Wine Trailblazers: Lindile Ndzaba of Khayelitsha’s Finest Wine

34-year-old Lindile ‘Lindi’ Ndzaba sits waiting for me in Clarke’s in Cape Town. He’s wearing a black baseball cap tilted up, emblazoned with his brand’s identity, Khayelitsha’s Finest Wine (KFW). He’s just finished his shift at Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants in Gardens, where he’s the front-of-house manager.

His birth name Lindikhayo means ‘home’ so called as his late mother said he waited until she had a proper brick house to be born. He still lives in that house in the community of Khayelitsha, located on the fringes of the city. In a parallel ‘Khayelitsha’ is Xhosa for ‘new home’, the sprawling township a hangover from the Group Areas Act of the Apartheid regime.

Lindi comes across as contemplative, gentle-natured and deeply driven. With his range of wines he says he’s: “trying to educate people to drink responsibly, uplift the township and create employment.”

Lindi got his start in 2009 through a hospitality programme that was part of the recruitment process for Brewers & Union. He worked his way up from dishwasher to front-of-house, learning every facet of running a business, and storing this knowledge, quietly stoking a dream of one day becoming an entrepreneur himself.

It was here the wine flame was lit, &Union was then Cape Town’s hippest bar, the epicenter of the nascent craft beer scene. It was while serving wildly expensive brews and high quality wines that the difference was made stark of what was available in the taverns of Khayelitsha.

“The wine is so bad in most places that people have to mix it with Coke so they can drink it,” he shares shaking his head.

The idea of having his own wine brand starting germinating early on, when he and sommelier Ewan Mackenzie would host the Wine Gems’ evenings at the bar.

“Every week we had different winemakers showcasing their range. I learnt a lot about different wine varieties, their expressions and how to pair them with food.”

He credits Ewan and Simon Wibberly as mentors. Simon was then the FOH manager, and also co-owner of wine brand, Alphabetical Wine. This sparked something in Lindi. “It showed me that it's possible to have a wine brand without being a winemaker or owning a vineyard yourself.”

The more into wine he got, the more he wondered why people in the township didn’t demand better quality. The vast majority of citizens don’t have access to transport to go to wine farms, or indeed money to spend in expensive city restaurants or bars – he realised he needed to bring fine wine culture to his community, and by doing this also start shifting the mind-set of wine for consumption to wine for appreciation.

Good wine he believes should be available to all South Africans and not just the privileged. And so, with the help of his longtime friend, Ewan he sourced small batch wines from across the Cape, and launched Khayelitsha’s Finest Wines. The pair are currently putting together the next batch of wines, with the plan to get a pinot noir into Khayelitsha, the new wines will also incorporate a white blend and a shiraz. The main focus for the reds will continue to be on the Rhône cultivars, on the back of the success of the inaugural mourvedre, which they 500 litres in four weeks. There are rumours about a rosé too.

The wines are available in a number of the city’s bars and restaurants, Clarke’s being one of them, but it is in Khayelitsha the wines are really getting people talking. To make in-roads Lindi, when not at his day job, hosts tastings and wine pairing events at neighborhood eateries, often pairing his wines with traditional African food.

The change he says is noticeable; “People reach out to me through social media asking me for advice on wine and food pairings all the time.”

It’s not just about what’s in the bottle, Lindi wants to see his community thrive, he wants to inspire entrepreneurship in others.

He’s also nursing a new ambition, the desire to dig deeper into winemaking is tugging at him and to perhaps to become a winemaker himself. “Maybe one day we can plant vines in Khayelitsha, I mean why not?”

It seems his mother had great foresight when naming him; the prodigal son is bringing it home.





- Blog by Malu Lambert