"There are a lot of wines and spirits joints with no wine, just spirits" said my friend as she schooled me about wine.
"Wine is just fermented grapes," she continued.
My first experience with this kind of drink was through Gospel songs and huge, over exaggerated advertisements about the amazing, bold things that happen when you drink.
That’s what led me to write, "...stand tall, lakini ukikunywa huwezi stand at all..."
All these drinks are just beverages with a higher content of alcohol, like juice with fermented ingredients.
So, I was sitting with this friend and she was teaching me about wine and why it's special. She said what makes it special is the region it comes from, the process it goes through and the kind of grape used. And of course, the difficult names on the bottles that are always challenging to pronounce.
Wine comes in different kinds; sparkling, rose (pronounced rozé), white, red, champagne.... All of that is basically just grapes. What I can recall is - rose is a mixture of red and white wine; white and red titles obviously come from the colour of the grapes.
The impression we had growing up in Kenya was - any kind of alcoholic drink had to render you immobile and eventually passed out in a ditch somewhere. It was also a sign of prosperity to "chafua meza" - filling your table with bottles of alcohol to announce your presence. When we go to shop for drinks the most important things that we focus on is the alcohol content and the price.
This is also evident in our food selection. These high-end restaurants have big menus with excess pages trying to describe a plate of food, from how it was made, what it was made with ...etc. We come from a place where we go straight to the point with food. If you have to give extra information about what we’re eating, a picture of the dish on the menu will do.
My lifehack for the fancy places is to walk in between tables pretending to be looking for someone or something, so that I can see what’s on other guests’ plates and tell the waiter “...nataka kama ile pale.”
Back to wine, I have grown fond of it. Not for getting blackout drunk reasons, but to enjoy the taste and my friend was gracious enough to teach me a few tricks about what makes each wine bottle special.
If a 500ml drink and 350ml drink were placed on a table and you are asked to chose, most of us will chose the former because we come from a "lack" point of view, where we believe size matters. You visit a kibanda and the tea is always filled to the brim, such that you have to sip it from the table before you pick it up so it doesn't spill. That's why it doesn’t make sense to order a glass of wine when it comes half empty. You look at the waiter like "hii ni nini sasa, hauezi jaza?!"
Apparently the reason they don't fill up the wines glass is something about air and allowing it to do something (oxidise) to improve its taste. Hence red wine comes in a wide glass and white in a slender glass. There is also a really convincing reason why white wine needs to be chilled. White wine goes well with white meat and (you guessed it!) red wine goes with red meat.
The truth is why does it have to be work? I just want a drink that satisfies my taste or fills my stomach and here I am taking a mini exam ordering so I can get a meal.
Ordering food or even water is a multiple choice excercise, just like KCPE exams.
Me: Maji tafadhali.
Waiter: Sparkling or still?
Waiter: Cold or warm?
Waiter: Big or small?
Also me: Uko na ya mfereji?
I understand though, why all this matters. We come from a place of survival and this means being basic. As long as we can afford to satisfy our immediate needs, we’re good. It reflects in the food we eat, how we dress, our place of work and many other things we do.
I always really think through my lyrics. I am particular about every beat, every word and what it means; the delivery, the audience I am targeting, all the little nuances that go into creating a timeless piece of music. And then it all boils down to:
"Hii ngoma yako ni gospel ama secular?"
"Hii ngoma haina debe?"
I am not saying wine is any more special than uji. Uji can be made special from how it’s prepared. I recently tasted some made by Daughter of Mumbi, an organisation we work with. The lengths they go to in their uji prep explained why it comes out the way it did. It was the best uji I had ever tasted.
We need to be masters of what we do, and once that happens the rest follows. Understanding wine, it's process and all the "madoido" that came with it, made me understand why it's deemed special.
For sure, when my friend took me though the wine list and tasting I noticed the differences. It’s like my eyes were opened a fresh, and my taste glands were ecstatic! My mouth is used to cold or hot, sweet or salty... but suddenly I could taste wood, some spices kwa umbaaaali.
My mouth was liberated from that experience so I am going out there to sip, taste, smell, enjoy and take time being fulfilled.