A Festival Of Wine

written by Josiah Kahiu 2nd June 2018

Excited that he has found a suitable foodie partner in crime, Josiah Kahiu eagerly dives feet first into Nairobi’s first ever Wine Festival.

Earlier this month, Nairobi wine fans were treated to what will hopefully become our city’s annual wine festival. Not knowing what the event had in store for me, it was a pleasant surprise to be greeted by beaming staff, a red carpet and many more people than I expected. Standing at the entrance of J’s, I looked at the stream of beautiful people and couldn’t help but conclude that the organisers had managed to tap into that fabled demographic that Kenyan promoters dream of enticing to their events: the Unicorn.

Side note: the term Unicorn is one my friends and I coined, which is basically shorthand for: discerning Kenyans who are difficult to lure out into the open, only go to the rarest events but when they do, look amazing and always have cash to splash.

I stood back and took the time to allow my overloaded senses to absorb all the stimuli. Soon enough, my wine muscle memory kicked in and, before I knew it, I had a glass of Champagne in hand and was formulating a drinking strategy for the afternoon. This strategy, I decided, had to include finding a suitable drinking companion as, of course, a wine fest is not complete without a drinking buddy.

Fortunately that day, the wine Gods were looking kindly on me and as I stood there and mused, who should I see but a most suitable of partners in crime: Mulunda Kombo! For those of you who don’t know him, you obviously haven’t been on Instagram much lately, as he is one of our city’s rising culinary stars. Mulunda was the ideal companion because people who
are foodies generally have a good understanding of wine and as such, are the perfect tasting partner – they ask the right questions and always want to team up with someone with complementary skills.

Our plan was simple: start with the bubbly, move to white, rose’ and then the reds. It was like a beautifully crafted menu, everything had its place. We used our different but overlapping objectives – his to find wines that worked well with meals,
mine to try as many things that caught my eye – to navigate the 100 bottles or so for a few dozens that we wanted to try. The only thing that was agreed upon was to skip the naturally sweet wines, not because we are personally not big fans, but there was nothing there we could think to pair them with.

The plan worked perfectly and we both came up with lists of wines to buy for the house to drink after work and wines to serve with food at dinner parties. This must have been annoying for anyone who was waiting in line behind us, as it would take almost 5 minutes to try something. I’m sure our incessant talking about aromas or whether a wine paired better with Sea Bass or Salmon, must have made us look like total snobs and lifted many an eyebrow over the course of the afternoon.

After taking my notes, which I will not bore you with the details of, one thing did become apparent: Nairobi is primed for a wine revolution. And this is, mind you, a revolution that is pushed by a strong female contingent. But then again, what good things in life are not?

I thoroughly appreciated the curiosity of the people who attended, their enthusiasm makes my job much more fulfilling. Also, it is good to see that we as Kenyans are finally exploring other things beyond whisky and beer! I for one am waiting expectantly for the next Nairobi Wine Festival. Till then, my words of advice are to keep exploring your wine tastes as you prepare for the next one.

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