The production of wine in Arab countries around the Mediterranean is on the increase, with Syria set to begin production within two years.
According to news agency AFP, wine production and quality in Algeria, Eygpt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia is experiencing a ‘renaissance’ and ‘blooming’ following years of civil war, nationalisation and religious opposition.
The countries produce 146m bottles of wine and the sector has a turnover of £170m (US$340m, €226m).
In Egypt, production has doubled since the millennium. The country produces 8.5m bottles of wine, three quarters of which are drunk by tourists.
Although its neighbour Lebanon is an established wine producer, Syria looks set to drastically increase its production within two years. This is due to ‘vast’ vineyard plantings near the mediterranean port of Latakia by Syrian businessman and shipping tycoon Johnny Saade.
Following recent civil unrest and Isreali military incursion in 2006, Lebanon has seen its wine production revived. Although most of its vineyards are found in the strategically important Bekka Valley, turnover in 2007 was up 10%.
In northwest Africa, Algeria, once the world’s biggest wine exporter, falls in alongside Morocco and Tunisia in terms of production. According to AFP, the three countries produce the majority of Arab wine with 13m hectares under vine. Around 20% of the countries’ wines are exported to Europe. According to Hugh Johnson, Morocco ‘should have the best vineyards’ of the three.
‘It’s important to battle against the prejudices that surround Arab wines,’ said Jean-Pierre Dehut of Morocco’s largest producer, Cellars of Meknes (pictured). ‘Too many people still believe it’s like in colonial days when tankers full of mixed wines sailed across the Mediterranean to top up European wines.’
Morocco has 14 appellations including Les Coteaux d’Atlas and Beni M’Tir.
Written by Oliver Styles