Streaming issues? Report here
money-show-thumbnailjpg money-show-thumbnailjpg
The Money Show with Bruce Whitfield
18:00 - 20:00

Up Next: The Aubrey Masango Show
See full line-up
The Money Show with Bruce Whitfield
18:00 - 20:00

Like her wines, this winemaker has flourished in some tough conditions

28 May 2019 6:05 PM

When the story of the winemaker can add as much to wine, as the origin of the grape.

RMB Solutionist Thinking is a podcast series hosted by Bruce Whitfield which focusses on great South African minds thinking differently and going against the norm. In this episode in the second series, Whitfield interviews Carmen Stevens, winemaker and Chief Executive Officer of the Carmen Stevens Foundation.

Becoming an award-winning winemaker in a male-dominated industry wasn't a seamless transition for Carmen Stevens. Her progression is stained with painful, oppressive memories from a time she says, she never wants to relive.

Hailing from a suburb in the poverty-stricken Cape Flats – an area designated on the outskirts of Cape Town for so-called coloured people – Carmen wasn't your average child.

As a little girl, Carmen struggled with a learning disability that meant she unable to read and write English. Determined to see her daughter succeed, Carmen's mother sat with her as she read Mills & Boon novels, night after night. Set against the romantic backdrop of the Vineyards of Calanetti – the novels not only resulted in a love for reading but, set fire to her dream of being a winemaker.

I said to my mom one day, I'm going to be a winemaker.

Carmen Stevens, winemaker at Carmen Stevens Foundation

To fulfil her lifelong dream, Carmen was about to unknowingly undertake a battle that would set the tone for her entire life as an activist against prejudice, in her case, just to be given the opportunity to learn how to make wine.

After matriculating and, despite the fact that there was no funds for her to attend – Carmen applied to Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute in the Western Cape to study the art of winemaking in 1990 and, was refused based on colour. She reapplied in 1991 and 1992 as the Apartheid regime was being demolished but, was refused because she did not have an agricultural background and later, because she did not complete military service unlike the 95% of Elsenburg's student base.

By this time, Carmen had had enough and threatened to expose the college in the media. In the January of 1993 – the first year that Elsenburg accepted girls into the college – amid 100 students, Carmen was the only coloured girl among the five girls that were accepted to attend.

The environment was hostile, but there was no alternative.

To fund her studies, Carmen spent months working in a factory in Elsies River, sold shoes and chocolate eclairs as a hawker at Cape Town station.

It was in her second year at the college, that things became especially unbearable. Carmen was enduring racism, sexism and paternalism from both male students and lecturers. By the half way point in the year, she felt like she was at breaking point.

In my second year, it became unbearable, really unbearable, to a point where my mom said to me, you pack your bags or I'll come and pack it for you... It was a time that I never in my life want back, it was horrible, it was racism at its best.

Carmen Stevens, winemaker at Carmen Stevens Foundation

As a last resort, Carmen confronted the Head of Agriculture in the Western Cape and, shared her story with him. He made drastic changes, things improved and in 1995, Carmen graduated as the first person of colour to qualify as a winemaker in post-Apartheid South Africa.

Her breakthrough may have been unexpected but since then, Carmen has gone on to become one of South Africa's best-selling winemakers and has received international recognition for her wine.

She received the funding she needed from Naked Wine – a company that invests in independent winemakers around the world, using a venture capital approach to bring high-end wines to consumers at cheaper prices. Its angel investors raised a total of 1.2 million in 10 hours for Carmen to launch her own wines, Carmen Stevens Wines – which has consistently remained one of Naked Wines’ best sellers.

Today, Carmen has her own cellar in Bosman’s Crossing in central Stellenbosch. But, while it forms part of Amani Vineyards – South Africa's first 100% black-owned winery – she aspires to have a facility that she can call her own.

To give back to her community, the award-winning winemaker registered a non-profit organisation called Carmen Stevens Foundation and appealed to the angel investors at Naked Wines and managed to raise over R1.2 million to feed hungry school children affected by poverty in the Western Cape.

28 May 2019 6:05 PM

More from RMB Solutionist Thinking

RMB Solutionist Thinking - Professor Ermos Nicolaou

Ermos Nicolaou: Solving problems in babies, even before they are born

11 June 2019 6:05 PM

Quite the unusual Solutionist Thinker, Professor Ermos Nicolaou solves problems that occur before babies are even born.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

RMB Solutionist Thinking - Jason Xenopoulos from VMLY&R

SA's digital footprint traces back to pioneer, Jason Xenopoulos

4 June 2019 6:05 PM

As one of the founding fathers of internet businesses in South Africa, Jason Xenopoulos’ digital rap sheet is longer than most.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

RMB Solutionist Thinking - William Mapham from Vula Mobile

To this solutionist thinker, all-access means success

21 May 2019 6:05 PM

William Mapham pioneered Vula Mobile, the app that links healthcare workers with on-call medical and surgical specialists.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

RMB Solutionist Thinking - Benji Coetzee from EmptyTrips

Meet the technologist disrupting the freight industry

14 May 2019 6:01 PM

Meet Benji Coetzee, a tech disruptor transforming the face of the male-dominated freight transport industry.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

RMB Solutionist Thinking - South African National Rowing Coach, Roger Barrow

There's a medal haul coming in Tokyo, if this coach has anything to do with it

30 April 2019 6:30 PM

Rowing coach Roger Barrow shares his love for winning - especially against better-resourced teams.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

RMB Solutionist Thinking - Katlego Maphai

Yoco: Small business' saving grace

23 April 2019 6:20 PM

South African fintech venture, Yoco is ensuring that SMEs become the driving force behind wealth development within communities.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

RMB Solutionist Thinking - Alex Thomson and Sumarie Greybe

Tech-first, solutionist startup disrupts insurance industry

16 April 2019 6:05 PM

New kids on the block, Naked is stripping down the costs of car insurance and, rebuilding it with social impact and fairness.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

RMB Solutionist Thinking  - Gary Kirsten

Gary Kirsten, bowling over the kids of Khayelitsha

9 April 2019 6:03 PM

Here's how South African cricketing legend, Gary Kirsten is bridging the divide and, giving black cricketers a fighting chance.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

RMB Solutionist Thinking - Aisha Pandor

Aisha Pandor, tackling unemployment with dignified work opportunities

2 April 2019 6:05 PM

Bruce Whitfield interviews award-winning South African scientist, businesswoman and Chief Executive of SweepSouth, Aisha Pandor.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward

Laduma Ngxokolo - RMB Solutionist Thinking

How a local designer is taking the global stage by storm

26 March 2019 6:00 PM

Bruce Whitfield interviews South African designer and founder of a Xhosa-inspired knitwear brand, Laduma Ngxokolo.

Share this:
Read More arrow_forward