Cultivating culture and transformation in the South African wine industry
Nondumiso Pikashe’s journey towards transforming perceptions and shattering stereotypes started in the classroom. After 11 years as a teacher, she was looking for a new adventure. Becoming a winemaker wasn’t an obvious choice for someone from Gugulethu. But just outside of town, the Cape Winelands promised picturesque vineyards and classy tastings. This is where Pikashe’s interest lay, and she set about exploring the art of vinification. Today, she is the proud owner of her own wine label, and is succeeding in breaking gender and race norms in the wine industry.
In 2006, Pikashe met the owner of a wine farm who allowed her to use his space after she shared her vision of creating her own blends with him. But after two years, the winery was sold and her business partners left to pursue other interests. It was make or break for Pikashe. Soon after, she partnered with another winery in Stellenbosch and together with a group of women began crafting Ses’fikile Wines. The name, which means ‘we have arrived’, is a nod to Pikashe’s personal success in this venture as well as the introduction of a proudly indigenous wine.
Pikashe attributes her entrepreneurial spirit to her grandfather, who used to sell fruit and vegetables in the township of Langa. However, making a name for herself as a winemaker has not been easy, not because of the quality of Pikashe’s product but its name. Retail stores have been reluctant to stock the brand, claiming that the name is not sophisticated enough and customers won’t support African brands. It’s a perception that Pikashe is working on changing, one bottle at a time. In addition to the blends she produces, she works with schools to introduce high-school learners to career options in wine farming. With Ses’fikile Wines, Pikashe is creating opportunities for women and championing transformation in the industry.