Wait. We Have a Winery in East Africa? New Latitude Wines
It is the crazy ideas that wow the world. Everyone thinks that you are crazy for pursuing something and then when it works, they all say how brilliant you are. We need to keep testing and learning. We need to bring the crazy ideas to fruition because they might just work.
One man was crazy (or brilliant) enough to try and plant vineyards in East Africa on the Equator. It had not been done before on this region, in this scale and certainly not for wine production. We all know that East Africa is not exactly a wine producing region. One man decided to go against what everyone told him and he planted some vines in the early 90’s.
Leleshwa Wine Farm from a distance. This was during the dry season. Image
A closer look. Image
He was well travelled and would always receive wines as gifts from his friends abroad. He would bring the wine with him whenever he visited his family in Kenya. His friends would give him the wines and say something like,”this is from my vineyard in…” He heard this so many times and longed for a time when he could also give his friends wine from his farm in the Great Rift Valley region of Kenya.
After seeking some consultation from experts, they told him that the grapes would not do well in the equator because there are few defined seasons. However, in places like South Africa, the conditions are perfect. He did not believe this. He would only believe it after he tried.
He defied all odds and initially intended to make wine for his family and friends’ consumption. His initial aspiration was to make about 100 bottles per year. He planted the grapes and after a few years, he had his first harvest. The grapes did surprisingly well.
Juicy grapes about to ripen. Image
Vines heavy with fruit.
Because grapes take so long to grow, he had planted some more just in case. With help, he made his first vintage. He gave people the wine and he got great feedback. He had never intended to go commercial but when the demand became high, he saw an opportunity. He took this seriously and got winemakers and staff in. He also expanded his farms. He constructed a bigger winery and years later, Leleshwa wines are on many shelves in Kenya and other regions. The name Leleshwa comes from an indegenous tree in the area and in the wine farm.
Think about the world map. Back then, people thought that vines would only grow on the latitudes between 30 and 50. However, Thailand inspired the term “New Latitude” wines because they proved that farmers can also grow vines along or near the equator. Some countries along the equator are trying to make wine. An example is Colombia.
The Leleshwa winery has even won different accolades in the wine field. The most impressive thing is that the wine is competing with global wines.
Mesh nets to keep away birds from eating the crop. Image
This is how they install the mesh nets. Workers busy on the farm. Image
Zooming out. See how big the farm is. Image
As the only winery in the country, Leleshwa Winery has received a lot of coverage and piqued interests from people all around the world. They have a Sauvignon Blanc, a sweet red, a sweet white and a sweet rosé. The sweet rosé is amazing and is made from the Shiraz/ Syrah grape.
We visited the wine farm and walked as we got educated on the viticulture and winemaking. We had a picnic by the farm where we got to try different tapas with the sweet rosé. The rosé was a hit among many because it was very easy drinking and sweet.
That day it was so hot and they gave us umbrellas to take on the trip. Image
The Farm tour
Before the wine: Everyone listening keenly.Image
After the wine: Cheers guys!
We then headed for a late lunch by the field where we were surrounded by vineyards and a forest. We got to pair food and wine. The starter was their Sauvignon Blanc and a light chicken salad. This pairing was impressive because they were both very light. In the world of wine and food pairings, lighter foods go with lighter wine. We then had the main which was a juicy ribeye and some mashed potatoes. For dessert, we had strawberry sorbet and equatorial nuts chocolate. We paired the chocolate with the sweet white wine which was a new brand in their portfolio.
Main: Rib eye and mashed potatoes. Image
The Very Late Lunch set up. Image
As the sun set, we listened to mellow music and sipped more wine until it was time to go back home. I am so excited that there is a winery in Kenya and this is the pioneer for hopefully many more. This puts my country on the map when it comes to wine.
Authored by @jeanwandimi
Pictures by @jeanwandimi and @njoromuts of Sylarstudios
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