The moment when a 21-year-old describes wine as “bottled poetry”, you immediately know that it’s their passion talking. It is this exact passion that has landed Aphelele Mvamva from Kayamandi in Cape Town the rare opportunity to be mentored by some of the best names in Mzansi’s wine industry.
Mvamva brims with excitement after she was hand-picked as the first Drostdy Hof Graduate in their skills accelerator programme. The year-long mentoring project is done in partnership with the Stellenbosch-based Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA), where Mvamva studied wine and tourism.
PYDA is an independent organisation that prepares young matriculants for jobs in the wine, tourism and allied sectors.
This rare opportunity will see Mvamva spending 2020 learning from some of the best minds in South Africa’s wine industry. The mentoring project will also fast-track Mvamva’s career in wine, and expose her to specialists in viticulture, winemaking, sustainability, marketing and consumer trends.
“I feel grateful and blessed. This is an opportunity that I really value. I will be able to expand my technical skills and knowledge about the industry,” she says.
Mvamva, who matriculated from Makupula Secondary School in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, says she never saw herself studying wine or winemaking. “I only loved eating grapes, but was never really interested in what they produce.”
She fell in love with wine when her older sister, Nalo Mvamva, (a former student and a graduate of Pinotage Youth Development Academy class of 2018) started sharing her lectures with Aphelele. She often also roped her in to study with her during exams.
Mvamva says this amazing opportunity will aid her in securing suitable employment and help her improve her family’s standard of living.
“At home we are not poor, but disadvantaged. The place where we are staying now has broken walls and the windows tend to leak when it rains. I want to change that,” she says.
According to Liezl Dippenaar, Drostdy Hof’s international marketing representative, all the short-listed candidates for the programme are PYDA graduates from the class of 2019. She says that although each candidate was a worthy contender, what gave Mvamva the edge, apart from her solid academic record and good inter-personal skills, was her hunger to succeed.
“She clearly shows an appetite for the hard work required to upskill herself in just one short year. She has tremendous energy, wants to make a difference in other people’s lives and one day envisages having her own business,” Dippenaar says.
Dippenaar also explains that they see this initiative as a two-way learning process. “We want to understand her priorities, her dreams for South Africa’s wine future and hear from her how we should be talking to her generation.”
As part of the program, Mvamva will also spend several weeks in Sweden, one of the popular brand’s key markets, meeting consumers and members of the retail and restaurant trade.
She will be mentored by the likes of Andrea Freeborough, Distell’s new head winemaker and one of the country’s most decorated winemakers. Freeborough will be exposing the young wine enthusiast to wine-growing and cellar practices.
In addition, Mvamva will spend time with leading sustainability specialist Jacques Rossouw and Bridgitte Backman, an expert in corporate and regulatory issues with a special interest in mentoring young and talented South Africans. She’ll also be working with top marketing talent and have the chance to meet members of the wine trade and consumers in South Africa and in Sweden.
Reflecting on her journey ahead, Mvamva says what she looks forward to most is that she will be exposed to the various aspects of her studies while she was at PYDA. “I will get a chance to do what I love with no obstacles standing in my way. I no longer have to worry about how I am going to pay for it,” she adds.
In five years Mvamva sees herself as a businesswoman and believes that there’s nothing stopping her from this point on. “I see myself employing people from my community and making sure that they are also able to change their living conditions,” she exclaims.