South Africa's black winemakers facing big hurdles

Tue Sep 8, 2009 6:10am EDT
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By Sandiso Ngubane

SOWETO, South Africa (Reuters Life!) - Black South African winemakers are finding it more difficult to break into the traditional white market despite wine's growing popularity in townships.

This month, South Africa's largest black township Soweto held its annual Wine Festival, where despite growing attendance figures, the number of black exhibitors has fallen sharply.

Black winemakers face numerous obstacles, among them having to compete with brands that have been in existence for decades.

"We are operating in an environment with long-established networks and it's not easy for new players to break into those," said Nondumiso Pikashe, who co-owns Ses'fikile Wines with two other black women.

Pikashe cited infrastructure, capital and distribution as some of the biggest challenges faced by black winemakers.

Wines made by Ses'fikile, which means "we are here" in Zulu, are distributed mostly in the United Kingdom and on a very small scale in South Africa due to the distribution hurdle faced by black wine makers in the country.

The number of black winemakers on show in Soweto has dropped by 25 percent since the first wine festival was held four years ago.

"We had 12 black exhibitors in 2005 and this year we have only eight," said Cape Wine Academy managing director and festival co-convener Marylin Cooper.   Continued...