Thursday, October 08, 2009

Wine-tasting in Morocco

Domaine de la Zouina is a wine- and olive-producing estate just outside Meknes.The View from Fez went to visit this week to taste the wines.

Domaine de la Zouina (beautiful, in Arabic)

It was some 9 years ago that two French winemakers, M Gribelin and Mr Gervoson, visited Morocco on a golfing holiday. Both of them have impeccable credentials when it comes to Bordeaux wines - M Gribelin headed Chateau de Fieuzal and M Gervoson Chateau Harrivet Haut-Brion, in the Pessac Leognan region.

The golfing duo fell in love with Domaine de la Zouina and bought the 115-hectare farm. M Gribelin's son Christophe manages the farm today, along with wine-maker Philippe Lespy.

Philippe Lespy and Christophe Gribelin

Philippe took us on a drive around the farm and showed us the olives that would soon be harvested. The farm produces an award-winning olive oil - and not just any award: Volubilia Extra Virgin gained the title Best Olive Oil in the World in 2006, judged among some 3000 oils from 26 countries in Europe (344 from Italy alone), North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, South Africa and Latin America.

The wines are marketed under the Volubilia label, with a new brand, Epicuria, due to appear shortly. Phillipe explained that of the grapes grown on the farm, chardonnay is used to make all the white wines, fermented either in tanks or in oak. The gris and rosé wines are made from Caladoc and Marselan grapes. The reds are produced from a mixture of around 50% cabernet sauvignon with Syrah, Tempranilla and Mourvedre.

Philippe is a happy man. If he'd stayed in Bordeaux, he'd have been restricted to making wines under very stringent conditions. But here in Morocco, he has the leeway to experiment. He has some hectares planted with 'his babies', vines around 2 years old now, and he can have fun playing with different kinds of grapes.

At the tasting, we tried the 15-day old new vintage whites, still unfiltered. It's very interesting to taste (and spit!) and try to imagine what the wine will taste like when it's ready. The Volubilia Gris is described as 'elegant with a good balance, full of mineral qualities with intenses fruitiness in the mouth'. The 2007 Volubilia Classic red has just been released to the shops now and has 'notes of leather, tobacco and mocha ... is smooth and delicate, leaving glimpses of fine, round tannins'.

The vast majority of the production is sold locally, but Volubilia wines are also available in UK from

Hemant Kanakia from Washington DC enjoys the tasting with winemaker Philippe Lespy

For more information on trips to the wine farm, contact Gail Leonard at Fez Food.

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