Considering Islam’s provision against alcohol and Morocco’s 98% Muslim population, Morocco might seem like an unlikely winemaking region. However, the industry is flourishing, with Moroccan winemakers producing about 40 million bottles a year. Some of those wines are exported, but the majority are sold right within Morocco. This seeming paradox is explained by tolerance, as Morocco is one of the most liberal of Muslim countries. An ex-patriot population, as well as tourism, have largely helped to bolster the industry.
High altitudes and a dry, sunny climate make Morocco an ideal growing region. And unlike other parts of northern Africa, proximity to the Atlantic prevent the vines from becoming too hot. It is believed that Phoenicians first brought winemaking to Morocco, and many of those wines were exported to the Roman empire. Later, French colonists perfected the trade with their expertise in large-scale viticulture.
Morocco contains five winemaking regions over 30,000 acres of vineyards, with Meknès as its capital. Primarily known for reds, Morocco produces about 75 percent Carignan, Cinsaut, Alicante and Grenache varietals, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Rosé and vin gris account for about 20 percent, and the remaining white grapes include Clairette, Muscat, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc.
At Kous Kous, we carry a number of Moroccan wines, including one of my favorites, CB Initiales Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine pairs perfectly with our beef tajine, grilled Merguez sausages and stuffed tomato and bell peppers. Our importer, Exotic Imports LLC, describes this wine as “dark in color with garnet hues. Bright green tinged (pepper/herbs), black fruits with black cherry and cassis and slightly sweet oak. The wine is firmly tannic, well balanced and tightly wound with an old world charm.”
Watch this video below with an interview from our importer, Didier and Hallie Pariente of Exotic Imports, discuss Moroccan wines: