Young graduates launch new wine brand

The new wine brand, Ulutsha, was developed by the first group of Pinotage Youth Development Academy graduates taking part in the project. The plan is for the brand to expand and include other niche wine products and services.

A team of young graduates from the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) in Stellenbosch, launched their own wine brand in partnership with Delheim Estate.

The all new uLutsha (meaning the “youth” in isiXhosa) wine brand was officially launched on Thursday February 24 at the wine estate located in Stellenbosch.

During 2021, Delheim Estate partnered with PYDA to enable graduates to create their own wine product, start to finish. Commencing with that year’s harvest, the group of nine, got a basic introduction from business plans to harvest, vinification, maturation, and eventual own-brand wine release.

Lockdown resulted in less exposure to actual winemaking, so the concept was born to provide a comprehensive understanding of the wine value chain and to get graduates hands-on experience in the industry.

The project is part of a long-term initiative that will see graduates create a commercial product from one barrel per year. The second group of five graduates has come on board in February for their immersive learning experience.

They then make the wine for the next group and will bottle the wine made by the previous group, bringing a legacy element to the process.

Both intakes have also received input from award-winning winemaker Ntsiki Biyela, who has made Delheim Estate her home base for her Aslina brand and who also serves on the board of the PYDA.

Ziyanda Njalo, one of the original nine graduates, who has co-ordinated the project on a full-time basis, says of her experience and the brand: “Choosing to continue with the uLutsha wine project has expanded my knowledge and skills of the wine business.

“My confidence has grown and I have a deeper appreciation of the work and people it takes to produce a bottle of wine. In the uLutsha wine project, everyone that I have met has taught me that you must know your ’whys’ and always have a plan. ”

The initial 230 limited edition bottles of uLutsha Pinotage 2019 will be sold for R1 000 per bottle specifically as an investment into youth development within the wine industry; the uLutsha brand, and its next phase of business development.

First to sip on this new pinotage at the launch, was a prestigious panel of wine experts, including Victor Sperling, Delheim executive director; Nomonde Kubheka, winemaker turned wine educator; Denzel Swarts, vice- chairperson Black Cellar Club; Cathy Marston, owner of the International Wine Education Centre, wine educator, Master of Wine (MW) student; Ntsiki Biyela, owner of Aslina Wine and PYDA board member; and Tuanni Price, wine educator and owner of Zuri Wine Tasting.

Nora Thiel, Delheim executive director, says the estate has always been involved in education programmes and has been a long-time employer of PYDA graduates since the training organisation’s establishment in 2012.

“They have never been exposed to actual winemaking, so the concept was born to provide comprehensive understanding of wine realisation.

“This project was launched as part of developing talent, and we will continue working on a model that can enhance the learning curve for the PYDA students. Our aim is to develop an all-inclusive structured learnership where students get to work across all departments in a company.”

The graduates learnt about the vineyards, winemaking, and bottling and also about marketing and sales; social media, and receive financial mentoring through the training sessions.

“The aim was to give them an in-depth and complete understanding of how a company works; a seamless grasp of the inter-connectedness of everything. From root to bottle and everything in between,” explains Ms Thiel.

Nikki Munro, PYDA executive director, says: “It is extremely exciting to see what is possible when young energy, passion and commitment meets opportunity.”

The founding aim of the PYDA is to develop young South African talent for meaningful employment or economic outcome. All programmes deliver irrevocable personal change, industry specific vocational training, and in-programme work placements.

Since its first class, 436 students have passed through its doors. Although not exclusively aimed at the wine industry, the academy has had 303 of the students embarking on wine-sector training in this time.

The wine programme consists of qualifications, including the University of Stellenbosch Oenology NQF 5 short course as well as WSET 2.

For wine orders, contact ulutsha@pyda.co.za and for more information about the academy, visit, www.pyda.co.za

The second group of five graduates has come on board in February and the intention is to have them bottle a barrel in coming weeks for sale. From left, are Sinesipho Malisane, Nqabisa Maraxaba, Sibulele Ndongeni, Sesethu Zangqa and Silindokuhle Gwebityala.
All the role-players from uLutsha, Delheim and the Pinotage Youth Development Academy, present at the celebratory launch hosted at the Delheim wine estate in Stellenbosch last month.