published on: 28 April 2008
Oupa Rangaka, a South African school teacher, bought a rundown farm with dying vines and turned his hobby into a thriving business.
Oupa Rangaka says that before farming wine, you need to study drinking it. He remembers very well the time in South Africa when wine was not a black man's drink. The shebeens (taverns) of the townships sold beer, sweet drinks and an evil liquor called papsak. Papsak, now banned by the government, was a cheap, sweet-tasting, low-grade 'wine'; the dregs of the wine barrels that had often been mixed with unknown liquors. Packed in the foil-lined plastic bags, not bottles, it was one of the culprits that led to alcohol abuse and social disintegration in the townships. Rangaka was not a papsak drinker. The former English literature teacher drank beer 'and tons of whiskey' before finding a taste for good South African wine. His new hobby, however, let to something more than sipping reds and whites. He now not only sell wine, but is also showing how wine can merge the cultures of black and white South Africans.
Today Rangaka owns a small farm in Stellenbosch that incorporates a vineyard growing mainly bush vines unsupported by posts and wires. to run a wine business would have been impossible for a black South African before the end of Apartheid in 1994 - wine-making was a career for white men only. But a combination of a bank loan and the Black Empowerment Enterprise (BEE) initiative gave Rangaka the financial oomph he needed. His grapes are made into various wines under the M'Hudi label, and he is one of the most successful of South Africa's euphemistically named 'emerging winemakers' - there are 25 out of 4 600 winemakers in total.
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