Glossy coffee table books on wine usually feature rolling vineyards, spectacular cellars and breath-taking country manors. Not this one. ‘The Colour of Wine’ could sit proudly on your coffee table, and attract a lot of interest. It is a beautiful book, about beautiful people. BUT it is not glossy or glamourous. It tells instead the back story of the South African wine industry, the not-so-pretty account of an industry that grew out of colonialisation, through apartheid BUT today is thriving in a ‘terroir’ of restitution, development, entrepreneurship and a certain infectious gutsy-ness.

Cameos of inspiring black people from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, who have made a success in the wine industry by default, by determination and by plain old hard work, are followed by a quick but honest potted history of the industry, then a look at other aspects of wine culture such as the taverners, sommeliers, wine marketers, even local recipes and wine pairing ideas. These sum up a dynamic industry that is embracing global trends in wine, and tackling the problems in our country head on.

Perhaps one omission is that of the vineyard worker and cellar hand. Where are the stories of these people who were born on farms to parents who were cellar hands and vineyard workers? There are many good news examples of men and women who have grabbed at the opportunities offered and are climbing ladders into management positions in cellars, viticulture, logistics, wine sales, marketing and administration, playing a valuable role and using the knowledge and experience they gained simply by growing up in the vineyards and experiencing the natural rhythm of wine growing organically.

The book also includes a DVD featuring the interviews with the inspiring role models in the book, bringing all their stories together to form an interesting collage that depicts the vibrancy of the South African wine industry today.

The book is published by the Kalipha Foundation and edited by Harriet Perlman. Each profile is written by different journalists but all are concise, informative and very readable.

As a white woman, who grew up in the Cape Winelands, in a home where wine was appreciated and consumed every evening, it is an eye opener to read how others have come to appreciate wine and make a living from it. That in itself is reason enough to read this book.

‘The Colour of Wine’ is available online through Bookstorm or All African Books and retails at 450 SA Rand which includes the documentary DVD.

- Julia Moore