An evening with Ntsiki Biyela

By Claudia Pritchard | 8th March 2024

South Africans are well known for wamkelekile (a warm welcome). Walking into a room and receiving a big hug from someone you’ve not seen for a while, especially when it’s so cold outside, is one of life’s greatest things, in my opinion.

A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to a wine dinner in East London with Ntsiki Biyela from Aslina Wines. It was an opportunity that I was not going to turn down. It’s always wonderful to see Ntsiki. She oozes warmth, openness and has an air of calm self-confidence that I envy. She also gives the BEST hugs.   

An evening with Ntsiki Biyela

It was pretty cold last night so, when I arrived at the small but perfectly formed venue, it was extra special to see Ntsiki’s infectious smile and receive her warm embrace.  

The evening was wonderful. Mags Janjo from MJ Cellars (Ntsiki’s importer) brought a relaxed and jovial vibe while award winning sommelier, Henna Zinzuwadia (Henny) was friendly, professional and slick throughout. It’s clear that this team get along and work well together, having some fun along the way.   

It’s rare that things appear to align with no planning or thought, but it was Ntsiki’s birthday just the day before and International Women’s Day is today, so the fact that the tasting fell in between these two events seemed serendipitous.

We were treated to a seven-course meal which was paired with each of Ntsiki’s wines. The food, provided by Victor and Angelo at Ayo Collective, was exquisite and each course was carefully curated to bring both the flavours of the food and wine alive. The wines were showing brilliantly. Each one a well-considered, well-made wine that was then elevated by the dishes before us.  

Aslina Wines was started by Ntsiki in 2016. Named after her grandmother, Ntsiki’s tribute to the strong and resilient women in her life filter down throughout her brands and ethos. As Ntsiki said last night “I often think, ‘what would my grandmother do?’, and this leads me to the right decision”.   

We started the evening with the ‘Miss MC’, a Cap Classique named after Ntsiki’s mum. This wine is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes from Franschhoek and has spent 5 years on the lees, giving it a rich and beautifully rounded feel. I had two glasses.


Next the Aslina Sauvignon Blanc 2022, a textured Sauvignon with depth and complexity. The grapes are sourced from Stellenbosch and a small amount from Elgin.

The Aslina Chardonnay was, again, textured and moreish. The Stellenbosch grapes from this vintage were placed in stainless steal tanks, while the Elgin fruit spent some time in oak. The wine is therefore subtlety and very lightly oaked.

On to one of my favourite white wines of the evening (if I’m forced to pick!), the Aslina skin contact Chenin Blanc 2022 – my tasting note just says ‘delicious, 5 stars’. I should have written more but I was enjoying the food (see image below) and wine pairing too much. It is a truly great wine to pair with food.   

We then moved on to the red wines and the sumptuous Aslina Cabernet Sauvignon 2020. Ntsiki has added 14% Petit Verdot to the Cabernet which brings soft tannins and dark fruit flavours to the wine.

Lastly, we came to the reason for this impressive tasting. The reason we were all there. It was now that Ntsiki unveiled the new look Aslina Umsasane 2021 – released TODAY. There was just one bottle, so Henny’s expertise was at the fore to make sure we all got a taste. Ntsiki explained that Umsasane was her grandmother’s nick name. It is the Zulu word for the Acacia Tree which gives shelter, protection and comfort. It was the perfect end to the evening. Again, I didn’t make too many notes but had two glasses (one from the 2020 vintage).

It would be remiss of me to overlook one key dynamic that made the evening so good. The other people in the room, all of whom were highly knowledgeable, interesting, engaged people that I wish I could have spent much more time talking to. Sadly, my train situation wasn’t looking good so I had to abruptly say my goodbye’s and run (literally) for the train. Very kindly Lorraine Copes, founder and CEO of Be Inclusive Hospitality has given me a picture of the dessert and informed me that I did, in fact, miss out on something spectacular.  Damn.

Finally, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Mags Janjo from MC Cellars, Henny, Victor and Angelo, and of course, Ntsiki, for inviting me to the event and making the evening so special.

You can buy the Aslina Wines here and I highly recommend that you do.

P.S. I did manage to get my train, with 30 seconds to spare.