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Video: Moroccan winemaker thrives

Despite Muslim prohibitions, wine produced and sold from vineyards older than Roman times.

Guiding visitors through the Meknes bottling factory and vineyards on a rainy winter afternoon, Dehut explained that winemaking had taken root here long before Islam arrived. More than 2,500 years ago, the Carthaginians planted vineyards in the North African region that the conquering Romans continued to cultivate. A plague of aphids wiped out Morocco’s indigenous vines in the 19th century, but the French protectorate re-planted the country with Mediterranean varieties in the 20th century.

Now the Moroccan vineyards are coping with global warming, despite dire predictions from northern winemakers that wine producers in southern areas will not be able to continue with hotter weather.

During the colonial period, Morocco sent some 300 million bottles worth of wine to France in bulk. The abundant sunlight here produced sweeter grapes and stronger wine, which was used to boost the alcohol content of French-made vintages. “This was what we called ‘medicine wine,’” Dehut said.

But after the treaty of Rome banned the selling of such blended wine in 1957, the industry in Morocco was left on its own. And religious conservatives here would prefer to see it fade into history. A member of parliament from the wine-producing city of Meknes, Aboubakr Belkoura, said he’d like to see the region switch over to producing olives.

“To produce wine for export isn’t a problem, but what’s produced is consumed in large part by Moroccan Muslims,” said Belkoura, who is a member of the Islamist Party of Justice and Development.

“If we are a country of laws, we should respect the law,” he said. “What’s forbidden should be forbidden.”


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