Success Story January 23, 2022 at 09:00 am

How this Zimbabwean shattered racial barriers to become an expert in the white world of wine

Abu Mubarik January 23, 2022 at 09:00 am

January 23, 2022 at 09:00 am | Success Story

Tinashe Nyamudoka.. Photo credit: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters via the Guardian.

When Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed, it caused an exodus of many Zimbabweans to neighboring South Africa. One such person who left the economic chaos of his country to seek greener pastures was Tinashe Nyamudoka.

Nyamudoka left Zimbabwe for South Africa in search of economic opportunity and better life. Although Nyamudoka expected his life to get better in South Africa, he never imagined growing to become a winemaker.

When he was leaving Zimbabwe, Nyamudoka didn’t know anything about wine. He had never tasted wine before but today, he has his own wine label with international sales, according to The Guardian. Nyamudoka, who is also an internationally celebrated wine expert, is the producer of the wine label, Kumusha, which means “home” or “roots” in Zimbabwe’s Shona language.

“We have a lot going against us as Zimbabweans, and you might think there is nothing good coming out of the country,” Nyamudoka was quoted by The Guardian. “So, for me to be recognized as the [top] sommeliers in the world, being African and Zimbabwean, instils a sense of hope and pride.”

In South Africa, he worked as a waiter in a restaurant in Cape Town. It was in this restaurant that Nyamudoka learned about the different varieties and tastes of the wines his customers drank. He later became a hotel wine waiter and worked alongside some of the city’s top sommeliers.

In 2013, a competition was organized for luxury hotels in Western Cape and Nyamudoka emerged as the best wine steward. He was subsequently selected with three other sommeliers from Zimbabwe to take part in the World Blind Tasting Championship in France in 2017. And it was during this event that his talent gained international attention. Nyamudoka and his team did not win but did better the next year, beating the UK and the U.S. teams. 

The international exposure has gone a long way to benefit his wine label, which produces 200,000 bottles a year, up from 1,200 when it was founded four years ago. “People started embracing it,” he said.

His wine label, Kumusha, has eight brands — three reds, four whites and a rosé. They are all produced in South Africa and are sold in the U.S., the Netherlands, Kenya and Zimbabwe. He is also starting to export to the UK this month.

“I started this brand from scratch with no aid or financial handouts. It has been pure grit, passion and dedication,” he said. “I want people to understand that you can make it without prejudice.”

The road to building his own wine brand did not come easy. According to Nyamudoka, he faced racism as the industry is white-dominated. According to him, he has been to wine tasting events where he felt out of place because the people there were all Whites.

“At work, you cannot get the position you want because you are Black. It comes in different forms. It is not obvious, it is much more subtle,” said Nyamudoka, who now sits on the board of the newly established Sommeliers Association of Zimbabwe. “When I was in my last days on the floor [in a restaurant], people would recognize your talent, but they would not give you your flowers [recognition] because you are not like them. It is like you must work twice as hard to prove yourself. It is always going to be there, I suppose.”

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