Morocco is well and truly off the beaten wine path. Despite the obvious cultural and religious motives behind the country’s continued isolation from important wine discussion, there is a small community of vigneron’s looking to take advantage of Morocco’s various pockets of suitable wine-making territory.
The French influence on Morocco’s wine scene is evident. The grapes, and consequently the wine styles that work well here, remind us of the Languedoc and Provence. Rousanne in particular has shown some impressive potential in recent years; the tendency for the variety to develop fragrant scents of yellow tree fruit, broom and wild flower is often evident.
But the difference between good and bad often lies in the acidity. On this western coast of North Africa the climate is hot with the summer heat often destroying vintages. Proximity to the ocean can soften its impact in cooler years it is during these that we can sometimes find the refreshing acidity and character that gives balance and intrigue to a wine.
Altitude is the key ingredient to quality wine making here. Most of the wineries in Morocco are found in the north of the country where vineyards are planted in the rising terrain that leads to the Atlas Mountains.
In the south there are relatively few producers of note. The geography is too low, too flat, and the heat places vines under too much stress to produce anything other than local wine of indifferent quality. Only Domaine du Val d’Argan, not far from the famed tourist hotspot of Marrakech, seems to be bucking the trend.
Wine consumers casually grabbing Moroccan wine off the shelf should think twice. Gambling this way can easily land you with a light and insipid white or a thick, almost syrupy red. It’s not an easy place to make good wine and it pays to trade up in price. Finding winemakers with the patience, passion and commitment to mastering the climate is not easy, but doing so offers the best chance of decent wine drinking in Morocco.