As part of its mission to help transform the South African wine industry, the Cape Winemakers Guild recently hosted 22 black female Grade 11 learners for a week-long educational visit to the winelands.
Facilitated by the Guild’s acclaimed Protégé Programme, the purpose of the visit was to offer the learners a sneak peek of what to expect should they choose to pursue a university degree in winemaking.
Criteria for the selection of the learners included a keen interest in biological science and consistently achieving above-average marks in mathematics and physical sciences. Representing seven of the nine provinces, they hailed from schools across the Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape, and the Western Cape.
During their stay from Monday, 10 July to Friday, 14 July 2023, the learners were treated to a range of educational outings, including tours of the Stellenbosch University- and Elsenburg campuses, grape tastings and museum tours, as well as visits to a range of wine estates and cellars, including Vredenheim, Lievland, JC Le Roux, Alto and Babylonstoren. Staying in Metanoia residence also offered a taste of the social side of student life.
Transforming the wine industry
Supported by Nedbank, Stellebosch University, Elsenburg College and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), the Cape Winemakers Guild’s annual learner tour of the winelands was launched in 2019. So far, four groups of young black women have received this special induction into the world of winemaking.
Says Magda Vorster, Protégé Programme facilitator: “Breaking barriers, one sip at a time,the Cape Winemakers Guild empowers young black women to dream big in the world of winemaking, fostering a future of transformation and possibility.”
Since its inception in 2006, the Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG) Protégé Programme has established itself as the most successful skills development programme in the South African wine industry. So far, 34 protégés have completed the three-year internship, seven are currently participating in this ongoing programme, and 18 now either hold leading winemaking roles or have their own winemaking projects.
“Growing greatness and fostering successful transformation since 2006, the CWG Protege Programme shines as a triumph, nurturing skilled talents that flourish in the South African wine Industry,” says Vorster.
A week of highlights
When asked about their highlights, many cited meeting Lievland winemaker and former Protégé, Mahalia Kotjane as a standout moment.
“Mahalia’s journey inspired me to go forward because I see that as a black female, it’s possible for me to achieve whatever I desire. I am willing to work as hard as I can to make my dream a reality. This really proved to me that the sky’s the limit; nothing is impossible,” said one learner in an anonymous survey following the trip.
“Meeting Mahalia really inspired me to see a woman of colour working and successful in this industry. This made me believe that if she could do it, so can I,” said another.
Although there is no obligation for the learners to commit to enrolling in a winemaking course, most said that the trip awakened an excitement about and interest in the field.
Among other things, the learners cited “diverse opportunities”, “spending time in nature” and “seeing people enjoying the fruit of their labour” as reasons why they would consider a career in winemaking.
“As the facilitator of empowerment, witnessing the transformative journey of these young women is both humbling and enriching. Opening doors to possibilities and fostering their growth, I find profound joy in being part of their path to success and greatness,” says Vorster. “We hope to see many of them enrolling in winemaking courses in 2025.”