South Africa, International Society Of Africans In Wine

Sep 1, 2010
2010 / September 2010

While 80 percent of South Africa’s population is black, less than 1 percent of the country’s 560 wineries are black-owned.

That is a statistic Stephen Satterfield, an American, wants to change, and he is working toward his goal through the International Society of Africans in Wine, a foundation he established for that cause. His first step has been to create a training center to teach blacks the basics of winemaking and the wine business. That, he believes, “will begin to open opportunities for them in the South African wine industry.”

Currently, there are only two wholly black-owned wineries — Seven Sisters and M’hudi — although there are also black cooperatives and wineries where workers have equity shares. All the wines retail for $13 to $20.

Seven Sisters, owned and operated by the seven Brutus sisters, produces seven wines, each named for a sister. Among their wines currently available in the United States, I recently tasted Sauvignon Blanc 2007; it is fresh and focused with bright acidity, a perfect aperitif. The Seven Sisters’ Rosé is made from Pinotage and Shiraz, two assertive red grapes — and this Rosé shows the vitality of its grapes. It is a delightful wine, off-dry with the color and aroma of ripe strawberries. Serve cookies or biscotti with it and you have dessert. And there is the sisters’ Pinotage/Shiraz 2007, a red wine with a subtle nose, medium body and strong finish.

M’hudi is a Setswana word that means “harvester.” And M’hudi is a winery that currently has among its wines on the American market a Pinotage 2006. It is beautifully balanced, all the parts meshing into one richly flavored, smooth-bodied wine.

Also available in the United States is Solms Delta, an interesting South African winery. It was begun by the Solms family 320 years ago. Now, generations later, Mark Solms and a partner have set up a trust for their employees. They have also divided ownership of the property into three equal shares, one for each of them and one-third for their workers.

All of this bodes well for Stephen Satterfield’s dream. “If we are successful,” he says, “I hope it will have broad ripples throughout South Africa’s young democracy.”

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