Blazing a wine trail in KwaZulu-Natal

19 August 2013

The iLembe Co-operative Winery marked its official opening last week with the launch of its first wine, made from cultivars suited to the humid coastal conditions of KwaZulu-Natal, in a project driven by locals and backed by the government.

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has pumped R19.5-million into the development of the vineyards and winery, situated in Umhlali, north of Durban and driven by the iLembe Co-operative Vineyards and Winery.

On Thursday, KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube unveiled a plaque at the winery’s wine processing facility and handed over the project to the local co-operatives.

There was a ceremonial tasting of the first wine produced in iLembe, Seventeen Eighty-Seven (the year in which Zulu King Shaka was born), “a dry, easy-drinking white wine which can be paired with salads and fish”.

Speaking at the wine processing facility at Colisheen Estate on the outskirts of Ballito near KwaDukuza, Dube said the project would unlock economic growth opportunities for the province, creating jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for local communities.

“The vineyard consists of 12 hectares across the iLembe District and has already created 50 direct jobs for the local communities since the inception of this initiative,” Dube said.

“Eventually, this business venture will create a new tourism product on the iLembe District Municipality calendar, that is, an annual Wine & Food Festival.”

The vineyards in the Mandeni and Maphumulo local municipalities saw their first harvesting in February, with the testing of the winery equipment conducted by a viticulturist in the same month.

In the three months that followed, eight tons of grapes were processed and 8 000 litres of wine produced.

Dube said the winery’s proximity to King Shaka International Airport and the Dube Tradeport would make it easy for the winery to export its product.

iLembe Co-operative Vineyards and Winery chief executive Zakhele Gumede told SAnews that the winer had already secured deals with retailers which would soon see wines of origin “iLembe Region” availabe “in a store near you soon”.