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Women in Wine – The Kenyan Trailblazers

It is clear that women are fearless pioneers when it comes to the wine industry – whether a sommelier, educator, stockists, importer, grower or just an enthusiast, they top it all and overshadow men in this regard. In previous articles we have expounded on Emma Nderitu (Leleshwa wines) the lady who put Kenya on the map for our first private vineyard and winemaker. Because of her, the wine industry has began to open up and this time we shall celebrate and recognise others making it possible to see the wines flow in our local outlets.

This is surely not the corner we just speak of women empowerment ; here you will get utterly inspired by the passion and love women bring to the ‘wine table’ – literally. The Wine Story profiled 8 stars leading Kenya’s wine industry forward, both rising and established in the game. Let’s dive in.

Victoria Munywoki – Cellar254wine.com

She is definitely not a new face in the industry. Victoria is a certified sommelier and has been featured in numerous wine-food pairing articles including Business Daily (Ugali and Nyams Choma Meet Wine) and most recently during the pandemic period – BBC Africa. In her interview, she describes herself as a wine steward working with top restaurants in a managerial capacity. The back stops with her when it comes to wine recommendations on the menu.

She started her wine business called Cellar254wine where she sells wines online and connects wine producers with potential clients in Kenya and East Africa. “The best way to approach wine as an amateur is to have an open mind, just the way you would approach a friend’s home-cooked meal…you wouldn’t know what has been prepared for you,” she told us.

Melissa Mwende – Little Wine Basket

Fascinated by wine, she set out to discover just how versatile wine grapes are and the amazing adventures attached to it. Melissa is a certified sommelier, an academic journey that fuelled her passion for teaching other curious minds about wine. She went a step further and ventured into business under the name Little Wine Basket, one that offers people a chance to learn and experience wine free from the snobbery that is traditionally associated with it.

Judy Ngene & Jane Ngene – Galina Kenya

7 years back, Jane Ngene approached wine producers she could find abroad to support her vision – A vibrant and thriving Kenyan wine industry. She formed Galina Kenya which is now a wines & spirits distributor giant in Kenya supplying wines to major supermarkets and local retailers.

When we asked her about her inspiration, she said “We mostly bring wines that are not currently in the market particularly those with a story attached to them, we still have room to expand our portfolio though…”. Jane teamed up with her daughter Judy Ngene who actively runs the import business and promotes the products through her social media and friends.

Sylvia Wamboi – Liqour Library

You have probably bumped into her if you live along Kiambu Road; although soft spoken, she is a relentless well-travelled businesswoman with an attention to detail. These special qualities have led her to turn liquor businesses into gold evident with her latest venture -The Liqour Library.

Her journey with wine started in Margaret River, Perth, Australia with most of the magic happening in the year 2011. She fell madly in love with the Chardonnay grapes from the Voyager Estate and started learning about wine. Sylvia is now a stockist and wine merchant and hosts various wine tastings for her friends, family and private guests.

Rahab Mwangi – ‘Women Who Wine’ Kenya

If you go on Instagram and type the words ‘Wine Kenya‘, this will come up – ‘Women who Wine’ – Behind the scenes is Rahab Mwangi a wine lover, columnist and a YouTuber. She represents the new age wine pioneers that know how to leverage media to spread a message. “Whether it’s a smooth pinot noir, a bold and passionate shiraz, a soft and sensual merlot, a strong bordeaux or a fresh and crispy chardonnay, a good glass of wine is like blood to some people. It keeps them running; That’s how I feel about wine,” she told The Wine story.
She reiterated that a woman is happiest with a glass of wine in her hand and loves writing about wine; sharing fun facts and tips with her fellow winos.

Soraiya Ladak – The Wine Shop Kenya

While working at UNEP, Soraiya had been a member of a group of wine-lovers where they would passionately discuss blends, brands, classics and other fun stuff about wine. It was in 2012 when she took the bold step and left her job to pursue her dream of opening a wine shop – in a puzzling twist, she called it The Wine Shop Kenya.

She is a respected wine professional having completed her wine certification in SouthAfrica -WSET level three. In an interview with The Daily Nation, she said “Education is still very important, especially to the waiters because you still get people who don’t know what they are selling,”. Earlier this year, The Wine Story collaborated with her on a featured article Wine By The Glass is Profitable, If the Price is Right where she pointed out that people who sell wine need to add a special personal touch to it – that is why we have only one branch at the moment.

Wanjiru Mureithi – Winenjiru Ltd.

Wanjiru Mureithi is one face you can’t miss in the Kenyan wine space. She is in it for all the right reasons – reflecting 10 years back when she lived in SouthAfrica promoting young entrepreneurs. Winenjiru (as many call her) decided to challenge herself after looking and seeing all the wine around her down at the cape. In Kenya it was only known and drank by the elite but in the subsequent years, she made frequent visits between the two countries bringing with her the best wines she could get for her Kenyan counterparts.

Fast forward to date, she is a renowned reseller, WSET educator, mentor and ambassador of Wines of South Africa (WOSA) – the acting liaison between the two countries- Kenya and South Africa. What a romantic wine story!

Joy Adero – Craft Beer Garden

Many of her peers consider her a true wine enthusiast, those closest who know best recognise her as a proficient wine scholar and sommelier. Joy first fell in love with the industry back in 2013. While on her ‘wineland’ she discovered the complexity and individuality of different wines she tasted and studied. “They are almost like people with different characteristics. Separate but yet identifiable,” she told us in an earlier interview. Interestingly, she also had an eye on the entire liquor industry.

To bring all her ideas home, she had an idea floating around. Joy envisioned a spot where beer lovers and novices alike can experience and enjoy different types of beer- not just mainstream ones but from microbreweries as well. In 2020, she started Craft Beer Garden and fate would have it, with just the right combination of circumstances (COVID-19, boredom, online deliveries,….etc), she hit the market.

In some shape or form, these trailblazers are not only advocates or entirely on social media but also have wine establishments that also help push the Kenyan industry forward. Other lady wine lovers to watch are: Hazel (Wine with Hazel), Chez Sonia, Wairimu Nyingi, Sau (Sau_sauuu) and Mueni (Wellred).

If you liked this article, the you may also like this one too!: Top Kenyan Sommeliers you should know

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