The Real Wine Chicks of Nairobi

written by Yoga David 7th August 2015

The Real Wine Chicks of Nairobi

The association between women and wine tends to conjure up images reminiscent of the fun and fabulous scenes in Sex And The City. Although that may sometimes be spot on, in the unforgiving world of wine sales and distribution in Kenya glamour often takes a back seat. Meet the ladies who— through rain and shine—are largely to thank for the blossoming wine culture in the country.

Kalika Ruparelia

MIA Wines

Kalika landed up in wine after completing her studies in Chartered Accountancy. She decided to try her hand in the wine industry instead of going into Accounting full time and has never looked back since.

Dry or sweet?

Depends on the food…….drier wines with more savoury dishes, and sweet wines either on their own or with well made desserts Stemmed glass or wine tumbler? Wine tumbler, I find the warmth from my hands warms up the wine slightly allowing me to enjoy the different aromas of the wine.

Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc?

Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, Chardonnay from France.

Young or old?

Every day drinking young wine. For special occasions- older wine.

What makes MIA unique?

MIA Wines is unique in that apart from being the home of a some major wine brands like Mara Wines and Robertson winery , we have a variety of 170 different wines and champagnes. As I personally meet the wine makers and the farmers before importing the wines, I am proud to say that each wine has a story.

What is the story of Mara wine?

Mara Wines was conceived in 2006. After much deliberation with French viticulturalists, we decided that South Africa would be the ideal location to grow wine grapes successfully. We are produced exclusively by 2 farms in South Africa allowing us to control the quality of the fruit we use

Nyawira

Sixty Three Wine Shop

Nyawira—who still works part-time as a Civil Engineer—was first introduced to wine 10 years ago when she worked with Emirates Airlines. Nowadays, she’s the proud owner of her very own wine shop.

Dry or sweet?

Dry dry dry! Stemmed glass or wine tumbler? Stemmed glass – I’m old school…

Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc?

Shiraz. But, if I had to choose, it would be a woody Chardonnay.

Young or old?

An aged red wine every time. What lead you to open Sixty Three? I was captivated by the depth and breadth of wine; the different grapes, blends, tastes and notes; the passion and skill in making each bottle, which propelled me to try as many wines as I could find; and started the evolution and development of my own palate. I was hooked. I started being more deliberate about visiting vineyards to learn about the wine making process. By sampling different wines, traveling to different vineyards and learning the art of wine making; Sixty Three was born.

What is unique about the store?

We are very deliberate about finding the best wines in each price bracket and offering a rounded selection for the new and discerning wine drinker.

Where do you see the Kenyan wine scene going?

The Kenyan wine scene progressing at an impressive rate. It is particularly thrilling to see people willing to try new wines; a practice I cannot foster enough. I am thrilled to be a part of this journey.

Julie Smith

Le Decanter

Having grown up in a family of restaurateurs, Julie remembers the times she would accompany her father to buy wine for his restaurants. Prior to living in Nairobi her and her husband ran hotels in Zanzibar.

Dry or sweet?

Depends on the occasion and the mood…I can easily have a late harvest wine as aperitif and a red wine, if it’s a Syrah, with my dessert! I am not at all conventional in my choices. Stemmed glass or wine tumbler? Stemmed with no hesitation!

Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc?

Chardonnay (Burgundy grapes!)

Young or old?

Older definitely (like men, more mature is better!)

Why did you feel the need to introduce French wines to the market?

Because French wines were either not available or were very expensive, and I was really missing them, so I thought “you better just do it yourself!” I knew as well that the clientele was ready for some better quality wines and was tired of a mostly new world wines controlled market.

What is your favourite wine gadget?

Of course a Decanter! Decanters are very elegant, old fashioned and they do have an influence on wines. You have to be careful on how to use them though, there are good to bring oxygen to young wines but for older wines they should be used very carefully only to separate sediments. The time you leave wine in a decanter varies as well depending on the age of the wine. So not just a pretty accessory….

Soraiya Meghji

The Wine Shop

Soraiya worked as an Environmental Economist for 10 years at the United Nations. However, she had always been exposed to the wine distribution world as her family have been in the industry in Uganda for 20 years.

Dry or sweet?

Dry.

Stemmed glass or wine tumbler?

Stemmed.

 Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc?

Chardonnay.

Young or old?

Tough one. I like my whites young and my reds old.

What is your favourite red wine to enjoy at the end of a busy week?

I’m starting to appreciate the bold, earthy tannins and acidity of the Bordeaux wines. I have to have them with food because I still have a tough time taking it alone. Otherwise, the easy drinking Chilean wines.

What are some challenges you’ve found in the industry and what advice would you give ?

We live in a country where things are heavily taxed. Just getting it in and selling it is a mission. The economy affects sales. You have to really budget and forecast and plan. People think you just drink wine all day and do events but it’s actually extremely daunting when you look at the financials. It’s not for the faint hearted so take off the rose-tinted glasses and be ready for the uphill climb.

Meera Karia

Viva Productline

Meera is a true stalwart at Viva Productline. Having worked at the beverage company for 10 years, from when they distributed water and energy drinks to the point where they introduced wine and spirits.

Dry or sweet?

I guess both, i’m not too fussed.

Stemmed glass or wine tumbler?

Proper stemmed glass. The glass has to be perfect.

Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc?

Definitely a Sauvignon Blanc. It’s well known in Chile.

Young or Old?

Older, especially reds.

If you could travel to any wine region, which one would it be?

Santiago, Chile. Because we’ve been with Concho Y Toro for a very long time. We have a wonderful relationship and it would be very interesting to finally see them that side – if I ever get time to leave this office!

What are some positive lessons you’ve learnt about the business?

The door is opening for new, good wines to come on board. There are many restaurants, hotels and bars and clubs opening. Where do you see the wine scene in Kenya going in the next few years? Well the next 6 months are very very crucial. Right now it’s low season and sales are slow but when the season picks up again we’ll see how it goes. We really need tourism to be up again and even for more locals to continue enjoying wine. But it’s definitely looking up. Our country is looking very promising, especially when it comes to wine.

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