Born and raised between Gugulethu and Langa in the Western Cape, Nondumiso Pikashe never thought of winemaking as something she would be doing when she started her bachelor of arts degree at the University of the Western Cape.
After graduation, Pikashe started a career as a teacher, educating children in Khayelitsha for 13 years before the wine bug bit. “I discovered wine when I decided to leave teaching. I was drawn to it because of the mystery around it and the confusion or dichotomy it represented.”
The dichotomy she refers to, is the negative image of wine she grew up with. “As a black child, I had a negative image about wine. It was associated with the bottom of the social ladder, and was seen as a tool to get into a drunken stupor, while in the wider world it was projected differently. It was associated with elegance, sophistication, class and sense of appreciation.”
To her, the winemaking process is fragile and selective, like childbirth. “The metaphor is that my surroundings were not inspiring and [I was] downtrodden, and yet great talent emerged from there. Grapes are crushed and punched down, [only] to produce the most amazing beverage in the world of alcohol.”
A brand to be proud of
Ses’fikile Wines, Pikashe’s wine brand which she started in 2006, is one of the country’s few women-owned wine brands. The word “Ses’fikile” means “we have arrived”.
Pikashe explains that the wines are crafted to exude triumph, celebration and aspiration. “It is a multifaceted concept that also acknowledges women’s power alongside men, beautiful diversity of the peoples of SA, and the arrival of the SA wine heritage on the global platform. It is proudly African and yet exudes global appeal.”
For Pikashe, the ideal wine is one that has balance. She feels that a good winemaker is invested in the entire winemaking process and is one who keeps up with all the new wine innovations. “I, personally, am more [invested] in ensuring that the Sesfikile Wines’ taste profile is consistent and quality across the packaging is maintained,” she says.
The key to success
“A winemaker ensures that there is balance in the wine and that all wine elements are in alignment. They are on the alert for new trends and innovation in the industry, and ensure that the harvest comes in good time and is stored at the appropriate temperature. Winemakers should take care of the [entire] winemaking process because it is a fragile process [requiring] constant monitoring.”
To aspiring winemakers, she advises that passion is the key to success. “People can be discouraged because wine making requires science, but that is not all there is to it. To be a player in the space, be passionate about it.”
She also encourages aspiring winemakers to be curious and to work hard. “Wine tasting is about association, so draw from your own experiences. Be bold, trust your gut and be open to learning. Taste wine and teach [at least] one person about wine appreciation. Roll up your sleeves and be resilient. It can be fun!”
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