I’ve never really thought about going on a wine tasting tour much less in Zimbabwe. Whenever I think of wine, it is the last place that comes to my mind amongst famous wine regions in France, Italy and even its neighbour South Africa.
This was until I visited the Bushman Rock Estate outside of Harare. On the last day of the 2015 Sanganai conference/exhibition, I overheard Belinda, one of the host talking about a tour happening the next day and I quickly signed up for it without a clue of what it was about. After dinner, I went to my room and I saw a note lying on the floor with information about the pick up time for the next day.
Breakfast all gulped down and we were off the next morning. We were a group of nine who signed up for the tour: three Nigerians, two South Africans, one Ugandan, two Tanzanians and our Zimbabwean host, Ruth. It was a very chilly day as the minibus meandered through the streets of Harare CBD before hitting the free way outside the city. I was fortunate to have been borrowed jackets and boots to help my situation. I wasn’t prepared for Harare weather so most of the outfits I brought from Lagos were light.
Thirty minutes later, we arrived at the Estate. The environment was a bit rustic as we were ushered into the main quarters. To my surprise, the interior felt very English! an unexpected juxtaposition from the outside. It reminded me of somewhere one sees only in the movies about large estates owned by a wealthy lord. It had a huge fire place, a pool and a relaxation shelter in the backyard. As if my “English influence conviction” was not enough, we were served welcomed tea and biscuits as we surveyed the surroundings. I mean what can be more English than that???
After tea, we proceeded to take a tour of the estate. The main part of the tour was to see the vines and visit the winery. We passed by the grim looking church on the estate before we got to the vines. On getting to the vineyard, We met workers pruning the vines in preparation for the next harvest. There were no grapes in season and the lady (our estate guide) explained the seasons in the year when they harvest the grapes, the varieties that were available on the vines and various types of wine they are used for. We were then given an opportunity to try out the pruning process under the workers’ supervision.
I managed to survive the tour of the vines through aching feet and swirls of chilly winter wind slapping my face. My borrowed boots were killing me! We headed to the winery next. The lady then took us through the wine making process. The grapes are first sorted when harvested then pressed before they are put in large containers to ferment then stored up in air tight barrels before they are bottled. She showed us the pressing machine before taking us inside where they had the containers for fermenting the wine. Afterwards, we went to the wine cellar where the barrels of wine were stored.
Once we were through with the tour of the winery, we started tasting some of the wine they produced in the previous season. A general rule at the wine tasting was to rinse our glasses after each glass of wine in order not to dilute the taste of each wine. We were also given a few tips on how to hold a wine glass and how to really savour the taste of each wine. The first one wine we tasted was very dry white wine that it was a real kick. Next was the Semillion which wasn’t as dry as the initial one. Muscato was next which was very smooth and a bit sweet. After was the Merlot, a variety of Red wine which I didn’t enjoy so much before we then rounded up with the White grape juice.
She offered to sell some bottles to us if we were interested and I was surprised at how affordable they were. I ended up with two bottles of grape juice and a bottle of Muscato I wrapped properly in my luggage and shipped with me back to Nigeria.
Would you ever go on a wine tasting tour? Please share your comments.
*My heart goes out to the family and friends of Belinda Mutinhiri, a member of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority who passed on on the 3rd of September 2016. I pray that her soul rests in peace and that God continues to comfort them through this difficult time.
*My trip to Zimbabwe was courtesy of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority. All opinions however remain my own.