If you like and have always enjoyed wines, this wine connoisseur and wine vintner, Ukaha Mba will wow you about why he decided to bring luxury wines to Nigeria.
Ibiene: Please could you share with us how you first got involved in wine making?
Ukaha: Living in the California Bay Area for awhil and being so close to Napa Valley where you find some of the best wineries in the world. I was compelled to become a member of some of these exceptional wineries. My passion for wine grew and my yearning to make beautiful wine. I wanted to bring that to the Nigerian market so that I could share wine experiences with Nigerians and to put great wines at a reasonable cost in the hands of as many Nigerians as one could and I also wanted to share my wine knowledge with Nigerians.
Ibiene: So, do you own your vineyard here?
Ukaha: A vineyard is challenging to own and maintain especially with the Nigerian climate. The closest you can find of a wine growing region in Nigeria is Jos There are no vineyards in Nigeria because producing wine takes a lot of patience and capital It could take up to 5 years to realize a potentially good harvest for wine making. My vineyard is based in California Napa valley.
Ibiene: Why do sommeliers spit out wine after they’ve tried it?
Ukaha: It’s simple. If sommeliers had to swallow every single sip, the possibility of getting drunk before they finish their wine tasting they run the risk of intoxication. They have so many elements they are looking out for; taste, colour, pallet and nose. They have to keep tasting to evaluate the quality of the wine.
Ibiene: What’s your first memory of having a really good wine?
Ukaha: I remember dispossessing my parents of one of their Dom Perignon in the early 80’s. They didn’t have a cellar but they had this store where they kept their wines. I’ve always liked champagne and I started collecting wine when I moved to the U.S in the early 90’s. I loved wine based on their complexity. Wine matures over based on the veriatal and complexity given the play on the alcohol and tannins.
Ibiene: What do you find most challenging about having a wine company in Nigeria?
Ukaha: Well, in the normal course of doing business there would be challenges. Here, I’ve had to register each blend separately and having to deal with the warm climate. Light and a high temperature could make any wine go bad so I’ve had to ship in refrigerated containers because of our weather which reduces the amount of wine I can bring in at a time. I have to also store my in a temperature controlled warehouse which adds cost to the product.
Ibiene: What would you say about the expectation of wine consumption in Nigeria right now?
Ukaha: Most wine consumed in Nigeria is shipped in a non refrigerated container nor vino blanketed pallets. The wine ends up being cooked in high heat in the containers before reaching the consumers. The vineager process is already initiated when the sour “kick in the teeth” taste.
Ibiene: What’s in your wine?
Ukaha: Lots of wine in Nigeria are not from first premium harvested grapes. Some are even from the third harvest.
Most wines in Nigeria are not organic Some farms use fertilizer, chemicals and pesticides which is passed to the consumers.
Lots of popular low budget wines in Nigeria are a blend of third harvest wine, fruit juice, alcohol and in some instances food coloring.
There is also an incredible infiltration of fake products.
I couldn’t help but be excited about the possibilities of the wine market in Nigeria In Lagos for instance, with a population north of 21 million people that is a lot of potential Vino lovers. Wines knowledge is at infancy and a lot wine education and wine tasting is needed for the general consumer. Bringing the good product to the customers is key.
With more information and knowledge, people are going to be more discerning about their wine consumption. What will change with a better informed consumers is better decision making on what to consume – varietal, body, pallet, color and nose is that people start to know the varieties of wine, Plus people will start to look for organic wines and start to enjoy food and wine pairing.
Ibiene: What might someone be surprised to know about you?
Ukaha: I am my own mechanic, I love toying and playing with cars. I test luxury cars and give reviews. If I could, I’d have been a race car driver instead of a vintner.
Ibiene: What do you do when you aren’t working?
Ukaha: I play golf and I also like sailing. Sailing is a difficult sport because the boat is powered by the wind and you have to control the sails and the boat in such windy conditions.
Lets discuss about what we drink and how we feel when we drink wine?