How Mika Bulmash built a wine import portfolio rooted in social responsibility | #wineforgood

Wednesday, 23 March, 2022
SevenFifty Daily, Caitlin A. Miller
A former development consultant working in emerging markets Mika Bulmash built an import company that uplifts undervalued wine regions and winemakers.

Mika Bulmash, the founder of American import business Wine for the World.

Like many people in the industry, Mika Bulmash, the founder of New York City-based import business Wine for the World, had an unusual path into the world of wine. Her interest in wine first piqued while studying molecular biology as an undergrad at the University of California, Berkeley. A stone’s throw from Napa, she frequently took weekend gateways to wine country and fell in love with the art-meets-science nature of viticulture and winemaking.

While tempted to transfer to UC Davis to formally study wine, Bulmash ultimately decided to stay the course, determined to follow her goal of finding a career where she felt she could make a positive difference in the world. She started her career working in international health, food security, and agriculture in emerging markets, but she never lost sight of her passion for wine.

It soon became clear that another option existed, one that would allow her to combine her passion for development with her love of wine.

In 2011, Bulmash decided to quit her job and fly to South Africa in order to learn about the country’s wine industry in a post-apartheid context. Her goal was to not only learn how wine was being made, but to understand who was making it—along with the social, economic, and racial dynamics at play.

To learn this, Bulmash worked a harvest with a large cooperative winery and a boutique winery, Bosman Family Vineyards, and she conducted interviews with several industry professionals to research Fair Trade and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

Bulmash took time to reflect on what she had learned, and to figure out how she could use her experience to make a positive impact through wine.

While working in South Africa, Bulmash also met Ntsiki Biyela, South Africa’s first black woman winemaker, who was working for Stellekaya Wines at the time but dreamed of starting her own brand. To Bulmash, this presented an opportunity to help empower talented South African winemakers of colour who often struggled to gain access to capital, while simultaneously working to shift the U.S. market’s perception of South African wine quality. Bulmash connected Biyela with Napa Valley winemaker Helen Keplinger, and the two women formed a winemaking collaboration. The wines, which sold out immediately, became Biyela’s launch pad, giving her the financial boost to eventually start Aslina, which has received critical acclaim.

Click HERE to read the full interview with Mika Bulmash