Following countless discussions with various wine drinkers within the hospitality sector, Aubrey Ngcungama and Ian Manley – directors at Vula Afrika – realised the need for an organisation that appealed to black Africans who are passionate about wine within South Africa and the rest of the continent. And so the Black Cellar Club (BLACC) was born.
The organisation will also focus on black empowerment within the wine industry, and consists of formidable executive board members: Gregory Mutambe (head sommelier at the The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa) as chairman, Luvo Ntezo (head sommelier at One&Only, Cape Town) as deputy chairman, Joseph T Dafana (head sommelier at La Colombe restaurant) as secretary general, Pearl Oliver (head sommelier at the Taj hotel, Cape Town) as deputy secretary general, Mercy Mwai (head sommelier at Nobu restaurant, Cape Town) as treasurer general, Ngcungama as the ambassador, and Manley as PR and media executive.
“I’m immeasurably proud of being a part of this great initiative, and as part of our plans we very much look forward to presenting BLACC’s own flotilla of premium beverages to the market in the near future,” said Ngcungama.
As a “voluntary association”, BLACC is driven by its constitution, through which social activities and cultural interests will facilitate black empowerment. These include academic development for previously disadvantaged locals, driving educational initiatives with a focus on responsible drinking, encouraging shared value, and increasing the inclusion of black role-players within South Africa’s wine industry and economy. All profits made through its commercial efforts will be reinvested to advance the organisation’s objective and benefit all members.
“Like my fellow board members, wine was not something I grew up with,” Mutambe said. “My parents never drank wine at the dinner table. Yes, there was alcohol, but certainly not wine. This is the case for most black Africans. With BLACC, our aim is to change this scenario, to change perceptions around wine and to facilitate making wine and the knowledge thereof accessible to all South Africans by raising awareness about it.”
The organisation not only aims to increase the wine consumption per capita within the wine market, but will also promote responsible drinking. BLACC will provide support to wine professionals and new entrants in the industry within Africa.
“An objective of mine has always been to convince those living in the townships to try wines – good wines,” Ntezo shared. “It isn’t easy, but it’s not hard either. I’ve realised that it starts with a little enlightened roadshow. The Cape Winelands is so welcoming and hospitable. I’ve taken several township friends to the winelands in the last few years. By doing so, it’s given them confidence by association (‘I’ve been there, nice place and great wines they have’). I lived in the townships; I speak the language; I navigate my way around easily; and I now sit in a position of privilege, knowledge and access, and I want to share that. I’d love to see more black people drink wine as their first choice – wine that’s produced locally. It is in our interest to support business on our own continent. BLACC is a means of doing so.”