Siwela Sweetness Masoga, a 28-year-old female winemaker from South Africa says passion and perseverance helped her build a wine brand that is gaining global attention.
This is particularly important for Kenya for various reasons. Among them, there is a growing middle class with a taste for wines, hence, the market is growing.
Winemaking presents an opportunity for young people to be self-employed. While Kenya has no tradition of growing grapes that are widely used to make wine, trials in Meru County have shown that indeed grapes can do well in Kenya.
Kenya has a diverse availability of other raw materials that can be used to manufacture wine. They include; strawberries, plums, watermelons, peaches, pears, and pineapples to name a few.
Winemaking presents an opportunity to add value to agriculture production and such a business venture can attract funding from various bodies such as the Kenya Climate Innovation Center among others.
The road to being a winemaker
Masoga’s company is known as Siwela Wines based in Western Cape, South Africa. She started her wine journey after completing a National Diploma in Biotechnology, majoring in Fermentation and Microbiology from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
After graduating, she accepted a position as an intern at Waterstone Wines in Stellenbosch where she worked with winemaker Burger Badenhorst, learning the fine art of turning grapes into delicious wine.
In 2018, Masoga decided to strike out on her own, encouraged by Andrew de Vries, the Managing Director at Koelenhof Wines, a top wine farm in South Africa, who told her that it was her passion that was going to make her successful in the industry. Those words were a big motivating factor for Masoga to start her own label.
Says Masoga: “What separates those who succeed from those who fail is the courage to persevere, so aptly enough our slogan is ‘A Taste of Courage’.
“Siwela – an indigenous African name which means crossing over – is not just a bottle of wine but a symbol of transformation within the South African wine industry.
“Our range of wines are produced to encourage wine enthusiasts to embrace our beautifully rooted African culture, heritage and originality through each sip,” she says.
Masoga now produces eight different varietals under the Siwela banner – including a Gewürztraminer, a Pinotage Rosé, a Siwela Rouge, a Dry Red Blend as well as two sparkling wines and two MCCs.
Financial Day spoke to the passionate young winemaker and asked her a few questions ahead of The Johannesburg Cap Classique & Champagne Festival which will be held from Saturday, April 4 to Sunday, April 5:
How did a young girl from Limpopo get a passion for wine and winemaking?
My interest in wine started during my second year of study, learning about the processes of winemaking while majoring in fermentation. Also, the fact that where I come from, we don’t have vineyards and we certainly don’t have any woman winemakers in the province.
That just made me more interested to learn about the industry. I thought maybe one day I can be amongst the few people from Limpopo to venture into this industry. I feel I have lived up to my expectations having now spent five years in the wine industry learning all I can about the industry from production to the quality assurance in wine and spirit. I am also furthering my studies in winemaking. So, my journey in wine education continues.
How difficult is it being in an industry that is traditionally dominated by white males?
Years ago, the fact that the industry was white male-dominated seemed like something that would have made it more difficult for me. However, this has not been the case and the local market has been very receptive of my brand and the response has been amazing.
We are also exploring foreign markets such as Ghana, Asia and other African countries. Establishing any business or making it in the market requires lots of effort, dedication and persistence. As it has been said before – it is the passion for the industry that keeps you going.
Can you tell us about your wine academy and what you hope to achieve with it?
The Siwela Wine Academy is registered as a non-profit organisation. This is our initiative to empower young underprivileged people by educating them about wine. As a young person in the industry who has had the privilege to be part of this amazing field, it is my vision to inspire more young people to become active role players in the industry and the best way to live up to the vision is through education and training.
What is your favourite food and wine pairing?
My favourite food and wine pairing is actually oxtail and red wine, mostly because I enjoy red wine and love to enjoy my wine with hearty meals.
What advice can you give others who want to get into the winemaking business?
If you want to study wine, it has to be something that you are passionate about. And you must focus on mathematics and science at high school.