Queen of taste seeks to apply the science of SA-bottling into Zimbabwean wines

Koni Maliehe is looking at expanding her wine business into the continent, and Zimbabwe is the first destination where she is going to establish her brand outside of SA. Photo: Facebook

 

By Tulani Ngwenya

South African female winemakers have made considerable strides in producing the world’s best wines. Wine making in South Africa dates back to the 1650s, but today Koni Wines a female run enterprise has made its mark in adding on to this magnificent wine history.

And now she is looking at exporting, not only South African-produced wines to Zimbabwe, but also growing grapes, establishing wineries and producing distinctly Zimbabwean wines, in Zimbabwe.

Koni Wines was founded by Koni Maliehe in 2015, and she says that the beverages company was born of passion, the mind, body and the soul.

Maliehe is from Johannesburg, she was born in Soweto, Rockville. She spent part of her young life in Herschel and Queenstown, her family later relocated to Carletonville because of her parents who worked in the mines in the West Rand.

Years later the Maliehe family eventually settled in Cape Town where Koni finished her boarding school at Venterdorp.

The young Koni was not certain on the career path she wanted to follow, so at first she studied fashion, then marketing, and finally settled to pursue Business Management at the University of Cape Town’s Business School.

Koni then went on to study human resources at the University of South Africa. Her early career was as a teller, then a trainer, and eventually ended up as the head of human resources/training at Metropolitan Life, South Africa’s largest financial services company which is also a division of the JSE listed MMI Holdings from 2004 to 2014.

The birth of Koni Wines was influenced by Koni’s curiosity and passion for South African wines and business.

Having visited most of the prolific vineyards in the Western Cape, her curiosity led her to start her own wine business which she passionately pursued to give birth to what the company is today.

One of her favourite quotes reads ‘Dreams only die, if you let them starve’ which translates to the dedication and hard work which she put in to make the company the success that it is today.

Koni Maliehe’s journey was not easy in an industry predominantly run by white Afrikaner men described by wine critics and columnists as ‘an old boys club’.

Being a black female in this male dominated wine sector with few black owned wineries and even fewer females in the sector was a major drawback which had countless challenges.

She remembers during the early days that if she had absorbed all the negative energy in the sector at the inception of her start-up company, and had not looked beyond it and moved on, all her efforts would have gone to waste.

One of the major challenges she pointed out was lack of support for Koni Wines especially the inconsistencies from business partners who offered their support.

Koni also pointed out that the bureaucratic processes in the wine industry to get her business moving wasted her time that she eventually ended up financing her own company.

She managed to overcome all these challenges and went on to become a force to be reckoned with in the wine industry in the country today.

Koni draws her drive and strength from her grandparents who taught her resilience, hard work and perseverance.

Her grandparents also instilled in her a spiritual moral compass which has influenced her relationship with God; the high power that holds protects her and her business.

All grapes are hand-picked, sorted and vinified to produce a rich full bodied, character filled taste of South African class

Koni Maliehe collaborates with a boutique wine farm in the Stellenbosch, where Koni Wines are produced. All grapes which are used to make Koni Wines are hand-picked, sorted and vinified to produce a rich full bodied, character filled taste of South African class.

The grapes are sourced in the Stellenbosch region, known for its unique and rich vineyard soil types and ideal climate famous for production of the ‘noble grape’ Cabernet Sauvignon.

Koni Wines produces six cultivars namely Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot Cab Blend, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Koni Wines main goals centre on creating jobs and making meaningful contributions in countries and markets where they operate.

In future, Koni Wines seeks to expand its market to Zimbabwe since it has always been standard procedure for the country to employ foreign winemakers, particularly those from Zimbabwe.

Wine making is a natural process that requires little human intervention, but each wine maker guides the process through different techniques. In general, there are five basic components of the wine making process: harvesting, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification, and aging and bottling.

“Zimbabwean winemakers are making a huge mark in south Africa, and many people do not know about that. We are looking at expanding our horizons and spreading the good taste of wine, but Africa in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, may have something to offer the wine-drinking world. We are on a mission to grow that market,” she told Zimbabwe Digital News this week.

Zimbabwe’s wine industry has also been gradually growing and evolving, making it an emerging wine region in Southern Africa.

Koni Wines is looking at complimenting and nurturing Zimbabwe’s wine culture by establishing its brand as the basic appellation taste.

Although Zimbabwe is not considered ideally suited, climatically, for wine production by some, the country enjoys summer rains from November to April.

Grape harvesting time is from November to January and radiant sunlight and the right soils are the soul of wine, of which Zimbabwe has in abundance.

While moisture can be a problem, especially during grape-harvesting time, the combination of high-altitude, hot summers and cool nights make land-locked Zimbabwe an ideal location for wine production.

 

Tulani Ngwenya studied at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Midlands State University. He is an occasional tutor and freelance journalist for a community newspaper in Delmas, Mpumalanga and is passionate about film documentaries, movies, news, music, travelling and photography. This article is published in partnership between Zimbabwe Digital News and Zim Diaspora Scribes.

Koni Wines produces six cultivars namely Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot Cab Blend, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

Koni Maliehe’s journey was not easy in an industry predominantly run by white Afrikaner men described by wine critics and columnists as ‘an old boys club’.

 

She remembers during the early days that if she had absorbed all the negative energy in the sector at the inception of her start-up company, and had not looked beyond it and moved on, all her efforts would have gone to waste.

 

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