Karibou! The Wine Explorers touch down in Tanzania22nd April, 2014 by Jean-Baptiste Ancelot
One cannot speak of Tanzania without mentioning the magic of safaris, his majesty the lion king, the greatness of the city of Daar El Salam or the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar.
However we did not suspect for one second that it would be possible to find vines in this country. And yet Tanzania is indeed a wine-producing country!
Dodoma - where missionaries brought vines to Tanzania
Our guide announced that there is wine production 40 minutes south of Arusha at the Masika Brand winery. Nice scoop! We decided to go and see for ourselves. Once there, we were greeted by Erik Zweig, the owner. Ah, but where are the vines? No vines to be found here Erik explained, we only produce plum, banana and mango wines. Oops, wrong place. We took the time to chat with our host, sipping a glass of sweet wine made from banana and lemon. Erik told us about vineyards 5 hours drive east of Arusha at the Sakarani Monastery, run by the Benedictine Brothers. The opportunity was too good to resist. We contacted the monastery and spent two days waiting in Arusha, but had no response from the monastery. We decided to get bus tickets for the next day and that same evening we received an answer from Brother Selestine: ”we effectively have a small vineyard but consider closing the winery this year. At the moment we are quite overburdened with repairs on our buildings and farm work. Unfortunately we can’t receive anybody. We’re sorry”. A little disappointment…
Fortunately we are flexible. So we fashioned a new plan. We decided to leave for Dodoma, the capital and wine region of the country, the next day. We would depart at 6am with our guide as Dodoma is a 10 hour drive from Arusha. However, our guide never turned up and only he could drive in Tanzania, pass police checks and ask for directions. We waited for three days before we admitted the obvious, our guide had disappeared into the wild. So, we lost a week and could no longer afford to stay where we were. Time was running out and other vineyards were awaiting us, so we we spent our time searching for a new guide. No pictures of vines to be found in Tanzania dear readers, we do apologise. But the Wine Explorers are tough! After looking in every supermarket in the city we finally found four bottles of Tanzanian wine*. A real war treasure!
Two wineries : Dowico and Cetawico
We decided to hold an improvised tasting at a hotel in Arusha with its terrace overlooking the hotel the ideal place for a tasting.
Dowico (Dodoma Wine Company)
-Imagi Dry White 2013: notes of apple and white fruits. Final on quince fruit. Very light. To drink cold. 11% alcohol.
-Dodoma Natural Sweet White 2013: a nose of rhubarb and surprisingly enjoyable. The same delicate scents as one of my grandmother’s warm pies leaving the oven. The mouth is short and sweet. Apple finish. 8.5%abv.
-Imagi Dry Red 2013: Bordeaux style nose. Nose of black fruit, leather and a touch of green pepper. Short mouth. 11.5% alcohol.
Cetawico (Central Tanzanian Wine Company)
-Chenin Blanc 2009: gold colour indicating that the wine seemed to be oxidized. Nose of wax and acacia flowers. . Slightly sweet and quite short mouth.
Another cuvée exist in red : Sharye, a blend of Syrah, Aglianico, Marzemino and Teroldego.
In hindsight, I will quote here the most famous expression of the country so incredibly appropriate to our misadventure, “Hakuna matata!”, which means, “no problem, everything is fine.”
The wines are light and without much complexity but who cares, we had fun with this impromptu tasting. Next time, we will go straight to Dodoma. But for now let’s focus on Kenya and the Rift Valley, where new explorations are waiting for us!
*Retail price for the 4 wines: 12 000 TSH, about €5.30/bottle.