Picking the right wine is the easy part — said no one ever, as I recently learnt during my first ever wine tour at the Morendat Farm, home of Rift Valley Winery
Kenya’s Rift is famed for many things — Mt Longonot, the Escarpment, Lake Naivasha and Nakuru, Kikopey (nyama choma haven), but up until two decades back, a winery was not one of them. So imagine my surprise as we were greeted with rows upon rows of vines bearing luscious grapes meant to be transformed into vino, thriving through the heat of the Rift.
Welcome to the world of New Latitude wines.
These are part of a new wave of wines produced in regions previously thought impossible. Indeed, the wine map has exploded as all these areas, including the Morendat Farm, which falls close to the equator, posing a unique set of conditions and opening up new terroir for adventurous wine aficionados.
It was without a doubt a day of many firsts. While many argue age is only relevant when you happen to be a bottle of wine, Leleshwa stands apart. It is a young wine as the vines grow for a year and a half before harvest. Leleshwa has two harvests per year with one vintage per year. Once the grapes are picked, they are thrown into the destemer — after which they are put into a wine press that gently squeezes out the juice. Different strains of yeast are then applied for taste. This stage takes 14 days as sugar is converted into alcohol.
The winery cultivates sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, colombard, rosé, a merlot shiraz, a sweet white and red. The Leleshwa Sauvignon Blanc boasts of two medals to its name — the 2015 Michelangelo Gold Medal and the 2017 Michelangelo Double gold in the Michaelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards.