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Moroccan Wine: The Sands of Timelessness

Elyse Glickman

While winemaking has existed in this corner of the world for centuries, French and Moroccan winemakers have rediscovered Morocco's rich potential.

Thanks to the inquisitive nature of sommeliers and wine connoisseur consumers, Moroccan wine is poised to enjoy a new moment in the sun. Though wine production has existed in Morocco since Phoenician times, the industry has been hibernating for centuries, especially as many of its citizens don't drink for religious reasons.

El Jadida, Morocco.

However, thanks to an expat population and Morocco's cultural French underpinnings and continued ties with France, it was inevitable that the art of fine winemaking in Morocco would eventually enjoy a renaissance. According to Los Angeles-based importer Didier Pariente of Exotic Imports LLC, a mix of collaborative effort between French and Moroccan winemakers combined with steadily increasing global demand for new "destination wines" has put Morocco back on track as a wine production spot worth watching.

In addition to Morocco's terroir, grapes that grow from it which take on its unique characteristics are also worth noting. In addition to Cabernet, Syrah, Clairette Blanche, Muscat, Grenache and Chardonnay, many wines also integrate the Faranah grape, which is indigenous to Morocco

"What makes the best Moroccan wineries special is the way their wines exemplify the expression of its terroir, especially when it comes to wineries located closer to the coast near Rabat and Casablanca, benefiting from the direct cooling influence due to their coastal location," says Pariente.

"Though there are thriving wineries in the Atlas Mountains producing table wine, the best wines from Morocco are made with an artisanal and traditional Moroccan approach rather than a commercial one, greatly influenced by the influence and arrival of French winemakers in Morocco. What is being put out today is an achievement, especially as they are produced in a country where 98% of the population is forbidden to drink by religious law. Quite a controversy."

Moroccan terroir.

Examples of Morocco's breakout wines from the Exotic Imports portfolio selling particularly well in California include S de Siroua Syrah (SRP $16), Cuvée Première White Blend Faranah-Clairette ($14), Cuvée Première Red Cabernet-Grenache ($14), Cuvée Première Rosé Cinsault-Grenache-Syrah ($14) and S de Siroua Unoaked Chardonnay ($16), which according to Pariente, offers a fresh change of pace from the Chardonnay wines from California and France that white wine lovers may be familiar with. 

  Moroccan wines from the Thalvin portfolio,
available through Exotic Imports LLC.

"In today's Moroccan winemaking, the vinification process mixing traditional methods with a modern approach," explains Pariente. "For example, the use of concrete tanks from the time of French influence enables wine makers to achieve a definite old world style profile flavor. However, they also understand consumers and sommeliers love wines that are clean on the palate, high in acid and food friendly. This mindfulness also ensures that the price points of the products provide great value to trade and final consumers."

Though the terroir and the unique grape blends are the Moroccan wine industry's best assets but it did take modern winemakers a while to learn how to take best advantage of the terroir through wine making techniques.

Ayoub El Fougani, Head Sommelier for the Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakech (which was also a location for Sex and the City 2), acknowledges that word of mouth on Moroccan wines that crosses the Atlantic begins in higher-end hotels and restaurants with wine cellars just like the one he oversees. With his inquisitive client base, which does include people in the beverage and hospitality industries, he keeps a pulse on the Moroccan wine industry's evolution. 

"While the quality of Moroccan wines are improving each vintage, with weather condition permitting, there are other many reasons are behind this positive changes," says El Fougani.

"The wineries and exporters now feel the urge to keep up with the quality of imported wines so Moroccan wine can find their ways to international market. While Morocco already has several advantages, including the competition between local wine makers, perfect weather conditions, and of course the influx of tourists who are looking to discover terroir wines, the Moroccan wine industry is starting to invest in scientific research as well as marketing and promotion. I am confident that we are in the right track to win the confidence of wine lovers and surprise many curious visitors who try our wines."  
Ayoub El Fougani, Head Sommelier at the Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakesh.
Pariente picks up where sommeliers like El Fougani leave off, helping the Moroccan wine industry's cause stateside with such promotional events as in-shop wine tastings, special wine pairing dinners, participation in high profile food festivals such as the Aspen Food & Wine Festival and negotiating presences at a variety of food events throughout California.  Sommeliers over here, meanwhile, have caught on to the Cuvée Première White Blend, Cuvée Première Red Blend, S de Siroua Syrah and S de Siroua Chardonnay.

For more information on Moroccan Wine, contact
Didier Pariente at Exotic Imports, LLC at didier@exoticimportsllc.net or 970.319.8440 and visit www.exoticimportsllc.net.

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