12-07-2019 by Freddie del Curatolo
Millions of tourists who frequent Kenya and its coast in particular, have been accustomed for at least twenty years to prefer, on their tables or in restaurants, wines from South Africa.
The almost always warm climate south of the Equator means that whites are preferred and in this case the choice has always fallen on South Africans, to the advantage of wines imported from Europe, because of the price and for that touch of exoticism. As far as costs are concerned, in fact, the only serious and continuous competition is that of South Americans, in particular the big Chilean companies.
This market is aimed almost exclusively at foreigners in Kenya, who are unlikely to go and spend more than 15 euros to drink such a wine or to buy an Orvieto East East will pay as much as in Italy a magnum of Moet Chandon.
For the Kenyan people, in fact, the habit of dining in wine, instead of with beer, is reserved for the wealthy, especially in Nairobi and the surrounding area.
Those who, being able to afford to spend even considerable sums on a bottle, clearly go for French or Italian products. For them, Brunello di Montepulciano or Bordeaux are also status symbols, not just delicacies of the vineyard.
On the Kenyan coast the absolute domination of whites for years has concerned two labels that, according to restaurateurs and retailers, have always had a good balance between quality and price: the terrible Versus and the almost undrinkable Culemborg.
Better quality than the first: the one-litre bottle, ideal for conviviality and beoni. The success of Culemborg remains a mystery: some say that the evocative name has made it preferable to "Bellingham" or the unpronounceable "Drosty Hopf" (which cost about the same amount but are often snubbed), others instead ensure that it has aphrodisiac or hallucinogenic qualities that go well with life on the shores of the Indian Ocean.
The fact is that for some months now there has been no trace of these two wines and probably those who arrive in August will find it difficult to find any South African label. Also because the existing alternative reserves have already been looted by hoteliers and restaurateurs. As it happened for the 5-litre boxes (Namaqua the most requested). In alcohol shops there are mostly sweet or sparkling wines, or you have to rely on 1.5-litre Italian, Argentinean or Chilean bottles. Frontera and Gato Negro are the most popular, Zapallares the emerging. Prices vary from 1300 to 1500 shillings.
For the autarkic, the organic and the lovers of adventure, there is also the Kenyan wine Leleshwa. It is around 1000 shillings per bottle and certainly does not cause headaches.
But not even the mouth watering.
But why can't you find Versus and Culemborg anymore?
The problem appeared last March, when the investigators of the Kenyan tax collection company obtained the block on the current accounts of companies owned by the Kenyan billionaire Humphrey Kariuki, accused of having escaped the tax for more than 3 billion shillings.
Among the companies owned by Kariuki there is also the Wines of the World Kenya, which is the main importer of wines and spirits from South Africa, as well as from other countries in the world.
Since then the company has not been able to import containers with its products and in a short time has emptied all its warehouses in East Africa, remaining only with a few bottles of the folkloric liqueur "Zappa" and a few cases of spirits reminiscent of whiskey and brandy as the Culemborg can remember a vermentino Gallura.
That's why probably the next season will be a "red" season (even if you whisper of the company's trick to resume soon importing in other guises ...) or you will happily return to the days when the "tusker baridi sana" was the best of the best to enjoy with a plate of grilled squid or a baked fish, Italian wines were preserved as sacred relics to be consumed on special occasions or for the holidays and someone tried to ferment the papaya to get a dry white.
Anything, in any case, listen to me, is better than Culemborg.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator
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