Here I am at last, sitting on the banks of the Luangwa River at Flatdogs Camp, watching the hippos frolic in the water through the tall grass, and admiring the thick forest vegetation on the opposite bank stretching as far as the eye can see in both directions. It has taken me years to get to this spot and this point in time, where I feel confident that all the jigsaw pieces are falling into place, as I have found the right company to represent our wines in Zambia.

This was of course the catalyst for my visit to Lusaka, although, sitting in Luangwa for the first time is a result of a long standing invitation from Polly and my annual catch up at the Indaba tourism show with Ade and Jess of Flatdogs. We met Polly through the Wilmots, a charismatic family who owned the legendary Lloyds camp in Savuti, Botswana, where I worked for five years in the 90’s and where I met Jeremy. Polly was part of our small team producing our second vintage of Painted Wolf Wines in 2009, driving around in her bright red jeep known as ‘the tomato box’. I am delighted she has thrown herself into creativity and has some awesome projects lined up in Zambia.

Flatdogs, the hub of Mfuwe, reminds me of Lloyds Camp to which anyone involved in conservation and wildlife was drawn. I was fortunate to enjoy a long chat with artist, Vic Guhrs whose work, and that of Pam Guhrs, I had admired years ago. I discovered he was great friends with the late Keith Joubert, a fellow artist whose work will feature on our Pictus 4 label. He is also enthusiastic to work with us on a future Pictus label.

In my short three day visit, Polly helped me squeeze in: a late afternoon drive with Deb, a highly knowledgeable bush walking expert; a birding morning with local residents and a 100 count culminating in a special sighting of a hyena and leopard; a relaxed bush meander in a landrover (very kindly lent to Polly and me by Emily and Rob), narrowly missing an encounter with a puff adder during our coffee break; and a tour of the hand painting at Tribal Textiles.

A small group of us enjoyed a magical late afternoon on the banks of the river, tasting through the six Den wines which had journeyed with me from Cape Town.  It was a great way to connect with people I had only met through email. Among them were Paolo from Flatdogs, who set up the magical riverbank wine tasting, and together with Ade and Jess, was very supportive throughout my visit; and Matt Becker, who heads up the Zambian Carnivore Programme.   This was particularly good timing as we had just completed a link with the Radisson hotel in Lusaka. The manager, Marius already supports ZCP and was introduced to our wines through The Wine Guys Zambia. As donations from our sales go to TUSK who channel funds to ZCP also, Marius is launching his new restaurant menu and wine list this week with predominantly PWW!

It was hard to tear myself away from Luangwa but there was a wine show to attend in Lusaka! Trudie and Iggi of the Wine Guys Zambia ran an awesome two day event at the Radisson. The first night brought 450 Zambians and ex pats, many running NGOs , extremely eager to taste as many of the ten producer’s wines as possible, carefully creating their wish lists and going home with cases and cases of wine purchases. Our three Pinotages were the stars of my table – the Guillermo Pinotage, Stellenbosch Pinotage and ‘Rosalind’ Pinotage rose – with the smaller quantities of the more premium wines which had been shipped to test the market, selling out fast with a record 230 bottles of Painted Wolf Wine sold over the two days.

Trudie, Iggi and I enjoyed an evening at the ‘Roan and Sable’ restaurant where Andrew and Colleen have taken to the Den wines, as have their customers with sales of 60 or so ‘by the glass’ sales on a Friday night.

I came away feeling that Zambia is an incredibly special country and I can’t wait to return!