The Elephant in the Room.

Leleshwa Wines

Grown and produced in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya

Sauvignon Blanc Review

Wine has become a universal language that transcends borders, forges friendships and builds communities.  It is shared human affection for the good grape that brings us together regardless of race, language, religion or gender.  Wine lovers are passionate beings that inhabit every corner of the globe. There isn’t a country or region in the wine growing hemisphere that hasn’t attempted to cultivate grapevines with the intention of producing wine.  With the harsh reality of global warming more present than ever, the potential for viticulture in previously impossible areas is becoming a possibility.  New opportunities for unique vineyard sites are opening up every single year.

It truly amazes me that through modern technology and a mutual passion for wine, I can make a friend in Kenya.   Melissa Mwende, a Kenyan wine lover (and one of the sweetest girls you’ll ever encounter) went out of her way to send me a bottle of Leleshwa Sauvignon Blanc.  I couldn’t wait to taste the ‘terroir’!

Located deep in the heart of the Great Rift Valley sits the Morendat Farm, Naivasha, home of The Kenya Nut Company.  The business was founded and established on the property 20 years ago by Pius Ngugi.  Experts said it would be impossible to grow grapes in that part of the world, but Ngugi decided to give it a try anyways.  What began as a hobby turned into a Kenyan wine success story.  Two decades later, 80,000 to 150,000 bottles are being produced annually from a 35-hectare vineyard.  From what it seems, Leleshwa is a company growing and thriving.  The wines already dominate supermarket shelves and restaurant lists all over the country.  However, sourcing it in South Africa was quite the task (thanks again, Melissa).

I was excited to learn more about the finer details surrounding viticulture and wine production in such a unique, untypical area.  Anxious to start writing, I reached out to the winery but received no initial response.  After a follow up email, the company Marketing Manager replied and graciously agreed to answer some of my questions.  I responded the following day with a large list of questions and with great anticipation, waited for a response.  A month and two additional follow ups later, I had received no reply.  I was disappointed with the lack of communication from Leleshwa.  I moved forward and tried to source information but didn’t find much more than what was on the website and stated above.  To be honest, I was losing motivation.  I don’t like writing pieces on wine brands without fact checking and I like to provide unique information to the reader.  However, in this case, how many times was I supposed to follow up before giving in and writing what I could?  Or should I even write anything at all?

To make matters worse, when I opened the wine my nose was greeted with unbearable aromas of cabbage, which led me to believe the bottle had potentially experienced some heat damage.  There were some familiar Sauvignon Blanc aromas, but they were tough to find underneath the powerful scent of soggy vegetables.

In my email to Leleshwa I stated that I had potentially received a damaged wine.  I asked if it was at all possible to source another in Johannesburg.  Still no response.

“It has to be corked!” I told myself, after all, this is the Sauvignon Blanc that snagged the 2015 Gold and 2017 double Gold medals at the annual Michelangelo awards here in Johannesburg.  It is their flagship variety coined “the jewel of the winery.”

Bad luck I suppose.

I still encourage you to try the Leleshwa Sauvignon Blanc for yourself.  The story behind the wine is intriguing and it’s a wonderful experience to try wines from new, unique regions.  Maybe your tasting notes will differ from mine.  So if you happen to taste it, I’d love to hear from you.

Unfortunately, my positive experience with Leleshwa stopped at the story.  Everything afterwards remains tainted, like the wine.

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I’m of the opinion that if a wine brand is producing over 100,000 bottles per year, there should be a stronger focus on the marketing and communications department.  Given the new ways in which the world communicates and shares information, it’s imperative that companies are on top of their social media and marketing game.  Wine labels will not thrive without it.  We live in a time where wine drinkers want to feel a connection with the labels they buy.  They love stories.  They want to experience and live these stories.  They want to feel a special connection with a brand as a whole.

So does my experience with Leleshwa just come down to a series of unfortunate circumstances?  I really hope so.

As an individual consistently trying to up my wine writing skills I tossed and turned about sharing this experience with you.  Some wine writers will tell you that you won’t be taken seriously until you can publicly be critical and unapologetic.  Others will tell you not to waste your energy on uncooperative wine brands and to focus on positive aspects under the subject of wine.

What do you think?  Is my story worthwhile sharing?  Did you learn something?  Or was it just another tale of a corked wine and a winery that should probably check their emails more often?

Cheers for now,

Katie