Ugandan Nuns Making Wine

They came from a place called Mbarara in Uganda. The Switzerland of Africa some say. They belong to a family of sisters called the Poor Clares. Decades ago French monks planted vines in the garden of their monastery of which the sisters made wine over the years. Although there was much commitment in their efforts they had little success to show, until things changed in 2005.

The monastery was visited by President Museveni. He offered to sponsor a trip for four sisters to anywhere in the world to increase their winemaking knowledge. They proved to be nuns with an adventurous spirit. They surfed the internet and sent off mails in all directions. The only reply came from Weltevrede.

Diligent students

They arrived during the harvest season of 2006. In a matter of a few weeks a great relationship was formed between them, the Jonker family and the Weltevrede team with whom they worked. The sisters were hard working, keen to learn, quick to grasp complicated aspects of microbiology and science and covered everything from terroir to malolactic fermentation. They proved to be diligent students and proceeded to make their own wine on a small scale here on Weltevrede.

When they left we assisted in exporting 100 vines of Red Muscadel and 400 vines of Shiraz to Uganda, which they planted and cared for. The Red Muscadel never grew, but the Shiraz thrived. They intended to make sweet red wine as altar wine. They kept in contact via e-mail to deal with their viticultural and winemaking challenges, which are many in their humid conditions.

Uganda’s first sweet Shiraz

After three years Sister Mary Elizabeth returned with Mother Andrew Kaggwa. Again we were struck by these beautiful people and their contagious enthusiasm.

With them they brought a bottle of the first sweet Shiraz made in Uganda. The wine has a deep scarlet colour, plummy ripe fruit flavours and rich sweetness. It was a great surprise, as most first, small scale winemaking attempts fail.

The Weltevrede Lourens Jonker Shiraz 2006

While the sisters were in SA during harvest 2006, they assisted in a secret venture to make a very special Shiraz for the 70th birthday of Philip Jonker’s father, Lourens.

Individual bunches of Shiraz were selected by taste in the vineyard, then picked and destemmed berry by berry by hand. These berries were fermented in new open top French oak barrels. After fermentation it was pressed in a small hand press and then poured into new barrels again. After another year it was racked to new barrels again. This wine had 300% new wood treatment and eventually spent more than three years in barrel.

The wine was bottled in secret and presented to Lourens as a birthday surprise. Only seven Jereboams (3 liter bottles) and 277 Magnums (1,5 liter bottles) of the Weltevrede Lourens Jonker Shiraz 2006 were filled.