S.Africa's blacks branching out into wine industry

Tue Oct 4, 2011 1:34pm EDT
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By Mmathabo Tladi

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A new class of wine makers is emerging in South Africa with blacks, many of whom once worked the land, now taking over vineyards in an industry dominated for centuries by whites.

There are only a handful of black-owned vineyards in the $3 billion a year industry but the number is expected to increase as the government tries to unwind policies under colonial rule and then apartheid that forced blacks off the land or into slave-like work at farms.

M'hudi wines is one of the black-owned vineyards that is a recent entrant into the industry, offering several mid-priced options in red and white. M'hudi means "harvester" in Setswana.

"The wine industry is still uncharted by African people," says Malmesy Rangaka, CEO and matriarch of M'hudi.

The label is run by the Rangaka family of business professionals who chose to leave their well-paying jobs in major cities to pursue an industry they knew nothing about just a few years ago.

"Unless we take the risk, a calculated risk, we will forever complain that the industry is not transforming. Somebody like us and others who took the risk have to lead the way," she said.

M'hudi now produces over 7,000 cases of wine a year with revenue of over 3 million rand ($364,500). It is hoping to triple production in five years.

Other new players include the Bayede, or "hail to the king" brand from Zulu royalty King Goodwill Zwelethini, which was set up to help create jobs in the eastern KwaZulu Natal province.   Continued...

<p>An employee prepares a wine tasting at the Boschendal winery in Stellenbosch, about 80km southwest of Cape town, November 24, 2009. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach</p>