Driven by demand for a small format, convenient and environmentally sustainable packaging for wine, Mombasa residents and wine lovers witnessed the introduction of canned wines in Kenya, a road less traveled by local wine importers in the recent years. At the latterly concluded Wines of South Africa tasting event held at the Mombasa White Sands hotel, representatives revealed the wine brand Lubanzi and their uniquely packaged 250 ml cans. Guests at the invite-only event could be seen hovering at the Lubanzi stand asking all the questions they could think of; from where to purchase the cans to how much a can retails for at the local wines and spirits.
“The name ‘Lubanzi’ is inspired by a wandering dog that followed two back-packers for days on end in their adventures…the winemakers are innovative embracing the canned wine popularity in South Africa,” said Wanjiru Njuguna, a sommelier working with Winenjiru ltd. Another notable wine importer, Domaine Kenya ltd., also rode the bandwagon by announcing their new canned wines called Spier. According to Elsie Omondi, a sales representative of the company, there is a market gap, especially in the coast, as local wine lovers take their parties to the beach.”It is common to see breakages of wine bottles after beach parties and our new entrants can help solve that issue in the near future,” says Elsie. The price-point is anticipated to start anywhere from Ksh 400 to ksh 450 with distributorship spanning all major towns in the country.
History tells us…
In the 1930s, evidence points to early attempts by US wineries to produce canned wines, sited by prolific wine author and researcher, Tina Caputo. These experiments bore no fruit primarily because winemakers could not produce a stable wine in a can, especially with the technology available at the time. In the early 2000s, a more holistic approach was undertaken to solve the puzzle putting Australian wine makers, Greg Stokes and Steve Barics, on the map for their breakthrough; a packaging technology which incorporated three distinct elements: the wine itself; the can and its lining. Previous failed attempts to can wine fundamentaly focused on the wine itself.
With all its advantages such as portability, easy to chill and a perfect party contribution, canned wines definitely have an exciting role to play in the evolution of wine as we navigate our way through the 21st century. Not surprising, Millennials make up the highest consumer base for canned wines, but Gen Xers are embracing the category as well. What is surprising is canned wines are appealing to wine lovers of all levels (beer drinkers too). You see, if you think about it, the can also caters for those who want a glass of wine without committing to a full bottle.
Forbes identifies notable players in this space such as Union Wine, with their signature combination of Riesling, hops, and grapefruit; marring canned wine packaging and craft beer. Other international brands in a can include Babe 100, Oskar Blues, MOVO Wine Spritzers among others.
At the event, there was an array of other wine varieties new to the Kenyan market such as ‘Kumusha’ (meaning ‘your origin’) by Zimbabwean winemaker Tinashe Nyamudoka. “Wines from Africa’s south are surely finding a home in Kenya… in the past, whenever we did trainings in Kenya, hotel managers began enquiring about the wines we used…,” mentioned Lynette Ngotho, the marketing lead at Under The Influence EA., a training hub and supplier of wines. Under The Influence EA. partnered with WOSA to conduct trainings in Kenya, one of which was done at the ongoing Mombasa wine tasting edition.
According to the trainers at the event, there was a considerable turnout with a mix of people from retail stores, wine importers, hotel managers and enthusiasts; “The questions asked in the room were very good and we got great feedback as well… they were all hungry for knowledge,” added Lynette hinting that they might be back to do more trainings in Mombasa and even Kilifi.
Other wines also new to Kenya included Cecilia. Interestingly, The Wine Story picked up this ‘wine’s story’ by following a South African musician, Cecilia, who desired to combine her love for music and wine into something that had the potential to give joy and inspiration. The musician from Vredendal, pays homage to all music lovers alike and as you can imagine, the launch of the brand was a spectacle with an open-air classical concert where she performed with the Cape Town Chamber Orchestra. These wines make their way to Kenya with the help of Winenjiru Ltd., a local wine distributor in the country.
There may be an added element of character that influences some buying decisions when it comes to wine in Kenya and it was noticeable especially with the new wines present at the event. According to wine sommelier Kelvin Wanjira, Kenyans now understand wines a lot better and there are emerging enthusiasts that enjoy the unique stories and experiences behind the wines they like. The growing market also helps justify the bold steps taken by local importers to seek wines packaged in various ways, i.e. canned wines.
As the event drew to a close, guests at WOSA could be seen trying some unique food pairings courtesy of Sirimon Cheese, a Kenyan cheese company based in Laikipia, Kenya. The organiser and host of the event, Wanjiru Mureithi, thanked all the wine importers and guests for supporting the cause, recognising the distributors present such as giant Mombasa distributer, Sliquor Ltd. Also present was renowned wine master Juan Cambil, a former sommelier working for Gordon Ramsay restaurants, showcasing unique premium wine brand Kanonkop and Graham Beck. “I am pleased by how South African’s have really improved the quality of their wines and how Kenyans are appreciating them,” Juan added.
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