Would you like to be a future Carmen Stevens? To have your own winery, make wine with your own brand, and change hundreds of lives at the same time?
Who knows how many future Carmens are out there in the tough parts of Cape Town? Getting an important step up in life could be what you need to make the difference. Such steps are now found through the schools’ food program run by the Carmen Stevens Foundation? The Township Winery visited the Foundation, where we found them operating out of spaces between the tanks, barrels and cellar equipment in Carmen’s Stellenbosch winery.
Over the last few years, millions of balanced meals have been prepared here for regular supply to more than a hundred under resourced schools. These meals often provide the only source of nutrition that a growing child will receive in a day.
The ongoing program was initiated, developed and survives due to the skill, compassion and determination of Carmen, a relatively unsung heroine of world wine and South African social justice.
Carmen first showed her passion and resilience when she applied to the Elsenburg Agricultural College for entrance to the winemaking course. She was discouraged by the College management in successive years but came back to try for a third time. Finally, she was allowed in, allowed to sink or swim. She became South Africa’s first black winemaking graduate in 1995, worked her way up to become a key private winery cellarmaster. Eventually, she registered the first 100% black owned winery in 2019.
The UK-US based on-line retailer Naked Wines recognized her talent, first listing her wines in 2011 even before she had made them by raising funds from their on-line customers, a community they call ‘Angels’. These donations bought cellar equipment and grapes for the project. Those original wines and subsequent vintages were so successful that ten years later, Naked Wines awarded her their first Winemaker of the Decade.
Growing up in Belhar, one of Cape Town’s dumping-ground sites resulting from South Africa’s apartheid removals, Carmen knew at first hand the effect of widespread unemployment and inadequate school feeding programs. She started by supplying 300 Belhar schools with a cup-of-soup program three days a week. This was the first step in the process that became the Carmen Stevens Foundation.
The Township Winery is an enthusiastic Carmen Stevens supporter, with the objective of assisting township residents to make careers and find a successful life path in the South African wine industry.