Look what the neighbours are drinking

Friday, 18 June, 2004
Graham Howe

While Distell showcased its brand-leaders in Namibia, a dozen or so smaller Cape producers - Agusta, Barrydale, Deetlefs, De Meye, Diemersdal, Footprint (African Pride), Kaapzicht, Laborie, Sterhuis (a new Stellenbosch winery), Villiera, Wamakersvallei, Wilderers Distillery (schnapps is big business in Namibia) and Saxenburg - led tastings at busy wine stalls. Importers like United Liquors and Bierbrauer & Wilhelm drew crowds at a wine bar that offered tastings of a range of wines from Meerlust to Plaisir de Merle.

Taking wine to Windhoek may be a long haul but the cellars that made the journey found a receptive audience. The thirsty Namibian public showed they were not only here for the beer - though the bush cook-off over potjies, pigs and venison sponsored by Namibian Breweries was a popular draw card.

In the search for new niche export markets, neighbouring countries like Namibia are easily overlooked. Yet Africa ranks thirteenth in South Africa's top 20 export markets, accounting for sales of some 2 million litres of bottled and bulk wine in the latest SAWIS figures for 2003 - down from some 2,5 million litres in 2002(Excluding high-value resort markets in African islands like Mauritius and the Seychelles that grew at 70% in 2003 to 420 000 litres of SA wine). As the only significant wine and spirits producer on the continent, South Africa is uniquely positioned to supply markets on its doorstep.

A small country with a well-developed tourist market, Namibia is one of the leading African consumers of brand SA. Amarula, KWV brandy, Nederburg and Zonnebloem are well-known trademarks on the Namibian shelf - and older vintages of the Cape's top-flight wines fetch hundreds of rands on the wine-lists of five-star hotels and lodges. What's more, Namibia is the only foreign buyer in the top ten at the Nederburg Auction, with purchases of 544 cases of fine wine in 2003 and 272 in 2004. That the Nederburg pre-tasting road-show goes all the way to Windhoek is proof of Namibia's strategic value - further, it neighbours Angola, another burgeoning wine and spirits market for brand SA.

The deeper you venture into Namibia, the better the wines. We started off with Guardian Peak (a growing second-label brand for Rust en Vrede), the house-wine on offer at Thriller, one of the trendiest clubs in Katutura. We ended up at Luigi and the Fish, one of the most well stocked wine, cigar and whisky bars I've visited anywhere. After running into Simonsig winemaker Johan Malan on a fishing trip to the Skeleton Coast, we felt obliged to try his koffie-klip Shiraz on the wine-list. Wherever we went, there was wine, wine everywhere - from the biggest to the smallest wine labels like Teddy Hall's Rudera.

At Epacha, one of the country's top lodges in the Etosha area, we came across a treasure-trove of vintage brand SA. One of the best wine cellars in Namibia boasts a collection of rare vintages from the likes of Jordan, Meerlust, Morgenhof, Mulderbosch, Rust en Vrede, Saxenburg, Uiterwyk, Veenwouden and Warwick (ranging from R250 - R1000+). When a bottle of Meerlust 1999 (R440) turned out to be corked, the manager laughed, saying 'When wine travels 1800 kilometres overland, you expect a fair bit of corkage' - and immediately replaced it, pairing Meerlust Chardonnay 1999 with Rubicon 1999.

There is obviously a demand for top-flight Cape wines in Namibia - a high-value niche market. Namibian nights are made for big Cape reds under starry, starry skies in the bush - and the odd digestif of KWV 20 Year Old on almost every wine-list, a bargain at R20.

For further info, contact the Namibia Tourism Board on
Tel: 021 419 3190
namibia@saol.com or see

To contact Air Namibia
Tel: 021-9362755
Email: cptres@airnamibia.com.na or see

Graham Howe

Graham Howe is a well-known gourmet travel writer based in Cape Town. One of South Africa's most experienced lifestyle journalists, he has contributed hundreds of food, wine and travel features to South African and British publications over the last 25 years.

He is wine and food contributor for Eat Out and WINE.CO.ZA, which is possibly the longest continuous wine column in the world, having published over 400 articles on this extensive South African Wine Portal.

When not exploring the Cape winelands, this adventurous globetrotter reports on exotic destinations around the world as a travel correspondent for the Intrepid Explorer and www.blog.getaway.co.za - and for the weekly travel show on SAFM radio.

Over the last decade, he has visited over fifty countries on travel assignments from the Aran Islands and the Arctic to Borneo and Tristan da Cunha - and entertained readers with his adventures through the winelands of the world from the Mosel to the Yarra ."

Nederburg is widely consumed in Namibia.
Nederburg is widely consumed in Namibia.

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