by Michelle Kwan
When you think of Morocco, you may conjure up its vast stretches of desert, labyrinthine bazaars, or even the Bogart movie “Casablanca.” But have you ever thought of this Islamic nation as wine country?
At a recent event celebrating the one-year anniversary of Rustic L.E.S.’s opening on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, guests sampled wines from Morocco as the sounds of a gypsy rock band floated through the restaurant. While most people might not be aware that wine is being produced in Morocco, its geography suggests otherwise.
Situated along the Atlantic Ocean and across from Spain and France, Morocco has both the exposure to winemaking methods from its European neighbors, and the moderate climate, to produce a diversity of wine grapes, resulting in some very pleasant wines.
There are five wine-producing regions in Morocco. Situated between Casablanca and Rabat, Domaine Ouled Thaleb is the oldest and most prominent of Moroccan wineries. It produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache, Cinsault and Faranah, a white grape indigenous to the area. The revitalization of the Moroccan wine industry over the last twenty years has brought about the renaissance of wine production at Ouled Thaleb and other Moroccan wineries.
Three particularly noteworthy Ouled Thaleb wines are the Rosé, composed of 60 percent Grenache, 20 percent Syrah and 20 percent Cinsault, the Medaillon, consisting of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot and 10 percent Syrah and the 2010 Syrah, GAYOT’s wine of the week.
Once living under the shadow of French wine giants, Morocco seems likely to undergo a renewed dedication to the production of local wines and may one day be viewed as an integral part of the international winemaking industry, similar to the rising demand for Moroccan cuisine in the culinary world.
You can click on each photo to enlarge.