Ntsiki Biyela made headlines in 2004 as the first black winemaker challenging stereotypes about this industry and proving that it is a woman’s world too.
This rural girl from Mahlabathini in KwaZulu-Natal is the owner of Aslina Winery a company based in Cape Town that produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blend.
She exports about 23 000 bottles of wine on an annual basis to the United States of America, Germany, Taiwan, Denmark and Ghana.
Aslina wines named after her grandmother is available in four wine boutiques in Cape Town and in two boutiques in Johannesburg.
Biyela says when she started the company it was not easy to crack it into the market. “I had to prove myself that as a woman I am capable.”
Biyela told Vuk’uzenzele that as a young girl a career in winery was not in her plans.
“I always dreamed of becoming a chemical engineer but due to a lack of finances at home after matric, I ended up taking employment as a domestic worker to make ends meet.”
In 1999, her big break came when she received a scholarship from South African Airways to study oenology and viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch.
Oenology is the science and study of wine and winemaking and viticulture is the science, production, and study of grapes.
After completing her degree she joined the wine producer Stellekaya in the Stellenbosch district as a wine maker.
“When I tasted wine for the first time at university I didn’t like it. The love for wine grew when I began learning more about it. Winemaking demands a lot of passion and chemistry,” says Biyela.
She says when she worked at Stellekaya she was an all-rounder, which helped her to gain experience in everything related to wine producing. This led to her starting her own winemaking company in 2012.
Biyela encourages women to start their own businesses just like she did.
“As women let's show the world that we are capable of doing great things. We need to see more women in wine industry or in any other careers that are known to be male careers,” she said.