Founded in 2016 as a platform for wine makers, sommeliers, wine stewards and anyone serious about wine, the Black Cellar Club – BLACC – recently hosted its first premium wine and spirits festival.
By: Bianca Coleman
South Africa’s first township, Langa in Cape Town, was chosen for the inaugural BLACC Fest X last November and the Guga s’Thebe Arts & Culture Centre made for the ideal address. The two-day event saw many big industry names hosting stands, popping corks, and mixing cocktails as attendees sniffed, swirled and tasted while music by DJs, and jazz and marimba bands set the tone for a festive atmosphere.
Those big names are crucial for the support of such an event but it also served as a showcase for some of this country’s young, up and coming wine makers – many of whom do it on the side while working full time sommelier positions in Cape Town’s top fine dining establishments and hotels.
“BLACC has been an inspiration for all of us,” says Aubrey Ngcungama who founded the club along with Ian Manley of luxury brand representation company Vula Afrika. “We began with the idea of getting a few sommeliers together and now we have about 400 to 500 members around the country. They’re made up of chefs, we have some wonderful sommeliers of course, wine stewards … anybody who has an interest in South African wines and spirits, really.”
Sommelier at One&Only Cape Town and BLACC national chairperson Pearl Oliver-Mbumba says BLACC has welcomed many to an environment where they can be more comfortable at any level of learning.
“Being able take members out to various wine farms without charging fees for transport on its own is mind blowing,” she comments. “Members that have never been exposed to wine farms have now – since BLACC Mondays – been taken to them, to taste wines and learn about the terroir.
“The whole point of it,” continues Ngcungama, “is to enhance and introduce a new space for producers, because black people don’t drink wine but they do like things like Cognac and Champagne. So drink our MCCs,” he smiles. “We focus on anything that can go in a cellar. As long as it’s local and in a barrel of one sort or another, we’re good!”
Being a major wine growing region, the majority of BLACC members are in the Western Cape but Ngcungama feels strongly the need for expansion, particularly in Joburg. “That’s where the big market is and our producers are desperate to get into it,” he says. “We just have to take the wine there. I’m told Soweto is the place to do these things but I don’t believe we need to be there; we need to be somewhere like Alexandria. BLACC Fest X Langa got the word out there that South African spirits and South African wine are a thing in the townships and we’ll never do one outside the townships. It’s all about presenting the products to the people.”
The BLACC Fest X Joburg will take place in May 2019. BLACCSA on Facebook.