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A Sommelier’s Guide to Pairing Wine with Kenyan Cuisine

written by Anthony Mbugua 23rd July 2019

On a chilly Wednesday evening, we were invited to a dinner at Nyama Mama. This was unlike your ordinary dinner. Have you ever considered pairing wine with Kenyan food? Sommelier Victoria Mulu Munywoki, who also runs Cellar 254, was our stellar host, guiding us on the wine and food pairing.

Starters

The chicken wings dipped in honey and sesame seeds were deliciously good. We also had ugali fries and the sweet potato and pea croquette which we enjoyed over a glass of Casal Mendes Vinho Verde, an exquisite wine from Portugal. According to Victoria, it’s always advisable to start with a glass of white wine when dining. It teases your tastebuds and encourages to enjoy more food which we did. The Portuguese wine was acidic, with some leafy notes which made it perfect as an aperitif. The flavourful wings paired greatly with the wine because there was a balance between the sugary bits and the acidity.

Mama’s Soup

Let me just say that the ginger-infused roasted carrot soup was an absolute favourite. We enjoyed this with a New Zealand wine, the Yealands Family Estate Landmade Sauvignon Blanc. The Sauvignon Blanc enhanced the taste of the thick soup. This mouth-filling, fruity white wine perfectly balanced with the soup which felt richly Kenyan with the vegetables in it. If you’re preparing soup at home, consider pairing it with this wine. Sourced from New Zealand’s best wine regions, this wine will have you enjoying your soup.

Sharing Platters and Side Dishes

We all know one thing is assured when we’re at Nyama Mama; Mama’s serving is adequate. Meat, especially choma, is almost a Kenyan staple. What wine should you pair with your nyama choma or meat dishes? The platter was filled with slow-braised beef short ribs, served with tender stem broccoli. There was also brine marinated grilled chicken with Mama’s homemade bbq sauce. The marinated goat leg dipped in coconut curry was just what we needed. We paired this with the famous Rupert & Rothschild Classique. The sides, which included fried plantain and chapati, were paired with Rietvalley Esteanna Red wine, both wines were from South Africa.

The Rupert & Rothschild Classique has layered tasting notes with some of the guests even noting some coriander. This is the kind of wine you want to have when having veggies and juicy beef steak. The Rothschild has silky tannins which balance well with the ribs. The Rietvalley Esteanna was a favourite, coming from one of the oldest wine families of South Africa.

Mama’s Sweet Treat

I’m a self-confessed sweet tooth so naturally, the chocolate sweet potato pie with moringa ice cream we had, spoke to me. It melted beautifully in the mouth and the Leleshwa Rose we accompanied the dessert with couldn’t have been a more deserving match! I would have this again and again.

It was a night of decadence, sharing, learning and making friends. Most of us might be shy to try pairing our Kenyan food with exotic wine but you’d be surprised by what your palate uncovers should you decide to experiment. Victoria Mulu spoke of the unique initiative and a first for Kenya saying, “I wanted to challenge the stereotypes as well as promote pride in our Kenyan cuisine.”

You can buy fantastic and professionally selected wines on Cellar 254 to pair with the food you prepare at home.


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