Born and raised in Soweto, Nomonde Kubheka had no idea what to study after matric. She moved from Soweto to Cape Town with her family at the end of grade 11 and decided to take a gap year after matric.
She heard about the winemaking course at Stellenbosch University (SU) from her father. The company he worked for manufactured stainless steel tanks for the wine industry and Nomonde decided to take a chance. Fast-forward to 2003 and she obtained her BSc Agriculture (Viticulture and Oenology) at SU.
Nomonde recalls that residence meetings were mainly in Afrikaans during her student days and she didn’t know Afrikaans, but instead of letting that become a barrier, she learned Afrikaans and also teaches in Afrikaans today. “It’s become my secret weapon,” she says.
She worked for KWV (Pty) Ltd in Paarl for 10 years ̶ first as “production trainee” for a year, was then appointed as an assistant winemaker and eventually as winemaker. She was involved in all aspects of the winemaking process, from harvesting the grapes until the wine was bottled.
Her current work entails facilitation of Winetech’s Cellar Worker study groups. The study groups are about the transferal of knowledge and broadening of cellar workers’ knowledge base when it comes to wine and winemaking. “I present three study groups each for Afrikaans and Xhosa groups, in different participating wine regions between May and September. Every session has a topic and includes a wine tasting relevant to the theory discussed. Most importantly, the study groups encourage semi-illiterate and illiterate individuals to attend.”
She also does work for the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA), an NPO based in Stellenbosch. The PYDA develops talented, previously disadvantaged South African youth (18 ̶ 25 years) for employment in the wine and fruit industries and related sectors. She co-facilitates short winemaking courses with lecturers at the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at SU for the wine group and they teach basic chemistry for winemaking, pre-fermentation and post-fermentation aspects of wine and sensory evaluation of wine.
“The common thread in my work is that it entails teaching diverse groups of people about the various aspects of wine and/or wine-making process. I love spaces where I can use my knowledge and experience to teach and develop people. I love knowing that I’ve played a part in uplifting people. That’s very important to me.”
So what does the future hold for this Matie? “I would love to travel to the various winemaking regions of the world to taste wines and see what they do differently compared to the South African wine industry. And I would love to explore ways to teach everyday people about wine ̶ in SA and other parts of Africa.”
- By Elbie Els -