I used to spend a lot of time in the nation of Rwanda, a wonderful little country in the center of Africa, full of amazing people, unforgettable vistas, diverse wildlife, and thriving cities. I fell in love with Rwanda, and when I left there in 2014, I didn’t realize it was the last time I would see the place for years. Today, I teach about Rwanda in several of my classes, both the good things and the bad, and my home is adorned with all manner of Rwandan souvenirs, most notably the beautiful baskets woven there, in addition to a drum, some currency, a small statue, and other such items. There are four entire shelves of books devoted to literature from and about Rwanda in my office. It truly is one of my favorite spots on earth, and I always brought things home with me when I traveled there, from artwork to coffee, and from terrific memories to new discoveries. One of those discoveries was Akarusho wine.
I’d had several bottles of Rwandan Akarusho red wine, though in truth it’s not popular in Rwanda, or at least it wasn’t when I worked there. I always thought it was pretty good, honestly, and I used it as a jumping off point to publish a post on Rwandan history and culture, which you can read here, if you are so inclined:
Never had I tried the white, so on my last trip I brought a bottle home. It sat in my cellar collecting dust, and in all honesty I wasn’t eager to drink it, remembering that the Ugandan white wine I brought back on the same trip was nothing short of terrible. Then yesterday, on the patio with friends, I got an itch and, egged on by a sommelier friend, went in and fetched the bottle. I warned everyone not to expect anything as I removed the tiny cork, and I even went as far as to bring a bottle of vintage sparkling Vouvray out with me as a peace offering for after this wine offended our palates. And then, the moment of truth.
The golden color of the wine made me fear that it had turned, but a pleasant aroma was wafting up towards my nose long before I stuck it into the bowl of the glass. Honeysuckle, peaches, candied pears. Another doctor with formidable credentials in wine looked at me, puzzled: “Botrytis?” he asked. “I don’t think so,” I answered, eyebrows raised. From the look and the bouquet, we each had a healthy pour of sauternes in front of us.
On the palate, more of the same. Nice stone fruits, honey, and a very real, earthy sort of funk. I’m probably a bit more enamored with this wine than most people because I love Rwanda, and because I was expecting it to be shockingly awful, but in truth we all agreed that, while heavy and more of a dessert wine than a warm afternoon on the front porch probably called for, it wasn’t half bad, and was probably more like good. I re-corked the bottle and stuck it in my fridge, where I hope it will keep for a spell while I share it with others and gather their opinions.
You’re unlikely to find this wine outside of Rwanda, which in addition to unparalleled geographical beauty, incredible culture, and the friendliest people on earth, is just one more reason to go there. I strongly encourage you to visit Rwanda, and I’d even be willing to take you there myself (I plan to lead a trip in 2019), but until then, feel free to stop by and try a taste of Rwandan Akarusho white, 2011. I’ll save you a taste.