Safari and Wine: welcome to Zimbabwe !

Flying from Namibia we arrived in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.  At the exit of the airport we suddenly realized that we were in the “real Africa“ : damaged roads, sometimes traffic lights not working – so you drive slowly with your warnings ON –, no street names and traffic signalisation missing most of the time. But this in fact is not a problem and doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that Zimbabwe is a beautiful and lovely country with open-arms people and fantastic landscapes that you must visit at least once in your lives, like the Victoria Falls or some great safaris places.

Bushman Rock Wildlife
History of wine making in Zimbabwe dated from the XIXth century.

The pioneers brought vines to “Rhodesia“, as Zimbabwe was then called, in about 1890, but grape growing was not undertaken commercially until about 1960*. Trade sanctions imposed by Britain – after the Rhodesian government declared its independence in 1965 – forced farmers to diversify and some planted vines of clairette blanche, pinotage, chenin blanc and red muscadel. These were distributed to the Eastern Districts, Hippo Valley, Marandellas and the Mazoe Valley.

When Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, the wine industry was integrated under the control of three wineries: African Distillers (AFDIS), Cairns Wineries and Meadows Estate. Nowadays wine industry is decreasing in Zimbabwe. From what we saw in different information sources, we thought that there were 2 wineries in the country : Mukuyu Winery and Bushman Rock Estate. However it appears that the day before we arrived in Zimbabwe – incredible but true – one of these two estates, Mukuyu Winery just closed ! (temporary or definitively ? Mystery…)

Bushman Rock, where safari & wine work in perfect harmony.

We had the chance to spend a few days at Bushman Rock Safaris and Wine Estate, a winery which was first planted in the late 30’s (with first commercial wines in the 60’s). The 102-hectares property was purchased by a civil engineer Mr. D.C. Mullins in 1949. His vision for the untamed area of woodland was a European style vineyard and winery and his wife and family helped him clear and terrace the land, put in basic irrigation and plant 12 hectares of vines, making it one of the first vineyards in the country.

In 2007 a joint venture company was established between two families who owned adjacent properties and the “Busman Rock Safaris” concept was born.
The two families set about developing Bushman Rock into a gracious Wine and Wildlife Estate preserving the natural beauty of the valley whilst working towards the production of quality wines. They developed the wine estate over the last 13 years, replanting and expanding the vineyards with new “noble cultivars” imported from the Cape like Semillon, Sauvignon blanc, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet sauvignon and Cabernet franc, adding drip irrigation into all vineyards and re-trellising the vines.

As a preservation program for the Zimbabwean nature, they introduced into the estate 13 of the magnificent species of African wildlife : Giraffe, Eland, Sable, Kudu, Nyala, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Tsessebe, Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Duiker. They also developed facilities to cater towards equine tourism with the focus on polo, although there are also showing jumping and dressage arena.  With the focus on polo they created the Polo Arena, a full size international polo field, have built a restaurant and function venue at the winery as well as renovating existing structures into a conference and function venue for seminars as well as building a picturesque Chapel for weddings.

The Bushman Rock wine range.

Bushman Rock wine range is composed of 9 wines; 4 of them particularly drew our attention :
Dry White 2010, a white blend of Semillon, Sauvignon blanc and Perel (a white varietal from Israël), matured 6 months in 3-year old French barrels.  A nose of citrus, pear and fresh menthol. Fresh and fruity in mouth with a delicate bitterness on the finish. Structured with 12.5% alcohol. Nice match with asparagus for example. Cellar price: $4,5 (about 3.30€)
Charlevale 2010, a white blend of Semillon (60%), Sauvignon blanc (35%) and Moscatel (5%), matured 12 months in 3-year old French and American barrels.  Acacia, honey and white flowers on the nose. Fresh and clean in mouth with a citrus finish. 13% alcohol. Goes well with goat cheese. Cellar price: $7 (about 5.10€)
Alicante Bouschet  2008, a red wine made from Alicante Bouschet, an old grape coming from the south of France and matured 24 months in 3-year old French barrels.   Nose of strawberry. Light in mouth with a taste of red berries. Fresh and well-balanced. Can perfectly pair with a roasted chicken. Cellar price: $6 (about 4.40€)
Merlot 2010, a 100% Merlot red wine matured 24 months in 3-year old French barrels.   Nose of prune and blueberry. Smooth tannins in mouth with a taste of black berries. Nice match with a juicy peppery steak and French fries. Cellar price: $6 (about 4.40€)

In the resent future we will reduce the wine range and focus more on key products like the Charlevale or the Alicante Bouschet.  Because of this focus we hope to gain a certain precision and concentration within our wines that will hopefully strongly increase their quality“, confirmed current M.D Jonathan Passaportis. The addition of Nelia Kanyasa, world-class winemaker and vintner-agriculture manager at Bushman Rock Estate since 2013, will definitely help.

Other whites we tasted are Hanne 2009 (100% Hannepoot) and Moscato 2010. For the reds : Syrah 2009, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and Stellagallen 2009 (a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet franc).


For more information :

* “Encyclopedia of Wine”, ©Global Book Publishing Pty Limited 2000

When Namibian (desert) rhymes with Wine

Our Namibian adventure started in Upington, in the Orange River, on the border between South Africa and Namibia. Once we crossed the border, a 2600-km road trip commenced!

South of Namibia - 40° degrees outside

South of Namibia – 40° degrees outside

Namibia is like a series of postcards. An opencast patchwork. From the arid parts of the South, to the dunes of the West – the oldest dunes in the world, dating back over 3 million years, through the mountains of the North and the green meadows of the East, every landscape rivals of beauty and lets you dream. The country has 2.11 million people for 825 418 km2* (30 times less inhabitants than in France for an area 20% larger)… and the icing on the cake : 4 wineries !

It is difficult to produce wine when the rainy season is in summer (mainly from January to February, with harvesting time approaching) and an average temperature of 40°c…but far from impossible. Proof.

Step 1 : Neuras Wine and Wildlife Estate
Welcome to the middle of the Namibian desert. At 1200m above sea level and 80km from the mythical dunes of Sossusvlei, Neuras winery represents a little less than 2 hectares of vines for an annual production of 3,000 bottles. Neuras is part of the Naankuse foundation, which helps in the preservation and rehabilitation of wild animals like leopards and in which Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are involved. Their daughter, Shiloh Nouvel, was born in Swakopmund, Namibia. The vines were planted in 1997 and the first vintage was in 2001. Two cuvées : Neuras Shiraz (100% Shiraz) and Namib Red (a blend 80% Shiraz-20% Merlot) . Pleasant surprise for both red wines aged for nine months in barrels with an 13.5% alcohol. The palate is light but the fruit is present, giving freshness to the wines and it offers an immediate pleasure. Wines to pair on the spot with a piece of juicy Namibian beef, cooked on the coals.
More information :

Neuras Wine and Wildlife Estate

Neuras Wine and Wildlife Estate

Step  2 : Kristall Kellerei Winery
This 4.5 hectares vineyard was created in 1990 by Helmuth Kluge, the pioneer of modern viticulture in Namibia, and ransom in March 2008 by Katrin and Michael Weder. We are in Omaruru, 200 km northwest of Windhoek, the capital. Here, at 1400 meters above see level, wine production and the distillation of brandy – produced from grapes but also from plants – co-exist in perfect harmony. Moreover Colombard, the dominant grape, is used for both productions. Their white, Rüppel ‘s Parrot, a light 100% Colombard, whith notes of citrus and pear, is a perfect refreshment. The red, Paradise Flycatcher, is a blend of Tinta Baroca (30%), Shiraz (25%), Ruby Cabernet (25%), Malbec (15%) and Pinotage (5%). Nose of prune which have the flavours of a Porto. An easy drinking wine.
The house specialty : MATISA Prickly-Pear, a brandy made ​​from cactus flowers of the field.
More information :

Harvest @ Kristall Kellerei

Harvest @ Kristall Kellerei

3rd and last step: Otavi region, baboons territory
We are surrounded by mountains, at 1300 meters altitude. At nightfall freshness arises. In the distance we hear the baboons screaming, it is impressive. In front of us, 1.5 miles away, two wineries face each other.
Tonningii Wynkelder, created in 1990 and whose vines were planted in 1998, is Otavi’s oldest winery. It is also the farm of Dr. Boshoff, a touching and close to nature man. During the morning, Dr. Boshoff consults at his cabiner in Otavi. He is a local star in the region, all the African people know him. In the afternoon, he puts on his winemaker cap and run in his field, 10km away, to take care of his vineyard, his second passion, but also to take care of the chickens, pigs and cows . He even collected a baby eland a few years ago, which horns he cut so it doesn’t hurt his wife, because the two are inseparable. A doctor-farmer-winemaker in Namibia… I love it! The wine: 1 pure Shiraz coming from 1ha of vines. “Of course there is a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Merlot and Chardonnay here and there, but it’s just for fun and to experiment, I don’t bottle them”, he says with humour.

Dr. Boshoff & his deer

Dr. Boshoff & his deer

On the other side, at the end of a path invaded by grass, is the Montavi winery, held by Laurent Evrard & Stefan and Martha Schulz, a Franco-German tandem. During the week they work and live in the capital. On weekends, they take the car and drive the 360 km that separate them from the domain, just for their passion for wine. At the moment their Syrah, Mourvèdre, Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon are not marketed. The wines don’t even have a label! These two wine lovers have learned the job and are still playing. “Every year we learn a little bit more, we buy additional equipment. Step by step we are moving on, always taking pleasure !”, says Laurent. One day maybe they would market… We spent the weekend with them harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre. A great time. Wine buddies. And scoop for Wine Explorers : they will label and sale their 2013 vintage !

Namibia is not (yet) a great nation of wine. But the apprentice-winemakers we met have all demonstrated one thing: anybody making wine with his heart can make good wine !

Paysage désertique Namibie
One last stop in Windhoek to enjoy a beer at Joe’s Beerhouse, the fashionable and unavoidable spot of the capital. A good night’s sleep followed by a fantastic breakfast in the countryside in Voigtland Guesthouse, a few kilometers from Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport. And here we go again. Direction Zimbabwe !

Wine Explorers’cheers,

*source : wikipedia

Top 5 South African wines tasted !

(outside Pinotage)
1-    Strandveld Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Strandveld Estate
M93A9051_EDT100% Sauvignon Blanc
A winery located in the Elim area, the most southerly wine region in South Africa and whose vines are named “cap front”, as they are close to the ocean (at Strandveld the estate’s vines are on average 6 km from the sea). The sea air brings freshness to the wine.  I like to dream – it is a very personal opinion – that the air charged with iodine gives a salty taste to the wines, especially the whites.
Tasting:  nose of fresh herbs and asparagus characteristic of the SB316 clone, sometimes seen as a defect, but which in reality is a marvel of purity.  Beautiful freshness in the mouth and good length. It is flexible and it ends with notes of pear and citrus.  It makes you want to eat grilled fish and Greek dishes … A delight!
Winemaker: Conrad Vlok, since 2004.
Cellar price: R98 (about 6.90€)
More information:

2-    Kama Chenin Blanc 2013, from Dorrance Wines
M93A7352_EDT100% Chenin Blanc
A very nice Chenin Blanc originating from the Swartland region, which is known for its more continental climate, offering elegant and fruity wines.
Tasting: nose of exotic fruits (pineapple, passionfruit), very nice, with little notes of white peach and apricot on the finish. Nice palate, ample. Good freshness and length.  An elegant bitter finish that supports the wine.  Delicious.  Why not enjoy a lobster salad or a tuna carpaccio with it ?
Winemaker/Owner: Christophe Durand. His 1st vintage dates from 2004.
Cellar price: R100 (about 7€)
More information:

3-    Morkel Malbec 2010, Bellevue Estate
100% Malbec
The estate is located in Bottelary in Stellenbosch – Stellenbosch being generally considered as the most famous wine region of South Africa. Bellevue Estate has beautiful clay and sandstone soils. The uniqueness of the area is to be surrounded by trees, the “Blue Gum” trees, which give to wine scents of blackcurrant.
Tasting: nose of cassis, blueberry and eucalyptus, slightly minty finish. A taste of candy and a very delicate cassis finish. Fine and supple tannins and good length. Would go very well with a rabbit with prunes.
Winemaker/Owner: Dirk Morkel
Cellar price: R95 (about 6.65€)
More information:

4-    Trilogy 2010, Warwick Estate
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Cabernet Franc (30%) and Merlot (10%)
Warwick, a “Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Member“, is also located in the Stellenboch region.
Tasting: nose of red fruits (gooseberry) and also blackcurrant. Slightly grassy. Very nice wine with soft and fleshy tannins. Can age very well (up to 10 years). Freshness and balance in mouth. Decant for 2 hours. Nice match with roast beef and mushrooms for example.
Winemaker: Nic Van Aarde ; Owner: Mike Ratcliffe
Cellar price: R275 (about 19.25€)
More information:

5-    Integer Syrah 2007, Hoopenburg Wines
100% Syrah
Hoopenburg is located on the R101 in Stellenbosch, 30 minutes from Cape Town. It enjoys a temperate microclimate which brings freshness to the wines.
Tasting:  nose of flowers (violet) and licorice with subtle spices on the finish.  Intense and fresh on the palate. Soft tannins, ample. Fleshy fruit supported by spicy notes (black pepper). Serve with marinated venison stew… sublime!
Winemaker: Helanie Olivier, since August 2013
Cellar price: R110 (about 7.70€)
More information:

Well … impossible to limit myself to 5 wines … not after drinking Crystallum Paradisum!

* Crystallum Paradisum 2011, Crystallum Wines
Paradisum 2011
The wine is a blend of Shiraz (50%), Grenache (38%) and Cinsault (12%), produced in the Walker Bay region.
Tasting: aromas of cherries, strawberries, blackberries and a hint of leather, cloves and cardamon to finish.  Great intensity of flavour on the palate with well-integrated tannins and a balanced and refreshing finish.  Nice depth.  Drink within the next 2-3 years.
Owners/Winemakers: Andrew and Peter-Allan Finlayson, sons of the legendary South African winemaker Peter Finlayson, who was the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley.
Average price on internet : about 39€
More information:

Wine Explorers’cheers,