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From Being a Refugee to Becoming a Wine Owner in South Africa: The Story of Zimbabwe’s Joseph Tongai Dhafana

Joseph Tongai Dhafana is the founder of Mosi Wines and Spirits and a sommelier. His household brand was named after the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Zambia. His wine can be found on the wine lists of the country’s best restaurants.

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“Seeing people swirling and sipping my wine just melts my heart,” he told Forbes Africa. “I believe wine is a bottled story and this brand has a lot to say.”

His trip began in 2008, when he fled Zimbabwe for South Africa as a refugee due to a crisis in his own country. He took a work as a gardener at a local restaurant in Cape Town while looking for greater economic options. He later moved on to cleaning dishes and serving tables before being promoted to bartender, where he got his big break. On the occasion of his 29th birthday, his new workplace provided him with the opportunity to try wine for the first time.

“I didn’t like it,” he told Forbes Africa “I remember, the wine was quite tart and astringent with cutting acidity and that was very foreign to my palate. Now I can describe it but back then I had no words to explain how I felt. They now call me the ‘wine poet’.”

Although Dhafana did not enjoy his first taste of wine, it inspired him to pursue a career in the wine industry, as it was his new line of work. He enrolled in a Wine & Spirit Education Trust course despite having no experience of wine. From there, he went on to become a member of the Cape Wine Academy, the South African Sommeliers Association, the Michael Fridjhon Wine Judging Academy, and the Court of Master Sommeliers Europe.

According to Forbes Africa, he became head sommelier at the famed La Colombe restaurant two years after first tasting wine and began to experiment with brewing his own wine. “I had saved money and bought grapes to make a barrel each of Chenin Blanc and Syrah… in Riebeek-Kasteel, where it all started.”

Dhafana isn’t hiding his wine’s success to himself. He is assisting young people in becoming better wine entrepreneurs than he was.

In addition, as seen in the documentary Blind Ambition, he helped establish and skipper Team Zimbabwe at the World Blind Tasting Championships in 2017 and 2018. He is also a board member of the Black Cellar Club, a non-profit that promotes a responsible wine and beverage business in South Africa, and a judge for Eat Out magazine’s annual restaurant awards.

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