Born in Zimbabwe, Tinashe Nyumudoka moved to South Africa in 2008 to look for work. He landed in the hospitality industry working as a waiter in restaurants. “That’s where I really got introduced to wines, working as a waiter and trying to upskill myself. I ended up visiting vineyards and even took up courses as well. I think I eventually realised that there could be a career in wine.”
Nyumudoka started developing a deep passion for wine, eventually dropping the accounting degree he was studying for at the time. To deepen his knowledge of wines, he attended the Cape Wine Academy and worked at different establishments.
“I just grew my knowledge and obviously worked [at places] like the One and Only Hotel [in Cape Town], then the Oyster Box Hotel [in Durban]. Then I came back [to Cape Town] to work at the Test Kitchen, which is closing at the end of the month.”
The Test Kitchen is one of the most celebrated restaurants in the country, but like many hospitality establishments, it is feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I spent five years there and [it’s] where I developed my wine brand. That’s [also] where I got to really interact with Attie Louw, who is the owner of Opstal Wine Estate in Rawsonville [in the Western Cape].”
Sommelier to owner of a wine brand
Opstal Wine Estate is where Nyumudoka’s own wine brand, Kumusha Wines, is being produced. “We kind of created this relationship where, because I didn’t have any winemaking background, I’m kind of learning from him and getting hands-on at the farm in Rawsonville. And that’s where we produce our commercial wines in collaboration, and we’ve been doing so since 2017.”
Given how closely it is linked to the hospitality industry, the alcohol industry has also been suffering under the yoke of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. But while most wine producers have found their bottom lines affected, Nyumudoka’s business has continued to prosper. “I didn’t have any effects because I wasn’t a big producer. And I wasn’t really big in the mainstream retail or restaurant [business], where they took a knock. I have more of a direct-to-consumer business. So, I actually saw quite an increase on my side in general.”
Nyumudoka says Kumusha’s sales have recently surpassed a quarter of a million bottles, from last year June to this year. Surprisingly, his biggest markets are outside of South Africa. “We do export to the United States, which is my biggest [market], as well as Zimbabwe, Kenya, Holland and Ghana. SA has been challenging for the fact that, if you’re small, you are at a disadvantage because it’s difficult to get into retail. Sometimes you don’t have enough stock, or they don’t understand the brand, and restaurants are sometimes reluctant to meet.”
Currently, Kumusha wines are available at selected retail stores in Cape Town and Johannesburg, as well as the brand website. Nyumudoka expects the brand to continue growing. “We still haven’t explored other big markets like the UK, Nigeria and Canada. So, we’re definitely going to grow.”
Wine is just the beginning
Wine is not the only commodity Nyumudoka is investing in. For his next venture, he hopes to extend the Kumusha brand into coffee. “Back home in Zimbabwe, my grandmother grows coffee and she’s been doing it for years. We never knew or never had the means or the [knowledge of] whom to market to, [but] I’ve already started investing in the production.”
He says that he is approaching his journey into coffee the same way he did with wine. “Respect the land, respect the profits. Once it is fully ready to sell, I’ll release that.”
Nyumudoka’s story is one that resonates with many people. He often received direct messages from young men on social media, asking for advice or guidance. This prompted him to create an online educational course around wine-making.
“When you start something amazing, it becomes an inspiration and motivation to many. I wake up every day with inboxes from people wanting to learn how I did it, how they can do it, especially young guys. So, I am not replying to every little message every day. I put something up with the RCA Academy. One of the directors is a close friend and we put up what I feel helped me to grow my business and my profession. It’s a way for me to impart my knowledge.”
To succeed in the wine sector, Nyumudoka says that one needs to have drive and patience, and of course, passion. “You have really got to enjoy what you do, you know? There’s no way to pretend or any way to hide, [and] you have got to be determined. Have patience and passion.”