Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nairobi Wine Fest review - guest post by nairobinotes

Welcome to history being made right here right now: for the first time ever your dearest Rafiki Kenya blog is being opened up to two well renowned guest bloggers: Nairobinotes and Pink M. A couple of weeks ago, I announced the Annual Nairobi Wine Festival in my post Get stylish and drunk. Many readers encouraged me to do a review afterwards. But unfortunately, duty called and I was not able to participate in the event this week-end. When I announced this very sad news on Twitter, these two legendary Kenyans immediately offered their services in their usual helpful and friendly way, so I decided to open up this space for them. Nairobinotes is posting today, mainly on the wines, and Pink M will be posting tomorrow, mainly on anything else apart from the wines. Happy reading!

Light and refreshing wines shone brightest at this year's Nairobi Wine Show at the Holiday Inn in Westlands. Unusually hot and dry weather made heavier reds (and even heavier whites) less appealing than they would normally be at this time of year.

The festival showcased producers and estates from South Africa, Australia, Argentina and notably, Kenya. The South African wines, more familiar to my palette after living in Africa for several years, were palatable and pleasant on the whole, but the Kenyan wines were - surprisingly - the most interesting.

KWAL - the Kenyan Wine Agencies, Limited - produces a Cabernet Sauvignon from Machakos. While the wine is not extraordinary, it is serviceable and pleasant - certainly on par with the lower-end of South African wines, and surpassing Drosty-Hof (the all-too-familiar "boxi" wine served in most Kenyan bars and hotelis). The Cabernet - from Yatta Vineyards, outside of Machakos, retails for KSh 400/-.

But by far the most delicious and surprising offering was from Leleshwa vineyards outside Naivasha. Their 2007 Rose is outstanding - especially for its price. It is light and refreshing - perfect for garden parties and barbeques. It's dry - not off-dry, like so many wines here - with a heavier mouthfeel and more layers of flavour than Leleshwa's other product - a rather flat and uninteresting Sauvignon Blanc. Leleshwa's Rose is retailing at KSh 300/- - a real bargain - but is currently only availavle at the River Cafe on Limuru Road, Runda. (Past Village Market - look for the "Gourmet" sign on your left).

I hesitate to review the other wines on offer, because none of them stood out. Below, however, are my recommendations for supermaket wine picks in Nairobi, based on taste and price.

Every day: Douglas Green, The Beach House (South Africa) - light, sauvignon-based white wine
Special occasion: KWV Riesling - light, tasty, and dry.

Every day: Bellingham Dragon's Lair 2006 - this is sophisticated and delicious. It doesn't scream in your face like many Pinotage or Cabernet Franc-dominated South African wines might. (It's 84% Shiraz, 11% Mourvedre, 5% Viognier - the Mourvedre makes a difference, and gives the wine a more old-world taste than many modern South African vintages possess.)
Special occasion: Tommasi Amarone - available at Wines of the World, Kileleshwa. Reminiscent of chestnuts roasting on an open fire and other cliches - while this wine was wholly inappropriate for the oppressive weather, it is delicious on a cold day, and has a subtle taste of cinnamon and raisins. It's heavy on alcohol - a small glass after an evening meal, preferably beside a roaring fire, is the best way to enjoy Amarone.

No spectacular foods, though the cheeses and Farmer's Choice smokies (with fruit and olives) paired nicely with the wines on offer.

Sierra had a booth, showcasing their Blonde, Amber and Porter style beers. While the Porter is really more like an Amber, it is the best beer on offer, with rich flavors and nuttiness the others (including the so-called "Amber" and "Blonde") don't possess.


val said...

Nice review....and I like the fact that the Kenyan wines were yum and affordable..

That Naivasha Rose...its on my wishlist!

Shiko-Msa said...

Thanks for the reviews Nairobinotes. I'll be doing some wine shopping over the weekend.

31337 said...

i like this post. bookmarked for future reference. i am looking for sweet, light wines, eg that leleshwa rose, and the KWAL pink bubbly one, yum. and i am good to go. [tastes like Burn]

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