Dodoma in Tanzania is famous for its drink, and wine lovers appreciate the unique taste of grapes from the country's capital.
Not as well developed as the Stellenbosch vineyards of Cape Province in South Africa, the Dodoma's wineries are still a work in progress.
But just like Cape Town, Dodoma has wine shops selling their products in special packaging. However, there are no notable drinkers among the locals.
As Tanzanian marks 60 years of Independence in December, the government has plans to boost wine production and market the country as a producer.
The Tanzania Tourist Board is also working on promoting Dodoma as a new tourist destination using wine production as an attraction.
The chair of the annual Dodoma Wine Festival committee Antwite Makweta said since 2018, the event has been attracting vineyard owners, winemakers, wine consumers and other stakeholders for tastings and vineyard tours.
On a recent visit, I saw groups of tourists, in transit to northern Tanzania, buying the local wines. Dodoma is indeed the wine capital of East Africa.
I was in the city for the wine festival in November, held at the Mashujaa Grounds.
The theme was Promoting Tanzanian wine for the growth of our industries, and the festival attracted about 50,000 visitors who were mostly wine lovers from around the country.
The festival was timely for the Christmas and New Year festivities.
Besides the festival and its exhibition, I also visited the countryside where 150 hectares are filled with vines laden with clusters of red and white grapes that produce the Dodoma wines.
Viticulture was first introduced in central Tanzania in 1938 by German missionaries at the Hombolo Catholic Mission, who later set up the production of altar wines in Dodoma for use in Catholic churches.
The Bihawana Catholic Seminary is currently the main grower of grapes and producer of red wines.
Saint Mary wine is among the bestselling being a sweet white wine in 750ml bottle retailing at Tsh12,000 ($5.2). It is popular with Christians.
Other bestselling brands are Dompo, Altar, Image, Sharye, Ambassador and Presidential.
Vintners in Dodoma grow three types of grape varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Syrah. These are crushed to produce Tan Port, Balozi, Don Puetro, Tully’s, Bigambe and Chenni Blanc. A local variety called Makutopora has also been developed.
Viticulture has taken off in Dodoma and more local farmers and foreign investors are taking part in it.
I got a chance to relax with friends over a bottle of Dompo, a sweet red wine used for Communion in church. Dompo looks more purple than red, and is full bodied and rich with earthy overtones.
I left Dodoma with four bottles of Dompo, and rich with viticulture knowledge.