Siwela Masoga’s journey to becoming a winemaker began through science, biotechnology to be more specific. Biotechnology is the use of micro-organisms to solve or make products.
Siwela majored in fermentation and microbiology, which are “the fundamentals of science in winemaking”. She began to develop an interest in learning more about winemaking at the time, and found that she wanted to learn even more.
“I believe this was purely out of curiosity because coming from a small village, I could never have imagined what goes [into making] a bottle of wine. I began to dream of becoming the first from Limpopo to venture into the wine industry; today my dream has become a reality,” she says.
Once she completed her studies at the Cape Pensinsula University of Technology with the support and encouragement from her then lecturer Professor Seteno Ntwampe, she got an opportunity to complete her internship with one of the wineries in Stellenbosch, under the supervision of Burger Badenhorst.
“This opportunity allowed me to have first-hand experience within the wine industry and being exposed to all practices that are involved in making wine – from vineyard practices [to the actual] winemaking and packaging of the final wine,” explains Siwela.
“As much as this was an exciting experience for me, I got discouraged as I knew the industry to be capital intensive, male and white dominated. However, I continued to sharpen my skills within the sector. I landed a full-time position with Distell as a laboratory analyst where my role involved quality control, day-to-day analyses – from grapes to the final product of wines and spirits. I completed a couple of courses with the Cape Wine Academy and Stellenbosch University, while I worked towards attaining the Cape Wine Master qualification.”
In 2018 Siwela decided to venture out on her own to establish the Siwela brand. She worked closely with Andrew de Vries as her mentor, who has since contributed immensely to her success on the winemaking journey.
Siwela Wines now produces nine different varieties and has extended its services to others by offering wine education for beginners, private label programmes, etc.
What is the essence of your wines / brands?
Siwela is a brand centred around the passion for wine, with the vision to inspire young people to become active role players in the wine industry. Our message is to inspire a generation, to follow one’s passion and dreams withought being fearful of the challenges or even breaking into industries that may seem exclusive due to race and gender.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I enjoy seeing the brand grow and new opportunities being presented as we go by. I also enjoy educating my customers about our story and wine in general. Seeing young black people being part of Siwela Wines makes me even happier as it unleashes an opportunity for them to be part of the industry team players, learn more about the industry and be empowered.
Would you say it’s harder for a woman to get her foot in the ‘winemaking door’ or have things changed over the years in terms of female representation in the wine industry?
I believe things have changed. It was certainly possible for me and this means that anyone with the same will to learn and acquire necessary skills can do it too. It just requires a lot of passion and hard work. The industry is open for all and stakeholders are doing their part to make it more inclusive.
What have been some of your biggest challenges and successes?
My biggest challenge has been access to market and funding opportunities. However, due to our innovative strategies, I have seen more growth for the brand and more South Africans buying the wine, irrespective of other brands within the market. This is an industry that is very competitive; there are many brands on the market and more options for consumers. I am glad to say that we compete just as much.
Any advice for other women in the winemaking space?
My advice is to keep learning. Work harder and always implement innovative strategies. The idea is to become wiser, more skilled and to empower the next person.