It was a cold night this Wednesday when a group of us gathered at The Taste Academy, with the explicit intent to imbibe on exclusively Namibian cultivated, produced and bottled wines. And that is exactly what we did – and much more.
For the uninitiated, apparently somewhere in the Erongo mountains along Omaruru River there sits a winery that produces not only wines but a collection of other liquors using Namibian fruits – wild fruits.
Aptly named Erongo Mountain Winery, this small winery produces champagne or actually sparkling wine made from Maguni juice – the fruits are collected from Kavango. According to the strict trade patent rules, we cannot use the name champagne because the French owns the right to that name. But the Maguni sparkling drink is as close to champagne as you can get. It is bubbly and the flavour is just amazing.
But the most interesting liqueur is the Eembe Cream, which as the name suggests is made from Eembe fruits. Rural women in northern Namibia carefully collect the fruits, and the winery does what it does best to produce the cream. It is good, very good. So good that some have said it is better than the famous Amarula Cream.
The cream was launched in December while the sparkling wine was launched this week. The winery has also figured out the way to make an herbal liqueur using the devil’s claw and other herbs. It is called Essence of Namibia, and it is smooth when you gulp it down on ice after a meal.
The entire night was dedicated to tasting wines and liqueurs from five Namibian wineries. These are small family-owned wineries, whose operations anchor on the husband and wife, a winery established as a side occupation to the actual agro farming or in the case of Otjiwarongo’s Cheetah Foundation, strictly for research purposes.
In the Orange River is another small winery based on the table grape farm that exports to Europe. They started a winery because they could not stand the idea of grapes going to waste simply because the Europeans deem them not plum enough to be of export quality. And their double Shiraz was simply irresistible – it is possibility I got that name wrong, for it was a long night.
There were so many wines and liquors to imbibe. Such as the gin, brandy and other spirits from the Naute Kristall, made from dates, pomegranates, and prickly pears cultivated through the Naute Dam irrigation scheme. The products have interesting names – such as Matisa (How are you) for the prickly pear drink.
The wines may be by small wineries, however, they are just as sophisticated as those by big names. Take, for instance, the Colombard by Thonningii Wine Celar in the Otavi mountain valley. It is as good as any other French Colombard. Yet at Otavi Wine Celar no yeast is added to their Colombard. It is all-natural because they use the skin of the grapes for yeast. At Cheetah’s winery they use yeast from France, which gives their Colombard a specific splitzy favour with sparkly sensation.
The night was a result of a brainstorming session by a number of people, including Dr Malan Lindeque, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and Rudie van Vuuren of Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary and Lodge.
“I am truly excited to see true Namibian wines. There are some very serious wine producers who are also competitive in product and price,” said Lindeque on the night.
“It is for us it to make our products known and cultivate the taste in the market. Let us make people feel that if they have not drunk the Namibian wine then they have not taken wine,” said Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Tommy Nambahu.
Environment and tourism minister, Pohamba Shifeta, who could not join us for the evening sent a message through Nambahu that he wants to be served Namibian wine next time he flies aboard the national airline, Air Namibia. “It is not only agriculture that is on display here but also agro processing,” he said, adding that it is important to note that Namibia has so many quality products that can be introduced to partners in the tourism industry.