The Black Women Leading South Africa’s Wine Revolution

For many years, South Africa’s blacks were excluded from wine-drinking, as well as wine-making. Now, companies like Seven Sisters are blazing a revolutionary trail.

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.


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