Lata Ngoasheng, founder and CEO of LN Wines. Picture: Supplied
Lata Ngoasheng, founder and CEO of LN Wines. Picture: Supplied

Young entrepreneur Lata Ngoasheng is on a quest to introduce and instil wine culture among SA’s young, black urban population.

Ngoasheng, 35, is the founder and CEO of LN Wines, a premium wine brand supplying its 2017 vintage merlot and 2018 sauvignon blanc to several restaurants in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Soweto.

He has run a music recording label and an advertising and graphic design company, and at present manages a fuel station in Soweto. But he says he has found his niche in the lucrative wine industry.

According to industry body VinPro, SA is the eighth-biggest wine producer globally, churning out about 4% of the world’s wine.

The industry contributes R36bn to GDP, and it employs nearly 290,000 people.

Ngoasheng says he has always been passionate about winemaking and the wine industry in general, and would visit wine estates with his wife, Seipati, in the Cape winelands whenever they were on holiday, to get an idea of how things are done.

When his son Leano was born in 2014, the entrepreneur bought a couple of bottles of wine from a local retailer and labelled them with his own brand as a way of introducing the baby to his extended family. The people loved the "new wine brand" and asked Ngoasheng where he had bought it. This was the signal he had been waiting for to start his own wine business.

"I found a wine estate I could work with in the Western Cape. I was introduced to an award-winning winemaker and was allocated vineyards to use. I sat down with the [winemaker] and shared my vision, and we came up with LN Wines," he says.

He gave the winemaker a brief on what he wanted his wine to be like. "I said I wanted a well-balanced wine that is easy to drink, not rough on the palate, of high quality and not too acidic."

The company’s tagline is "Toast to the future today", says Ngoasheng, adding that his target market is young people who are trying to make the best of their lives and who appreciate the lifestyle of wine "and the classiness that comes with it". He says: "Young black people are a growing market in the wine industry and one of the biggest wine-consuming sectors. Yet we are not actively involved in it from a commercial point of view.

For me, what really makes me happy is that we are getting to play in spaces that were previously closed to us."

Ngoasheng says LN Wines is not just about making wine. He describes it as a "lifestyle business", saying: "We try to educate ourselves and people around us about the lifestyle of [enjoying] wine."

Plans are afoot to host live music events and poetry readings to use wine as a platform to engage with a more sophisticated class of people.

Wine, says Ngoasheng, "forces" people to behave in a more cultured way, "to talk differently and eat differently".

He describes the manner in which his wine brand has been received by the market as beautiful and encouraging.

"The market has accepted us very well.

"People are excited about drinking wine with names they can pronounce and associate with — black names, essentially. Our names."

The company’s name is formed from Ngoasheng’s and his son’s initials. The businessman, who lives in Midrand, says he is about to close distribution deals with five countries in Asia and Africa.

"Once we get those markets we will maintain the standard of the brand so that it gets bigger and better every year. My objective is to have a household brand with a positive vibe."

LN Wines is also working on producing eight cultivars that will be introduced in tranches, starting in December. "This is a very exciting part of my life. They say find something you enjoy and you will never work. I think I’m in that space now."