Our Namibian adventure started in Upington, in the Orange River, on the border between South Africa and Namibia. Once we crossed the border, a 2600-km road trip commenced!
Namibia is like a series of postcards. An opencast patchwork. From the arid parts of the South, to the dunes of the West - the oldest dunes in the world, dating back over 3 million years, through the mountains of the North and the green meadows of the East, every landscape rivals of beauty and lets you dream. The country has 2.11 million people for 825 418 km2* (30 times less inhabitants than in France for an area 20% larger)... and the icing on the cake : 4 wineries !
It is difficult to produce wine when the rainy season is in summer (mainly from January to February, with harvesting time approaching) and an average temperature of 40°c...but far from impossible. Proof :
Welcome to the middle of the Namibian desert. At 1200m above sea level and 80km from the mythical dunes of Sossusvlei, Neuras winery represents a little less than 2 hectares of vines for an annual production of 3,000 bottles. Neuras is part of the Naankuse foundation, which helps in the preservation and rehabilitation of wild animals like leopards and in which Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are involved. Their daughter, Shiloh Nouvel, was born in Swakopmund, Namibia.
The vines were planted in 1997 and the first vintage was in 2001. Two cuvées : Neuras Shiraz (100% Shiraz) and Namib Red (a blend 80% Shiraz-20% Merlot) . Pleasant surprise for both red wines aged for nine months in barrels with an 13.5% alcohol. The palate is light but the fruit is present, giving freshness to the wines and it offers an immediate pleasure. Wines to pair on the spot with a piece of juicy Namibian beef, cooked on the coals.
This 4.5 hectares vineyard was created in 1990 by Helmuth Kluge, the pioneer of modern viticulture in Namibia, and ransom in March 2008 by Katrin and Michael Weder.
We are in Omaruru, 200 km northwest of Windhoek, the capital. Here, at 1400 meters above see level, wine production and the distillation of brandy - produced from grapes but also from plants – co-exist in perfect harmony. Moreover Colombard, the dominant grape, is used for both productions.
The house specialty : MATISA Prickly-Pear, a brandy made from cactus flowers of the field.
We are surrounded by mountains, at 1300 meters altitude. At nightfall freshness arises. In the distance we hear the baboons screaming, it is impressive. In front of us, 1.5 miles away, two wineries face each other.
Tonningii Wynkelder, created in 1990 and whose vines were planted in 1998, is Otavi’s oldest winery. It is also the farm of Dr. Boshoff, a touching and close to nature man.
During the morning, Dr. Boshoff consults at his cabiner in Otavi. He is a local star in the region, all the African people know him. In the afternoon, he puts on his winemaker cap and run in his field, 10km away, to take care of his vineyard, his second passion, but also to take care of the chickens, pigs and cows . He even collected a baby eland a few years ago, which horns he cut so it doesn’t hurt his wife, because the two are inseparable. A doctor-farmer-winemaker in Namibia... I love it! The wine: 1 pure Shiraz coming from 1ha of vines. "Of course there is a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Merlot and Chardonnay here and there, but it's just for fun and to experiment, I don’t bottle them", he says with humour.
On the other side, at the end of a path invaded by grass, is the Montavi winery, held by Laurent Evrard & Stefan Schulz, a Franco-German tandem. During the week they work and live in the capital. On weekends, they take the car and drive the 360 km that separate them from the domain, just for their passion for wine.
At the moment their Viognier and Cabernet Sauvignon are not marketed. The wines don’t even have a label! These two lovers have learned the job and are still playing. "Every year we learn a little bit more, we buy additional equipment. Step by step we are moving on, always taking pleasure !", says Laurent. One day maybe they would market... We spent the weekend with them harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre. A great time. Wine buddies.
And scoop for Wine Explorers : they will label and sale their 2013 vintage !
Namibia is not (yet) a great nation of wine. But the apprentice-winemakers we met have all demonstrated one thing: anybody making wine with his heart can make good wine !
One last stop in Windhoek to enjoy a beer at Joe’s Beerhouse, the fashionable and unavoidable spot of the capital. A good night's sleep followed by a fantastic breakfast in the countryside in Voigtland Guesthouse, a few kilometers from Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport. And here we go again. Direction Zimbabwe !
Thank you to Montavi, Thonningii Wynkelder, Kristall Kellerei and Neuras for their warm welcome.
*source : wikipedia