Discovering the Hidden Oasis of Morocco’s Vineyards
By Jamie du Plessis
Young Moroccan Jihad Errachid, who aspires to begin his career as a sommelier and has been following the Association des Sommeliers du Maroc, told ASI magazine about Morocco’s interest in alcohol, “In the prestigious establishments where I have served; I observed an increasingly strong interest in wine. Moroccan customers are more and more curious and interested in sommellerie.”
This further supports the estimates that approximately 40 million bottles are produced and corked annually. Establishing that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and that you can find many gems within Northern Africa’s hidden oasis.
The terroir is the soil, climate, and environment that defines the grapes, which significantly impacts how the grapes are cultivated—rendering the production of wines inextricably linked to their origin. When you travel and explore what is unknown to you by uncovering the stories held in the hands of those who bring the wine to life, you can taste the subtle history and influences associated with the wine and its people.
The Designations and Wine Regions of Morocco
With ancient legacies and old traditions woven through its wine regions, Morocco boasts the second-largest wine production in Africa.
Approximately 85% is circulated within the nation, and 10 – 15% is exported internationally. Morocco has 5 wine regions Meknes/Fes, Rabat/Casablanca, El-Jadida, the East, and the Northern Plain, which have been recognised with 14 appellation d’Origine Garantie (AOG):
- Beni M’Tir
It has also been recognised with the 3 appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) under the French classification and system with the special mention, premier cru. Moroccan wines produced in the specified geographical regions are granted the Label of Origin, a symbol of quality, so it’s essential to keep an eye out for these labels when exploring all of Morocco’s wineries.
- Côteaux de l’Atlas
- AOC Crémant de l’Atlas
- Côtes de Rommani
When speaking to new wine tasters, Jonathan Jønsson, a head sommelier who received the Sommelier of the Year award, explained to Adare Manor, “Ask all the ‘stupid’ questions you can think of and try to debunk as many wine myths as possible. At the same time, don’t get caught up in specific tasting notes, like sweet liquorice and green apples. I would rather see a new wine drinker focus on how the mouth feels and what you would remember the wine for if you should tell a friend how it tastes.”
In 1964, the creator Brahim Zniber began planting and developing the reputation of one of the most well-known vineyards, which is now at the top of numerous lists. They cultivate in AOG Guerrouane, AOG Beni M’Tir, AOG Berkane. The effects of the Meknès region have developed some of Morocco’s most popular wines as it is the best terroir.
With the only Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in Morocco it operates in the AOC Côteaux de l’Atlas and the premier cru classification.
The Château Roslane has been said to produce 85% of the nation’s wines due to the exceptional terroir. The Château Roslane Hotel & Spa is the only ‘castle’ in Northern Africa which offers 4 unique wine experiences for the discerning visitor. The wine estate has control of nearly 2000 hectares, with vineyards on over 700 hectares that celebrate customs and traditions.
Domaine de la Zouina Estate
The Guerrouane tribe once traversed and resided on the Domaine de la Zouina Estate’s grounds before the French established it as an ancient colonial estate. The estate, which is said to span over 115 hectares and is part of Morocco’s most significant wine regions, is situated in the Middle Atlas.
There is a focus on making sure that you can experience wine tastings only by appointment, where you can choose from four activities and sample wines that have won several wine prizes and praises from notable figures.
Domaine Ouled Thaleb Estate
The winery has over 1978 hectares of vines, founded between 1923 – 1926, and is regarded as one of the greatest and oldest wineries. As a wine producer with approximately 19 grape varieties at their on-site winery, you can expect some beautifully aromatic blends.
It is reported that the employees on the massive wine fields have maintained the same traditional practices that they began with as the tribe that founded the winery and gave it its name, Domaine Ouled Thaleb Estate, by continuing to apply age-old traditions.