaka Zulu beer. She led the product development, brand development, marketing and execution of Bayede! Royal Brand with the goal to grow exponentially. Through these efforts the model of licensing of brands in  the wine  industry  was  initiated  and  ZULU  IP  Holdings was

developed to secure the use of the IP of the Zulu nation through licensing agreements. Because of the wine and TM Bayede!, Antoinette continues to create sustainable jobs, ignite industries and make a positive impact on people's lives.

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