40 Under 40: Mahalia Kotjane

Mahalia Kotjane has quickly become one of the most recognisable names in the Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé program.

Now coming to the end of her three-year stint as a protégé alongside peers and friends Clayton Christians, Kiara Scott and Logan Jooste (who, incidentally, will all be profiled on the 40 Under 40 series) her focus shifts to her own brand Three Quarters, at once an amalgamation of everything that her education and mentorship has been leading up to and an unprecedented step forwards in terms of independence and brand identity.

Mahalia’s background -  she grew up in a big, loving family in the township of Vosloosrus, not wine country at all - has yielded an unassuming, observant approach to making wine. Inspired by her background Three Quarters also represents terroir as the foundation of all fine wine. “I have in my experience learnt that to make fine wine one needs suitable soil, good vineyard management, and a temperate climate. When these three elements have produced quality fruit the fourth quadrant of Three Quarters is completed by the consumer enjoying the product, thus making the experience whole.” writes Mahalia. I caught up with Mahalia to get to know the woman behind the brand.

What vintage are you?

1990

If aliens came down from space and you had to explain to them in one bottle of wine what it is that you do, what would you make?

I would make Shiraz.

What do you normally drink at home?

Tea and wine.

What is your favourite ever bottle of wine?

Chateau la Nerth.

What sparked your love of food and drink?

I thought myself familiar with food and wine until recently when I went to France for a brief visit. I was blown away by their food and wine culture!

Where are you happiest?

I am happiest at home. I have come to believe that the meaning of life lies in love and friendship. I'm also a lover of good food, fine wine and great company. I feel that these are best expressed around the table at home.

Best and worst thing about the wine industry?

Best thing is that we are a growing industry with transformation taking place. It assures a healthy future for our industry. Worst thing is that we do not have enough wine drinkers.

What’s your greatest vice?

I'm super relaxed.

Who do you admire in the South African wine industry?

I admire Carl Schultz for his meticulous winemaking approach and Ntsiki Biyela, with whom I can relate. She has come up top against all odds.

Do you feel that you are treated differently because you are a woman?

Not necessarily. I think I have been given an equal footing for contribution. It is only with certain cellar activities that I will need assistance from my male colleagues due to my limited strength.

Where did you do your first digout?

My first digout was at Vilafonte Winery. If memory serves me well, it must have been a Merlot.

Best advice you ever got?

“Never go down without a fight.” My dad.

President Zuma has finally (completely!) lost the plot and is confiscating all the wine in South Africa to fill his cellar at Nkandla – you can keep a single bottle from our collection. Which bottle would you save?

I would save a bottle of my very first wine that I made whilst in the CWG protégé programme. It is a Shiraz.

Where would you like to see the South African wine and food industry going and growing over the next decade?

I would like to see more African traditional dishes being paired with wine - not only within South Africa, but also across all of Africa.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

I would invite Basetsana Khumalo and Anthony Hamilton with his band.

What would you like to achieve in the next ten years?

I am currently working on Three Quarters. My plan for the next ten is to have the brand well established within SA and then expanding to the rest of Africa.

Any advice for the young planning on going out on their own in the South African food and wine industry?

Never go down without a fight. Fight for what you believe in.

Mahalia Kotjane

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