They say the future is female, and that certainly rings true when it comes to the South African wine industry. Up until now, our country has produced stellar winemakers who continue to ensure the growing success of locally made wines – with more and more women taking the lead roles at both boutique and commercial wineries. This Women’s Month, we are celebrating some of South Africa’s top women winemakers who are bringing fresh ideas, diverse flavour profiles and great wines to the fore. Here are a few of the stand-out females (and trust us, it was hard to pick, as there are so many!):
Charla Haasbroek – Sijnn Wines
Charla joined the Sijnn team as an assistant winemaker in 2014, just two years after qualifying at the University of Stellenbosch. She began her wine career at Schoon de Companje managing wine sales in Stellenbosch before moving to California for a harvest. Shortly before the end of her harvest stint, she landed the assistant job at Sijnn. Though she initially started out doing an engineering course, winemaking captured her heart. Even at the moment, being 8 months pregnant, you’ll still find her checking in on the team and running the cellar like the pro she is.
Jocelyn Hogan – Hogan Wines
Entrepreneur and winemaker Jocelyn Hogan launched Hogan Wines in 2014 after a decade long career working at various South African wineries. She is the sole owner and producer of the two wines she makes and a worthy mention as one of South Africa’s top women winemakers. Sole ownership, Jocelyn says, allows her to visit each barrel consistently, overseeing its journey from vine to bottle. Instead of continuing to work in previously established wineries, she says that branching out and starting her own company has allowed her more agency in making the kinds of wine that she wants to, all while getting to spend more time with her family. She believes that female winemakers lend a “more nuanced and delicate” feel to the wine they create.
Nadia Barnard – Waterkloof Wines
After spending five years as an assistant winemaker at Waterkloof Wines since its inception, Nadia Barnard graduated to winemaker in 2013. She had aspirations of being a winemaker since high school, and studied a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture specialising in Viticulture and Oenology from the University of Stellenbosch in order to pursue her dream. After university, Nadia gained extensive experience as a burgeoning winemaker through an internship at Vergelegen Estate and a stint at Flagstone Winery. She has also worked in South Australia, New Zealand and France where she continued to hone her high quality winemaking skills internationally. At Waterkloof, Nadia attributes her high quality wine to “meticulous care and guidance” in her biodynamic farming procedure which utilises natural winemaking.
Ronell Wild – Bartinney Wines
Ronell studied Geology at the University of Stellenbosch which lead her to a career in winemaking, bolstered by her knowledge of soil. Before settling down at Bartinney, she honed her skills working at four different wine estates around Stellenbosch. Ronell is known for her love of adventure and risk-taking, both in life and in winemaking. Visitors to the Bartinney vineyard are most impressed by her personally crafted bubbly, which has earned her the title of Master Winemaker.
Ntsiki Biyela – Aslina Wines
Ntsiki Biyele became South Africa’s first black woman winemaker in 2004 when she took on a job at boutique winery, Stellekaya Wines. Just five years later, she was named 2009’s woman winemaker of the year. Ntsiki started out as a domestic worker before being awarded a scholarship by South African Airways in 1999 to study winemaking. Ntsiki worked extensively with Californian winemaker Helen Kiplinger as part of Mika Bulmash’s Wine for the World initiative. This strengthened both her passion for winemaking as well as her ambition to start her own winery. In 2007, she continued to trail blaze by opening Aslina Wines, named after her grandmother. She has also consulted in France, producing wine under the Winemaker’s Collection in Bordeaux. Her success as a black, female winemaker continues to encourage transformation and diversity in the South Africa’s wine industry, and definitely makes her one of South Africa’s top women winemakers.
Stephanie Wiid – Thistle and Weed
Stephanie Wiid has winemaking in her blood – she is the youngest grand-daughter of Niel Joubert, founder of the Stellenbosch Wine Route. Although she grew up in Johannesburg, she always had a keen interest in wine which lead to her studying Oenology and Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. This is Stephanie’s twelfth year in the winemaking industry. In 2015, she founded Thistle and Weed alongside her close friend, Etienne Terblanche. Her aim in starting her own winery was to express her creativity, experience a more hands-on winemaking process and showcase offerings from some of the lesser known “nooks and crannies of the Cape”. Stephanie says her career in winemaking is constantly exciting because of “the opportunities to work together, to educate, to share, to explore and to sell.”
Interested in meeting and tasting the wines of South Africa’s top women winemakers? Contact us and one of our travel experts will curate a day out in the vineyards meeting these incredible winemakers, tasting world-class wines and exploring their beautiful wine estates – think cellar tours, food and wine pairings, and stories that will leave you relentlessly inspired.