Getting To Know Moroccan Wines

Wine from Morocco may seem like a strange concept to many. After all, because Morocco is a Muslim country, it is easy to assume that wine does not exist there. But in fact, Morocco is the second largest producer of wine in the Muslim countries. They produce 40 million bottles of wine per year, of which 38 million bottles are consumed in Morocco. There are 15 appellations in Morocco and 34 grapes grown.

Morocco is not in the Middle East. It is located on the northwest tip of Africa, across the sea from Spain. The Atlantic Ocean is on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other, with the 14,000-foot Atlas Mountains running through Morocco. Morocco enjoys a Mediterranean climate with a cooling breeze. In effect, located at the same latitude as Santa Barbara, Didier Pariente describes it as “a lot like California in the sense that you can ski, surf and drink wine all in one day.”

For more than a decade, importer/distributor Pariente has been a champion of Moroccan wine, dedicated to exposing Morocco as a winemaking country. Raised in France and Israel by Moroccan parents, he first tasted Moroccan wines in France in the late 1990s. In 2004, Pariente went to Morocco for the first time with the idea of bringing the wine with him to the U.S. He imported his first container in 2009 and moved to California in 2010. Today, he imports two wines from Morocco and distributes to 20 states through his company Nomadic Distribution.

Pariente is passionate about the wine, the culture and the history of Morocco. He is quick to point out some interesting facts: “98 percent of the population is forbidden to drink and there are only 3 million tourists in Morocco, so who is drinking the wine?” he asked and then answered, “locals.” Wine is a part of the Moroccan lifestyle, showing the more liberal side of Muslim culture.

Another fact that Pariente points out is that Morocco is the only Muslim country producing kosher wine. While the Jewish population in Morocco used to be the largest in North Africa, it is a very small population now, and they are not the ones consuming all of this kosher wine. Of the 300,000 bottles of kosher wine produced in Morocco, it is consumed in Morocco by the Muslim community.

Read the complete story in the Napa Valley Register.