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Aslina Wines

It is with small steps that great people effect great change, and this is exactly what Ntsiki Biyela embodies within the South African wine industry. Originally from Mahlabathini, a rural village in KwaZulu-Natal, Ntsiki won a scholarship to study Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University in 1999, graduating in 2003. She was often posed questions about her heritage and why she would choose to study at an Afrikaans university if she did not speak the language. This was an early reminder of the deep racial separation in South Africa, and just one of many challenges faced by a black woman entering an industry which was, and largely remains, the near-exclusive purview of white males.

After vintages in Tuscany and Bordeaux, she began what would become a thirteen-year stint at Stellenbosch’s Stellekaya as winemaker and ambassador, though, when visitors would come, some would ask to be introduced to the winemaker as though Ntsiki did not fit their image of this. She has commented that during her days of learning and development, she encountered very few women or people of colour despite small signs and great hope for change. Whilst there is clearly much to be done for true equality in the industry, Ntsiki recognises the familial nature of winemakers and vineyard owners, whose advice and guidance she has sought throughout the years. It is our hope that this sense of camaraderie continues to permeate the word of wine, and indeed society as a whole.

“Collaboration and partnerships are the keys to breaking down barriers and they can be found here if you look.

Ntsiki is on the board of the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA), which prepares unemployed 18 to 25-year-olds for careers in wine and tourism and has helped place nearly 300 Academy Graduates into the workplace. She has seen, first-hand, the impetus of schemes like this and the success that can be achieved when young people are given guidance and resource.

In 2016 she established her own brand, Aslina Wines, in Elgin, paying homage to her greatest guide and influence – her grandmother. With diligence, determination and skill Ntsiki has created a range of refined and elegant wines with an inspirational story. Fruit is sourced from vineyards across the Western Cape, all certified sustainable, and the wines are made at a space rented at Koelenhof in Stellenbosch. Her experience and love of nature can be seen in her approach to winemaking, which is modern with little intervention.  She does not believe that a winemaker needs to constantly search for additions to improve the wine; the quality is in the fruit and her goal is to display this in the finished wine as clearly and cleanly as possible; “to allow the character and personality of the wine to express itself”.

Ntsiki is driven and determined and has created a brand that represents her journey and experiences, with her values at its heart. She produces clearly defined wines and does so with character, humility and grace, as well as purpose:

 

 

I want the brand to grow but I want its soul to remain intact. The company is going to give back to where I came from. I am where I am because someone gave me an opportunity.”