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South African wine choices in Kenya

Peter Tilley writes from Kenya about interesting (and some less so) South African wines to be found there.

I have been mulling over what I and other wine enthusiasts refer to as a modern-day paradox. On the one hand, we wine drinkers have never had it so good. The world is awash with well made, technically sound wines for prices that are relatively cheap. On the other hand, here in Kenya the wines available, at least on first inspection, appear to be restricted to the brands of a handful of mega-sized multinational companies. These homogenised, safe and consistent wines are fine and even dandy; it’s just that they can be just a bit boring. Is there some sort of ‘coca-cola-rization’ going on whereby wherever we are in the world the wine seems to taste all the same?

I am of course protesting too much and you would be right if you are thinking there are more important things in Kenya to worry about than a variation on the ‘Anything-But-Chardonnay/Cabernet’ syndrome. Truth is that if you do dig a little it is surprising what interesting and even unique wines you can find in Kenya.
I am prioritising the wines available from South Africa because in terms of volumes of wine imported and sold in Kenya, wines from South Africa occupy first place. South Africa’s relative geographical proximity as well as perhaps a degree of African solidarity does give it an advantage over other wine producing countries which export to Kenya. After Angola and Nigeria, Kenya imports more South African wine than any other sub-Saharan African country. Leading the fray and available in all supermarkets across Kenya from the hypermarkets of Nairobi to the road side dukas in even the smallest towns, are the products of the giant South African wines and spirits company Distell.