A rich collection of cultures, histories, and languages comprise South Africa’s diverse tapestry. But one thing unites all of them: the love of local wines, from crisp Sauvignon Blancs to earthy Pinotages.
To bring together this richness of people and the heritage of wine in a way that reflects the diversity of South Africa, our local Diners Clubâ franchise is working with Feenix, a crowdfunding platform developed to help young students realize their dreams.
By working together, Diners Club South Africa, through our local Together for Change program, and Feenix, are on a mission to empower young women to pursue careers in the wine industry by helping them with financial support.
The goal: to make winemaking accessible to as many women as possible, whether they become celebrated winemakers, launch wineries of their own, or take leadership roles in South Africa’s many well-established wine-making businesses.
South Africa has a long and celebrated history of winemaking
Wine, a symbol of celebration and community, has deep roots in South Africa dating back to its introduction in the 17th century by Dutch colonists. Today, South Africa is known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot and, of course, the country’s own Pinotage (a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsault) grapes. It is one of the top 10 wine-producing countries in the world, gaining wider recognition each year. All told, winemaking contributes 55 billion rand ($3 billion USD) to South Africa’s annual economy.
Because of the country’s former system of apartheid, winemaking was largely a white, male-dominated industry. Indeed, with international boycotts, South African wines were largely unknown to the rest of the world until the mid-1990s when the system of segregation collapsed. Still, winemaking continues to be dominated by white men, though the majority of farm workers in the industry are local women.
That’s starting to change. More winemakers of color are beginning to make inroads, including Ntsiki Biyela, South Africa’s first Black female winemaker, whose Aslina Cabernet Sauvignon has drawn international acclaim. Biyela went into winemaking after she received a scholarship to Stellenbosch University, the epicenter of South Africa’s wine-growing region. That opportunity exposed her to a career path she had never considered. Today, Biyela and other Black winemakers are working to make the industry more inclusive.
Diners Club’s commitment is inspired by “I am because you are”
Diners Club South Africa is committed to offering other women these opportunities, too. In partnership with Feenix, these investments in young women who can’t afford their tuition fees but want to learn the art of winemaking, are supporting their dreams to pursue careers in the industry. By making winemaking more inclusive and accessible, the industry also becomes more sustainable, continuing to provide economic opportunities for all South Africa’s various communities.
With Diners Club’s long history of providing payments services in the dining, travel, and entertainment segments, we are committed to helping support positive change through dining-related endeavors. In particular, Together for Change, our corporate social responsibility program, focuses on opportunities to be present and relevant in communities where we live and operate.
Indeed, the South African saying, “uMuntu ngumuntu ngabantu,” which means “I am because you are; you are because we are,” aligns closely with the spirit of Together for Change.
Among the highlights of our efforts is Diners Club South Africa’s Winemaker of the Year Award, which is now in its 43rd year. The award recognizes excellence in the country’s wine industry. Since 2001, it has recognized the Young Winemaker of the Year, designed to inspire, encourage innovation, and bring recognition to new generations of winemakers.
Diners Club and Feenix help prepare the next generation of winemakers
Diners Club and Feenix set criteria for selecting the year’s cohort. To be eligible for the program, students must be female and come from communities of color.
Previous students accepted into the program are Mosima and Terry Ann, who are currently interning with previous winners or finalists of the Winemaker of the Year award. As part of their internships, students have the opportunity to take part in harvests throughout the world. Terry Ann, for example, traveled to France to participate in a harvest. This year, Diners Club expects to fund three students.
And the tradition continues. Many of our winemaker winners and finalists become mentors to the students in Together for Change, helping us leverage our role to create pathways for well-paying careers in communities that have traditionally been excluded from the winemaking industry.
These types of endeavors, bringing social responsibility and support to Diners Club’s traditional activity in the hospitality industry, are key to our mission. Wine has long been part of the fabric of South African life and gaining a following around the world. With Diners Club South Africa’s help, young women will now get the chance to leave their mark.
To learn more about our Together for Change initiative, visit us here.