Monday, September 20, 2010

In the Plane: Wine on South African Airways from Johannesburg to Livingstone in Zambia (Victoria Falls)

Picture: This Gentleman Lives at the Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe

I flew South African Airways from Johannesburg to Livingstone in Zambia to spend a couple of days at the Victoria Falls.

2008 Merlot Reserve, Anura, South Africa

On the flight, I had a choice between a small bottle of red or white wine. I picked the red wine: 2008 Merlot Reserve, Private Cellar, Anura, Simonsberg Paarl

Anura is situated between Paarl and Stellenbosch in the foothills of the Simonsberg mountain range in South Africa. Anura has 120 hectares under vineyards with mainly red varieties, including Shiraz, Mourvedré, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese and Malbec.

The Bouma family purchased the estate in 1989 and developed the farm from the original 2 blocks of vineyards into 120 hectares of vines, with a production potential of 800 tons. Until Anura's first own vintage in 2001, all grapes were sold to neighboring estates.

Anura produces 2 ranges of wine - Anura, the premium label, meaning “Frog” and Frog Hill, a second tier label, named after the historic “Padda Bult” found on the farm. Anura wines are now distributed 11 countries, and have won numerous awards over the past 8 years.

Tasting notes: dark ruby in the glass, thick legs, nuances of mocha and fruitcake on the nose, lean structure, pronounced tannin on the palate, nice finish.

Livingstone and the Victoria Falls

Our destination was the town of Livingstone in Zambia at the mighty Zambezi river and the Victoria Falls. Livingstone is named after Dr. Livingstone, the explorer and missionary, who in 1805 was the first to set eyes on the “Smoke that Thunders”, as the locals call the falls. He named it Victoria Falls in honor of his reigning monarch, Queen Victoria.

Pictures: Sunset at the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls

There are three impressive waterfalls in the world: Iguaçu Falls in Argentina/Brazil, Niagara Falls in North America and Victoria Falls in Southern Africa. The Victoria Falls is 108 meters high and 2 km wide. The spray from the falls can rise as high as 800 meters, depending on the season. Half of the falls belongs to Zimbabwe.

Royal Livingstone Hotel

We stayed at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, which is the place to choose, if you want a true colonial experience, a location right on the banks of the mighty Zambezi river, to be in walking distance to the falls and if you have no budget constraint.

The pre-dinner drinks on the deck at the Zambezi river and the dinner on the veranda of the Royal Livingstone Hotel are a dream experience.

I had beef Carpaccio and two whole local fishes – a Bream from the Zambezi River, which belongs to the carp family – for dinner, with a Pinotage, South Africa’s signature wine. Pinotage, a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, has seen its plantings rise and fall due to the current fashion of the South African wine industry. Today it is the second most widely planted red grape variety in South Africa, although it is rarely grown outside of South Africa.

The wine list contains practically only South African wines, mostly in US$ 40 to 130 range, with most wines costing more than US$ 70. While the food was very reasonably priced for such a luxury place, the wine list looked a bit overpriced. But his could reflect steep import duties in Zambia.

I stayed on the Zimbabwean side of the falls a couple of years ago at the Victoria Falls Hotel. This was also a true colonial experience and also in walking distance to the falls. But because of the economic and political situation in Zimbabwe, I prefer the Royal Livingstone in Zambia today.

Wild Animals and Shona Art

The Royal Victoria Hotel is located in a natural park, which has the added advantage that wild African animals tend to come rather close to the hotel. In the vicinity of the hotel, there are plenty of monkeys and a herd of zebras; walking to the falls from our room, we also met giraffes. And on the way back to the airport, we saw an elephant.

One aspect of this area that always gets my attention is the Shona art. Shona art is contemporary stone sculpture from Zimbabwe and neighboring countries. The Shona art movement began around the 1950s and has really taken off since 1980, when Zimbabwe became independent. There were many Shoan art sculptures in the vicinity of the hotel.

Picture: Shona Sculpture on the way to the Victoria Falls

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