In recent years, the continent of Africa has experienced a growing interest in their different wines from different regions. The vineyards in South Africa already enjoy a great reputation and you’ll find many quality wines originating from here. But now more and more countries on this vast continent are experiencing a true wine revolution.
However, in many African countries alcohol is forbidden by law due to religious doctrine. For this reason, production and trade of wine have never developed as much as in other parts of the world.
Get on board and go on a journey with us to the African continent … You’ll have time to read this article on the way there!
South Africa is undoubtedly the most famous – and most appreciated – area of the continent when it comes to wine. Viticulture has been practised here since 1600. Winemaking was introduced by the Dutch who dealt with trade between Europe and the East. Around 1680 the French and Dutch Huguenots made vineyards and orchards an important part of the country’s economy. The Huguenots had fled Europe after the French sovereign Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes.
In South Africa, there are three very important wine regions, which today are conquering world markets. The first, and oldest, is Constantia which is located at the Cape of Good Hope. The first South African winery was founded here in 1685. Another important region is Stellenbosch which is famous for its fortified wines. The Paarl region produces sparkling wines and brandies.
The most cultivated grape in South Africa is the Chenin Blanc. Locally this variety is also known as Steen. It is spectacular in Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Riesling, Colombard and Cape Riesling, also known as Muscat of Alexandria. Among the red grapes the Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault, Merlot and Shiraz stand out. The local variety named Pinotage is also very important. This variety is obtained by crossing Cinsault and Pinot Noir.
Tanzania is a relative newcomer in the world of wine. In 2002, an engineer from Verona, Fiorenzo Chesini, decided to invest considerable resources in a project to promote local producers. Thanks to Chesini’s investments, avant-garde wineries have been built in the heart of the Dodoma region. The grapes are cultivated on a plateau in the centre of the country at an altitude between 1,100 and 1,200 m.
In the town of Hombolo we find wineries which produce intense and exotic quality wines. The wines originating from here are easily compared to wines from other countries and continents. The Tanzanian vineyards mainly cultivate Marzemino, Teroldego, Aglianico and Syrah grapes. These varieties were introduced by European missionaries a long time ago.
Kenya remains at the forefront of wine production. Currently, the best wines are those made from Colombard grapes. They are cultivated in the area of Lake Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi.
If you are curious and want to try a local specialty, we recommend you to try mnazi. It is a whitish wine which is made from coconut palm trees. Coconut wine is made by fermenting the sap of the palm tree and it has a rather acidic flavour. However, we must warn you: mnazi does not often agree with the taste buds of most European travellers!
Unfortunately, the origin of viticulture in Ethiopia is linked to a dark part of history. It dates back to the Italian colonialism in Abyssinia. In fact, the Italian occupation troops began producing local wine near the capital, Addis Ababa. In 1947 Ethiopia gained their independence from Italy and the production of wine was nationalised. Unfortunately, this caused the production to stagnate for several years.
In 2012 the former president Meles Zenawi invited the French giant Castel to invest in the development of winegrowing in Ethiopia. Castel imported the varieties Syrah, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These varieties seemed to find their ideal environment in the Ethiopian highlands and green valleys.
Morocco predominantly produces red wines. The Meknes Valley, west of Fez, contains the largest concentration of vineyards. It is situated approximately 600 m above sea level. There are more vineyards to be found along the coast near the cities of Rabat and Casablanca. You will also find vineyards in the mountains of the Atlas range.
Tunisia, meanwhile, specialises in high-quality white wines. Tunisia is one of the few African countries where viticulture has a deep origin. In the past, the Phoenicians cultivated and vinified muscat here.
Egypt is a must-see on our tour. The cultivation and production of Egyptian wine has a long tradition and history. This is evidenced by the hieroglyphs that decorate the tombs of the pharaohs. Archaeologists have also found proof of winemaking in written documents. The ancient Egyptians intensely cultivated the Nile Delta with vines, and wine was the drink of the nobility. According to legend, it was the God Osiris himself who taught men to produce wine.
Over time, however, Egyptian winemaking had seized (about 90% of the population is Muslim). Today, some local producers show a willingness to invest in the production and exports of wines. They wish to bring Egypt to a competitive position in the international market by producing reds, whites and rosés.
Do you want to learn more? We recommend listening to “Africa” by Toto while enjoying a nice glass of wine from this great continent!
Translated by Karoline Arberg