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Black-Owned Company Enters South African Wine Business

Melvyn Minnaar
Posted: October 6, 1999

For the first time in the history of South Africa's 300-year-old wine industry, a group of blacks have become major investors in a new winery. Its first release, Tukulu Chenin Blanc 1999, named with a Zulu word referring to the red soil of the vineyards, is also the country's first wine produced by a black woman winemaker.

The wine comes from a new joint venture, Papkuilsfontein Vineyards, which brings together South African wine and drinks giant Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery and a group of black retailers and tavern owners. SFW holds a 49 percent share of the venture, the black businessmen hold 36 percent and the Maluti Groenekloof Trust, which represents the workers on the farm, holds the remaining 15 percent.

In 1998, the new company acquired the existing Papkuilsfontein farm, which comprises about 2,400 acres in the Darling area of the Cape wine region, for $2.5 million. SFW is investing at least another $2.8 million to establish new vineyards and upgrade the facilities.

Papkuilsfontein has appointed Carmen Stevens, 27, as its first winemaker. Stevens trained at SFW, working there as an assistant winemaker after graduating from the Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch. As part of her training, she spent a few months in California learning New World winemaking techniques.

The Papkuilsfontein venture is the South African wine industry's first to substantially involve blacks on a large scale at these levels. Under apartheid, no black market for wine was ever developed, but the involvement of the tavern owners in this project may help open up new markets of potential wine consumers.

Papkuilsfontein symbolizes a dramatic shift in South Africa's wine culture. On a number of other established wine estates, black workers are being drawn to management and winemaking. A new Wine Industry Trust was recently set up, with industry and government funding, to develop black participation in all areas. And both new and old South African producers are beginning to use indigenous African names -- such as Kumala, Thandi and Inkawu -- on international brands.

The new winery produced 2,200 cases of its first Tukulu Chenin Blanc. Limited quantities of the 1999 vintage, priced around $10, will be brought to the United States in 2000, when a Tukulu Pinotage will also be released.

To learn more about South African wines, read our most recent South Africa tasting report in the Oct. 15, 1999 issue.

Or check out our past reports, A Taste of South Africa and Top-Scoring Wines in the Sept. 30, 1995 issue.

For past news reports on South Africa:

  • March 3, 1998
    A First for South Africa

  • Nov. 15, 1997
    South African Agreement to Help Black Winemakers

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