Looking BLACC to look forward 

The story of the Black Cellar Club (BLACC) began over a couple of glasses of wine—at least it’s highly probable that it did.  BLACC is a communication and networking platform for African sommeliers throughout the African continent, focusing on black empowerment within the wine industry. 

So, after many discussions (and likely a few more glasses of wine) directors of Vula Afrika, Ian Manley and Aubrey Ngcungama realised there was a need for an organisation that could reach out to black Africans who were interested in furthering their wine knowledge. BLACC was born to create shared value in the South African wine industry and to increase the inclusion of black South Africans in this sector of the economy.

There are 8 members on the executive board, all of who are sommeliers at high-end establishments (barring founders Ian and Aubrey). The chairman is Gregory Mutambe, who is the head sommelier at the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa.

BLACC Executive Members - Ian Manley, Luvo Ntezo, Joseph T Dafana, Aubrey Ngcungama, Pearl Oliver, Gregory Mutambe, Mercy Mwai

“My sommelier colleagues and I talk about how wine found us and how wine changed our lives for the better,” he says, explaining the genesis of BLACC.  “We wanted to do something to make wine easily accessible to our fellow Africans. We never had a wine background. Wine was not something I grew up with. My parents never drank wine at the dinner table. Yes, there was alcohol, but certainly not wine. This is the case for most black Africans. With BLACC our aim is to change this scenario, to change perceptions around wine and to facilitate winemaking and wine knowledge accessible to all by continuously raising awareness.”

How does Gregory see this knowledge disseminating to the public at large? “By using less intimidating methods to introduce one to wine, and by sharing stories and helping people to understand the journey from vine to glass without being patronising and snobby about it.” 


BLACC Executive Chairman - Gregory Mutambe

It’s about smart business too. “There is a huge emerging black middle class in South Africa and Africa for whom affordability is not an issue. We know this to be the case with this market segment as we have seen it in their spending power when it comes to buying high end imported products such as Champagne and Cognac. I believe this to be an enormous untapped market and one whose buy-in can only benefit the whole of the South African wine industry. When there is a better and more locally focused wine culture amongst black Africans, there will be a higher demand of locally produced wines.”  

One of BLACC’s objectives is ‘the interconnectivity of the African wine industry with its fledgling group of members hailing from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.’ Gregory elaborates on this: “People with different backgrounds and experiences are being united with wine, the amalgamation of all these personalities contributes positively to the movement and makes our mission to reach out to the rest of Africa much easier. The future is so bright.”

BLACC Executive Members - Aubrey Ngcungama, Pearl Oliver, Luvo Ntezo, Mercy Mwai, Joseph T Dafana, Gregory Mutambe


Speaking of, BLACC has many exciting projects to look forward to. “We’re working on a wine and brandy label,” shares Gregory. “The board is almost entirely made up of somms, so rest assured the quality of the wine will be top notch. Watch this space BLACC is going to reach great heights!”

BLACC’s executive board:
•    Gregory Mutambe – Chairman (Head sommelier at the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa)
•    Luvo Ntezo – Deputy Chairman (Head sommelier at One&Only Cape Town)
•    Joseph T Dhafana – Secretary General (Head sommelier at La Colombe Restaurant)
•    Pearl Oliver – Deputy Secretary General (Head sommelier at the Taj Cape Town)
•    Mercy Mwai – Treasurer General (Head sommelier at Nobu Cape Town)
•    Aubrey Ngcungama – Ambassador (Director at Vula Afrika)
•    Ian Manley – PR & Media Executive (Director at Vula Afrika)

-Malu Lambert