KwaDukuza: In a first government initiative of its kind, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has pumped R19.5 million into the development of the North Coast Vineyards.
The initiative promises to develop the Villard Blanc Cultivar as a wine of origin in “Ilembe Region”. The winery is situated in Umhlali, north of Durban. The project is driven by locals through iLembe Co-operative Vineyards and Winery.
On Thursday, the KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Nomusa Dube, officially unveiled the plaque of the wine processing facility, the first official bottling process, and handed over the project to the local co-operatives. There was ceremonial tasting of the first batch of wine production as part of the official launch.
Speaking at the event launch held at Colisheen Estate, Umhlali, north of Durban, Dube said the project entails the establishment of a winery processing facility and the production of wine from grapes grown within Ilembe District Municipality.
The local municipalities to benefit include Mandeni, Maphumulo and Ndwedwe, which fall under the Ilembe District.
“The vineyard consists of 12 hectares across the Ilembe District and has already created 50 direct jobs for the local communities since the inception of this initiative,” Dube said.
She said the establishment of these sustainable vineyards is expected to produce up to 25 tons per hectare of top quality grapes for producing selected products on every harvesting cycle.
The winery processing facility has been fully assembled at the Collisheen Estate on the outskirts of Ballito near KwaDukuza.
The MEC said the project is set to unlock massive economic growth opportunities for the province and create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for local communities.
“Eventually, this business venture will create a new tourism product on the iLembe District Municipality Calendar that is an Annual Wine & Food Festival,” she said.
She added that since the project was launched the vineyards at Mandeni and Maphumulo Local Municipalities have done exceptionally well and the first harvesting was done in mid February 2013.
The testing of the winery equipment by the Viticulturist was done in February 2013.
Wine is currently in full production and 28 tons of grapes have been processed in the winery and the fermentation has been completed.
Stabilization of wine and clearing has been done and it took approximately three months to complete (March-June 2013). Eight thousand litres of wine has been produced during the first production run.
Dube said the winery’s close proximity to the King Shaka International Airport and the Dube Tradeport means that it will be easy to foster strong export opportunities of the production across both local and international borders.
The iLembe Co-operative Vineyards and Winery chief executive, Zakhele Gumede told SAnews that he was very excited by the official launch especially with the government financial backing.
Gumede said the co-operative had already secured deals with retailers which will see the Villard Blanc Cultivar – wine of origin in “Ilembe Region” made available, “in a store near you soon”.