The U.S. wine industry is less than 1% Black-owned, according to Phil Long, president of the Association of African-American Vintners. This lack of representation is not unique to America—the global industry also shows low numbers of Black-owned wineries. Wine, like many industries, has had a long history of racial inequality and a lack of representation of Black winemakers and sommeliers. However, Black-owned South African wines are seeing rapid growth, with exceptional portfolios that showcase the unique terroir of the country.
One of the leading figures in the Black-owned South African wine movement is Ray Sholes, head sommelier at the Michelin-starred Michael's Genuine Food & Drink and founder of The Black Owned Wine Review. Sholes is well-versed in the Black winemaking community as a frequent visitor to South Africa and a leader in Miami's Black sommelier community. "One of the best takeaways is that while brands may identify as Black-owned, that is not the business model or the strategic plan for scaling their businesses," Sholes says. "Being Black-owned is a feature, like a wine being organic or sustainable or grown on a certain slope with certain exposure."
The movement is not only about promoting diversity and inclusion in the industry, but also about celebrating the rich culture and history of Black winemaking. EBONY asked Sholes to share his top selections of Black-owned South African wines that you'll want to add to cart.
HER Sauvignon Blanc 2022
HER is not only Black-owned, but also 100% female-led. Winemakers Praisy Dlamini and Natasha Williams create vibrant wines such as this sauvignon blanc, a fruity, zesty crowd-pleaser to start any happy hour, lunch or dinner.
"I learned very quickly that Natasha's philosophy for winemaking and her personality were one and the same: honest, humble, elegant and a true testament to the place of origin or terroir," Sholes said about Williams. "Just to hear her speak about wine with such a knowledgeable, approachable manner, set the tone for my expectations in South Africa."
Kumusha Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
This 2020 cabernet sauvignon features beautiful red berry fruit flavors, emphasizing the Zimbabwean fruit tsubvu, which closely resembles blackcurrant.
The Zimbabwe-born, Kumusha founder, Tinashe Nyumudoka, moved to South Africa for better economic prospects. Despite having no prior knowledge of wine, he worked his way up from a waiter to becoming the head sommelier at The Test Kitchen, one of Africa's most prestigious restaurants. This led to the creation of his wine brand, Kumusha, which means 'your roots' in Nyumudoka's native Shona language.
Kara Tara Pinot Noir 2020
This cool-climate pinot noir hails from three distinct vineyards in the Western Cape. The flavor boasts classic strawberry and cherry fruit flavors with a touch of peppery spice.
From South African rugby player to all-star winemaker, Rüdger van Wyk pays tribute to his roots with Kara Tara, named after the river running through his hometown. Van Wyk also chose this name to honor his upbringing, since it translates to "deep, dark shadows" in the language of the indigenous Khoisan people of South Africa.
Tesselaarsdal Pinot Noir 2022
This 2022 pinot noir has notes of fruit from the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, showcasing delicate hints of red cherries and raspberries complemented by subtle notes of cloves and baking spices.
Established in 2015 by Berene Sauls, a dedicated employee of Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Tesselaarsdal takes its name from the eponymous farming hamlet in the Overberg region, located near the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge wine appellation. Born in the Tesselaarsdal valley, Sauls is a descendant of formerly enslaved people who inherited the land. The winery's name honors the rich history and heritage of the area and reflects Sauls' deep connection to the land and community. "Berene Sauls is the definition of the phrase keep striving for more," Sholes says. "I was blown away at the elegance, balance, and the sense of place that was bottled."