A toast to Kenya with Mara wine as country turns 50


Kalika Sahi Ruparelia, director of MIA Wines & Spirits International. Photo/Correspondent

[email protected] 50 is no small fete and what better way to celebrate it than with a limited edition of Mara Celebration bubbly.

Mara Celebration is a sparkling wine created specifically to mark the country’s birthday. The wine comes from South Africa for Kenyan company MIA Wines & Sprits International, who are major wine distributors in the country.

The company behind Mara Wines among others, came up with the idea earlier in the year to package a wine specifically for Kenya @50, and contacted a winery in South Africa. Launched a month ago there are only 1,100 bottles available in two sizes.

“We thought it would make the perfect gift for [email protected] and a Christmas gift, a memento,” said Kalika Sahi Ruparelia, the director of MIA International.
For Sh6,000 one can own the 750 ml bottle and a larger one for Sh13,000.

The idea for the celebratory wine was born from the success Ms Ruparelia has seen from the Mara brand of wines, which the company introduced in 2007.

The entrepreneur, who is from a farming family, thought about growing grapes locally to make their own wine. However, after consultation with experts she decided to work with a South African winery and brand the wine with a popular Kenyan tourism destination— the Mara.

“The wine has done well in the market. It has been well accepted and we have improved the vintage every year,” she said. At least 60 per cent moves through hotels and restaurants with the other percentage selling in supermarkets.

“We are proud of the supermarket sales because it tells us that Kenyans are buying our wine for day to day consumption.”

New age wine drinkers prefer sweet wines, said Ms Ruparelia. However, 2013 has not been an easy year for the business mainly due to the elections followed by the Westgate terrorism attack that led to reduced sales.

Because of the attack the high Christmas sales season started late. But she says the past two weeks have seen increased demand. In December, the company sees its sales triple other months.

Wines from Chile and South Africa are most common in the Kenyan market. Ms Ruparelia says their climates are similar to Kenya’s thus the wines coming out of these countries are fruitier and complement different cuisines. Most of the wines from Europe are more acidic.

A report by Euromonitor says that consumption in restaurants and corporates events have boosted demand for wine.

“This has been largely attributable to growing demand from the middle-classes in Kenya. Their higher disposable income along with company advertising have led to the greater appreciation of wine among this class and consequently the proliferation of wine brands within the market,” said the 2012 report.

The success of Mara wines has led to increased demand for the amulets that go with every bottle. These accessories are made by women groups from Barsaloi, located between Mara and Samburu.

Increased demand has brought in more women to work on the amulets. They are trained on basic business skills.

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