How this Zimbabwean moved from being a refugee to becoming a wine owner in South Africa

Abu Mubarik October 23, 2023
Joseph Tongai Dhafana is founder of Mosi Wines and Spirits. Photo:

Joseph Tongai Dhafana is a sommelier, wine judge, and founder of Mosi Wines and Spirits. His household brand was named after Victoria Falls nestled between Zimbabwe and Zambia. His wine features prominently on the wine lists of the country’s top restaurants.

“Seeing people swirling and sipping my wine just melts my heart,” he told Forbes Africa. “I believe wine is a bottled story and this brand has a lot to say.”

His journey started in 2008 when he left Zimbabwe for South Africa as a refugee following a crisis in his country. While searching for better economic opportunities, he got a job at a local eatery in Cape Town as a gardener. He later moved to washing dishes, and waiting tables and eventually got promoted to become a barman, where his breakthrough came. His new workspace gave him the opportunity to taste wine for the first time and it was on the occasion of his 29th birthday.

“I didn’t like it,” he told Forbes Africa “I remember, the wine was quite tart and astringent with cutting acidity and that was very foreign to my palate. Now I can describe it but back then I had no words to explain how I felt. They now call me the ‘wine poet’.”

Although Dhafana did not like his first taste of wine, it propelled him to venture into the wine industry, after all, that was his new line of work. With little knowledge about wine, he enrolled in a course at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. From there, he joined the Cape Wine Academy and eventually, the South African Sommeliers Association, the Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy, and the Court of Master Sommeliers Europe.

Two years after first tasting wine, he became head sommelier at the iconic La Colombe restaurant and began to explore making his own wine, according to Forbes Africa. “I had saved money and bought grapes to make a barrel each of Chenin Blanc and Syrah… in Riebeek-Kasteel, where it all started.”

Dhafana is not keeping the success of his wine to himself. He is helping young people to become better wine entrepreneurs than him.

Also, he helped establish and captain Team Zimbabwe at the World Blind Tasting Championships in 2017 and 2018 as can be seen in the documentary, Blind Ambition. He is also a board member of the Black Cellar Club, a non-profit that seeks to promote a responsible wine and beverage industry in South Africa, and is a judge for the country’s biggest annual restaurant awards, hosted by Eat Out magazine.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 23, 2023


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