Delheim’s Nongcebo Langa takes Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year title

Tuesday, 21 November, 2023
Delheim Wine Estate
Nongcebo Langa reached a milestone in her relatively short career by winning the 2023 Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year Award.

Diners Club Winemaker of the Year is the oldest competition in South Africa that has since 1981 recognised exceptional South African winemakers and is regarded as the ultimate accolade for any individual practising his or her craft in a Cape cellar.

The Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year Award was introduced 23 years ago as an addition to the open category to encourage winemakers under the age of 30 to develop their skills, express their individuality, and add to the future prestige of South African wines internationally.

This year’s candidates for Young Winemaker of the Year had to submit a white wine for judging by an esteemed panel of experts, and it was Nongcebo’s Delheim Gewürztraminer 2022 that came out tops out of a number of illustrious entries from all over the Cape winelands.

“It is impossible to describe what this award means to me,” says Nongcebo, who joined Delheim in 2019 after completing an MSc in Oenology at Stellenbosch University and was promoted to winemaker in 2022.

“The list of previous Diners Club winners reads like a who’s-who of South African wine, and to join these ranks is a tremendous honour which I am truly humbled to have achieved, while being truly overjoyed at the same. Having just turned 30 years old means that this year was the last year for me to be eligible for the Young Winemaker title, so I guess one can say that from now on I’ll have to play in the big leagues!”

Nongcebo hails from Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal and has no formal background in wine.

“In high school I had a bursary form the department of agriculture, and when I heard that wine allows one to travel to other parts of the wine world I just decided – this is for me,” says Nongcebo. “And I have not for one moment regretted this. Studying winemaking and viticulture in the Stellenbosch winelands allowed me to immerse myself into this world which was initially a new one but has now become my all-encompassing passion.”

For her MSc in Oenology Nongcebo researched the effects of smoke-taint on grapes, an especially relevant subject in the Cape where parts of the winelands are regularly subjected to wildfires.

And that wish to see the wine world also materialised, seeing Nongcebo working stints in Sonoma County, California at Dry Creek Vineyards as well as in Germany’s Pfalz region at the ninth-generation Hammel family winery.

Before joining Delheim in 2019 as assistant winemaker, Nongcebo worked as an intern at Groot Constantia and at Highgate Winery in KwaZulu-Natal.

“From the outset, I have realised the importance of heritage and legacy in the wine industry, and that is why having the opportunity to join Delheim has played a major role in my career so far,” says Nongcebo. “Being one of Stellenbosch’s oldest wine estates still making great wines overseen by the spirit of the Sperling family is a tremendous privilege. The vineyards and the distinctive Simonsberg terroir give us the quality grapes needed to make our range, but the legacy of wine-making and viticulture founded by the late Spatz Sperling continues to be a major inspiration in everything that we do.”

Nongcebo says that it is thus very special for her winning the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year with a Delheim Gewürztraminer, one of the varieties for which Delheim has become renowned. “Gewürztraminer is the kind of wine that celebrates life with its charming fruitiness and bright freshness,” she says. “I am really pleased the judges liked this wine, which is becoming rarer in the Cape offering. Truly, if there is one wine that expresses my joy in winning the Young Winemaker of the Year it is a Delheim Gewürztraminer.”

Delheim co-owner and director Nora Thiel says the entire Delheim team is overjoyed at Nongcebo’s Diners Club achievement. “She has been an asset to Delheim from day one, and I truly cannot think of anyone more deserving of this accolade,” says Nora.

“Nongcebo lives and breathes wine and her scientific approach in the cellar coupled with an intuitive understanding of Delheim terroir and vineyards makes her an invaluable part of our team. Add to this her engaging personality and organisational skills and I can just say that Diners Club has selected a true gem of the South African wine industry, and her recognition will continue Diners Club’s legacy of playing a major role in honouring local winemaking talent.

As part of her prize Nongcebo receives an air-ticket to visit any part of the wine world. “Bordeaux,” she answers when prodded on the destination. “It has been a dream to visit Bordeaux and to delve into the world’s most famous wine address, and now it is going to happen.”

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Nongcebo Langa
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