The Black Women Leading South Africa’s Wine Revolution

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Written by Staff

From The Daily Beast

It was at the very first Soweto Wine Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2005 when Vivian Kleynhans offered Selena Cuffe a glass of Seven Sisters wine—the strawberry-colored rosé named after Kleynhans’ sister Twena.

“She is a flirt,” says Kleynhans (née Brutus), the fourth sister and namesake of the sauvignon blanc. “That wine flirts with you—be careful.”

The rosé was so tempting, Cuffe gathered $75,000 in savings and credit cards after returning home to Cambridge, Mass. to import Seven Sisters in the United States. She hardly knew anything about wine.

“We ran out of product in the first six weeks,” says Cuffe, CEO of Heritage Link Brands, the company she founded with her husband a month after meeting Kleynhans, which is also the leading importer of black-produced wines from South Africa and the African diaspora.

With Cuffe’s help, Seven Sisters gained the interests of restaurants, liquor stores and specialty supermarkets across the United States. Vivian, the elegant sauvignon blanc, became the first South African wine ever served on American Airlines.

Then Walmart came knocking in 2013—that is Walmart’s now-retired executive vice president of global sourcing, Ed Kolodzieski, literally showed up at Kleynhans’ door in South Africa with an offer to distribute five of the seven wines, created to match the style and personality of each sister, in more than 650 stores.

The deal firmly planted Seven Sisters as the largest black-owned South African wine brand in America, and put the Brutus sisters, from the small fishing village of Paternoster, on the map in 42 states.

On December 15, Seven Sisters will open the doors of the first—and only—black-owned and woman-owned tasting room in more than 350 years of South African winemaking.

It is a dream come true for seven siblings, who grew up without electricity or a bathroom in a two-bedroom cottage shared between a family of 10.

Read more at The Daily Beast