Ntsiki Biyela is shaking up the industry — for good.
Wine making was just one of countless professions Black South Africans were excluded from under the oppressive rule of apartheid. But that’s finally changing — almost three decades since the end of the racist system that cast Black citizens into low-skilled, underpaid roles.
One woman leading the charge is Ntsiki Biyela, who in 2004 became the country’s first Black female winemaker. In 2016, Biyela founded the award-winning Aslina Wines. The company, which takes its name from her maternal grandmother, is based at Delheim Wines, a family-owned estate in the Stellenbosch wine region where Biyela buys grapes, blends varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and bottles the finished product.
Today, Biyela’s label is one of more than 80 Black-owned wine brands in South Africa. “At this moment, there’s hope for growth in the wine industry, of seeing more people of color becoming involved,” she says. That hope is thanks, in part, to Biyela’s efforts as a board member and advocate of the Pinotage Youth Development Academy. Established in 2012, the academy partners with more than 50 wineries in the greater Cape Winelands region outside Cape Town to train adults for professional opportunities in wine, hospitality, and tourism. “More than 500 students have gone through the process,” Biyela says. “We have people in tasting rooms, in restaurants and hotels — even on cruise ships! — working as sommeliers and wine stewards. We can see the impact of what this program is doing, the lives it’s changing.”
Biyela is in a time of transition, too, as Aslina opened its first stand-alone tasting room this summer, in the town of Stellenbosch. Here, she shares her favorite places to sip and eat in and around Stellenbosch.
“Currently I’m drinking Aslina’s chenin blanc, which we released last year,” Biyela says. “It’s a skin-contact wine, which means we leave the skins on longer during production to create more tannin structure — it’s beautiful. My staff keeps me away from it because it’s so good I’d drink it all!”
“Edge Africa in Cape Town is wonderful,” Biyela says of the pop-up restaurant by chef Vusi Ndlovu, which was hosted by the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel for four months earlier this year. (The concept is now reopening under a new name, Mlilo, Fires of Africa, at Time Out Market Cape Town.) “They use spices from all over the continent. My favorite dish is their steam bread, a soft bun traditionally known as ujeqe. It’s so comforting — I like to cook it at home, too.”
Cheers to That
A store and community center in Stellenbosch, the Wine Arc opened in 2021 to help Black South Africans work in all levels of the industry. In addition to hosting wine tastings and panel sessions, “It’s a good place to taste and buy bottles from Black-owned wineries, including mine, and get a bite to eat,” Biyela says.
In Good Taste
“You have beautiful views of Table Mountain at Delheim Wines’ garden restaurant,” Biyela says. Plus, she has a soft spot for the Cape Malay chicken curry. One menu item is a donation to the Pebbles Project, which provides education, health care, and social services to farmworkers’ children.
A version of this story first appeared in the October 2023 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "A Fresh Crop."
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