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The French Cycling Bicycle Gourmet - French Country Travel Life Film Maker and Author. Your non-snobby Gourmet Guide to food, wine travel and Lifestyle Adventure!

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French Country Travel Life Southern Wine


This variety of French Country Travel Life Southern Wine is way South. South of  Provence. South of Languedoc even. So far South, in fact, that it’s in Africa. The Northern part. Morocco, to be exact.

If you thought (as DA BG did in a less educated epoch) that Wine wasn’t “on the menu” down there because it’s a Muslim country – time to think again!

Or you’ll be opposing our pals at new24.com and an esteemed wino. (and yes, they are the best kind!)

“In Morocco we are undeniably in a land of vines,” says wine specialist Stephane Mariot.

“Here there is a microclimate which favours the production of ‘warm wines’, even though we aren’t far from the ocean,” adds the manager of Oulad Thaleb, a 2,000-hectare vineyard in Benslimane, 30 kilometres (18 miles) northeast of Casablanca, which he has run for five years.

The social climate in the North African county is less propitious, however, with the election of the Islamist Party of Justice and Development in 2011, and the fact that Moroccan law prohibits the sale of alcohol to Muslims, who make up 98 percent of the population.

In practice though alcohol is tolerated and well-stocked supermarkets do a brisk trade in the main cities where there is a growing appetite for decent wine.

According to some estimates, 85 percent of domestic production is drunk locally, while around half of total output is considered good quality.

“Morocco today produces some good wine, mostly for the domestic market, but a part of it for export, particularly to France,” says Mariot.

Annual output currently stands at about 400,000 hectolitres, or more than 40 million bottles of wine, industry sources say, making the former French protectorate the second biggest producer in the Arab world.

By comparison, neighbouring Algeria, whose vineyards were cultivated for a much longer period during French colonial rule, produces 500,000 hectolitres on average, and Lebanon, with its ancient viticulture dating to the pre-Roman era, fills about six million bottles annually.

Some of Morocco’s wine regions — such as Boulaouane, Benslimane, Berkane and Guerrouane — are gaining notoriety.

Already it has one Appellation d’Origine Controlee — controlled designation of origin, or officially recognised region — named “Les Coteaux de l’Atlas”, and 14 areas with guaranteed designation of origin status, most of them concentrated around Meknes, as well as Casablanca and Essaouira.

And in March last year, an association of Moroccan sommeliers was set up in Marrakesh bringing together 20 wine experts.

In the central Meknes region, nestled between the Rif Mountains and the Middle Atlas, there is evidence that wine production dates back some 2,500 years.

But the industry was transformed during the time of the protectorate (1912-1956), when the kingdom served as a haven for migrating French winemakers after the phylloxera pest decimated Europe’s vineyards around the turn of the 20th century.

As in Algeria and Tunisia, the French planted vineyards extensively, with Morocco’s annual production exceeding three million hectolitres in the 1950s.

The main grape varieties used to produce the country’s red wines are those commonly found around the Mediterranean, such as Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Merlot.

Mariot, the manager of Oulad Thaleb, boasts that the domain, which he says has the oldest wine cellar in use in the kingdom, built by a Belgian firm in 1923, produces one of Morocco’s “most popular wines”.

Standing by a barrel, he casts a proud eye on the vintage, describing it as a “warm and virile wine”.

Abderrahim Zahid, a businessman and self-styled “lover of fine Moroccan wines” who sells them abroad, says the country now produces “a mature wine which we can be proud of”.

Morocco’s wine industry now employs up to 20,000 people, according to unofficial figures, and generated about 130 million euros ($170 million) in 2011.

But the remarkable progress made by the sector in recent years has taken place within a sensitive social environment.

While alcohol production is permitted by state law, and supermarkets and bars enforce no special restrictions on Muslim customers, officially the sale and gift of alcoholic drinks to Muslims is illegal. They are unavailable during Islamic festivals, including throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

Read more HERE.


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22 Responses to “French Country Travel Life Southern Wine”

  1. arlen andleson says:

    new to me!..many thanks…i’m like you were “in an epoch” – had no idea that wine even grew down there. are all americans is clueless as me?….hope n ot (lol!)

  2. dot watson says:

    arlen….you’re not clueless…just “underinformed.”

  3. merle goodman says:

    as are most of us dot!…..thank heaven we’ve got DA BG to bring us up to speed!

  4. stan allster says:

    another bravo to the BG!…wherever there’s wine in the World….he’s gonna find it!

  5. rene holloway says:

    Stan…..and luck for us he is a “wine sniffer!” (lol)

  6. calvin gephart says:

    very transparent of DA BG to admit that he was clueless about moroccan wine..in an epoch!

  7. rodney stavers says:

    fascinating to learn just how long wine grapes have been cultivated there. way to go BG!

  8. freida langman says:

    sounds a lot like the prohibition days of the usa..except with a bizarre twist..

  9. rand flaksti says:

    exactly frieda….it’s against the law…..but the law looks the other way….

  10. amelia hartwin says:

    rand..i think you’ll agree that the lwa always looks the other way when there’s money to be made….

  11. ron yung says:

    too true amelia…..can you say TAX REVENUE? (lol)

  12. randy benson says:

    love that guys descroption: “a warm and virile wine”

  13. shari wilkinson says:

    hey randy…..think he was afraid to say “sexy?”

  14. heidi gabbler says:

    i guess the big take away here is don’t go to morocco during ramadan if you’re a wine drinker?

  15. emilio martinez says:

    well heidi…that would be one the them.

  16. sara johnson says:

    emilio…and the others being “warm and virile” wine is produced there? has been for longer than any of us clueless losers thought?

  17. edgar honeyman says:

    another interesting and informative post. I’m glad there’s you, mr bg!

  18. bruce weber says:

    fascinating to learn just how long vines have been cultivated in North Africa….we really don’t think of places like that having a wine culture..

  19. carol guenter says:

    i’m with you there bruce..i was especially impressed with the fact that lebanon was “wining” even before the romans!

  20. rainer calman says:

    that is amazing carol…isn’t it? how often, do we hear of someone in ancient history doing ANYTHING before the Romans?

  21. stephanie bogus says:

    uh..reiner…..are you forgetting the Greeks? they did a lot beofre the Romans appeared on the scene.

  22. anderson pratt says:

    and stephanie….i bet they were wine lovers too! (lol)

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