1. ITV Report

South Africa's first black female winemaker

Ntsiki Biyela had never tasted the wine when she first studied winemaking. Credit: ITV

Rohit Kachroo met Ntsiki Biyela for On Assignment, which airs Wednesday at 10.35pm on ITV

When Ntsiki Biyela grew up amid the turmoil of apartheid's final years, she could never have known that she would eventually become a national symbol of change in the 'Rainbow Nation'.

And she could never have guessed that it would be through winemaking, a career that came about by accident, that she would become a heroine for those trying to pull down racial barriers in South Africa.

Winemaking was never her first choice of study when in 1998 she travelled 800 miles from the hills of KwaZulu Natal to go to university in Stellenbosch, the historic town at the heart of the South African wine industry.

None of her applications for other courses were approved, so when a private sponsor offered to pay for her to take a course in 'viticulture' - the study and production of grapes - she took the chance.

Lessons were taught in Afrikaans, the unfamiliar language which grew out of Dutch, and her classmates were all white. But that wasn't the greatest hurdle she faced.

She had to learn exactly what wine was - a drink that she had never tasted.

In fact, no one she knew had tasted wine, so the boundless passion that her fellow students displayed at the mere sight of a bottle of Merlot seemed bizarre to her.

Ntsiki Biyela walks Rohit Kachroo through a vineyard in South Africa. Credit: ITV

She was expecting cider when she took those first sips, and she wretched with horror when the true taste was revealed.

"It was disgusting...and it was seen as a white drink when I was growing up," she says, referring to the apartheid era of racist rule when white and black South Africans lived distinctly separate lives.

For months she toyed with the idea of giving up - but she studied hard and suddenly found joy in making and drinking wine.

And after graduating, she was given a job at 'Stellakaya', a boutique wine producer in the Cape Winelands. She had just become South Africa's first black, female winemaker. Many awards followed, including 'Woman Winemaker of the Year'.

Ntsiki's success is a symptom of democracy. But according to one estimate, there are little more than a dozen black winemakers in South Africa.

The industry remains a white man's world, twenty years after the end of apartheid.

Problems endure, as they do across many parts of South African industry and society.

But Ntsiki has shown that slowly, things are changing.

Watch On Assignment: Wednesday at 10.35pm on ITV