A New Wave in the Wine Arena
There is a new wave of influence spreading across the local wine industry and it can be found in the Sommeliers sphere. A surge in the rise of black African Sommeliers in South Africa is re-emphasizing the interest and intrigue of our country’s world-class wines.
One organization that stands behind this very notion is BLACC (Black Cellar Club), a platform that has emerged to connect with black African wine enthusiasts. Its objective is to achieve black empowerment in the wine industry, both within SA and throughout the African continent. BLACC launched in September 2016 to promote wine to the black African market by making it accessible and uncomplicated, as well as channeling qualified black individuals into the industry.
Directors Ian Manley and Aubrey Ngcungama recognized the need for an organization to tap into those individuals in the black African market who have an interest in heightening their wine knowledge. BLACC Chairman, Gregory Mutambe, divulged the Club’s initiative as being a fairly personal one explaining that, along with fellow board members, wine was not something that many black Africans grew up with. Alcohol was indeed an element, but wine did not form a part of it. BLACC’s goal is to change both this very common scenario as well as the perceptions around wine through facilitating the [physical] making of it, together with making knowledge about it accessible to all South Africans.
There is a large emerging black middle-class in South Africa who can afford to spend money on good wines. Their spending trend is noticeable on high-end imported goods – Champagne and Cognac being two prime examples – demonstrating a large, lucrative market eager to be tapped into: “When there is a better and more locally focused wine culture amongst black Africans, there will be a higher demand of locally produced wines,“ states Mutambe.
Educating and filtering more black Sommeliers into the market will help to further forge and maintain a wine culture in black Africans. BLACC believes that by adding more [knowledgeable and qualified] individuals into the wine market, that consumption per capita will be raised. When these individuals are equipped with the skills and know-how required to be a Sommelier, a sense of pride at the accomplishment is inevitable. Some of the noteworthy black African Head Sommeliers, who are also members of BLACC’s board include: Pearl Oliver (Taj Hotel) (pictured), Joseph Dhafana (La Colombe restaurant) (pictured on chair), Gregory Mutambe (Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa), Mercy Mwai (Nobu) and Luvo Ntezo (One&Only, Cape Town) (pictured).
One avenue of sparking initial interest is when these Sommeliers take friends and family from the townships into the Winelands. This provides their guests with confidence via the association of an industry professional and so a new trend/hobby is born unto these individuals. Thus, the desire to see more black people choose wine as their alcoholic beverage of choice becomes a little more within reach. There is also a sense of pride to enter the equation with South African wines confidently commanding more attention on the global stage. May the number of African Sommeliers continue to rise!
Written by Wade Bales : This article first appeared in Wanted Online